Fantasy Nuggets Week 13

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·7 min read
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The 2021 trade deadline is set for Monday, but of course some of the moves come in early. The Islanders made a big splash on Wednesday, acquiring veteran forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac in exchange for a 2021 first-round pick, a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick, A.J. Greer, and Mason Jobst. Jobst is 27-years-old and hasn’t played in the NHL while Greer is 24-years-old and last was in the NHL in 2018-19, so neither of the players is a significant factor in this move. You can basically summarize this as the Islanders getting Palmieri and Zajac for a first with a little extra.

That’s pretty good value for the Islanders, who will add both of those players into the lineup tonight. Zajac has seven goals and 18 points in 33 contests while Palmieri has eight goals and 17 points in 34 games. The gives the Islanders 10 different players with at least 15 points this season. That’s impressive offensive depth.

It will be interesting to see where they’ll fit in. Mike Morreale reported that Zajac and Palmieri would play on the third line with Josh Bailey. Zajac and Palmieri actually didn’t typically play on the same line with the Devils this season, but they were a part of the Devils for the last six seasons and it might make it easier for them if they started out together. They can mix things up later, but that trio has the potential to be a very strong third line if they develop some on-ice chemistry.

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Depth alone doesn’t carry a playoff team, but it can be the difference. Even if the Islanders still aren’t a Cup favorite, I think this trade makes a significant difference.

We got a trade today too with the Florida Panthers acquiring Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Henrik Borgstrom, and a 2021 seventh-round pick.

The Blackhawks side of this trade is more interesting, let’s start there. Riley Stillman, 23, is a physical defenseman who is still working to establish himself at the NHL level, but could end up playing a role with Chicago. Connolly is a veteran bottom-six forward in the second season of a four-year, $14 million contract. He could be a solid role player for the Blackhawks, but honestly his inclusion in this deal was probably in large part for cap purposes. Getting his contract off the books helps Florida.

That leaves Borgstrom, who is the highlight of this trade for Chicago. Taken with the 23rd overall pick in 2016, Borgstrom had eight goals and 18 points in 50 contests with Florida. That was an okay, but not great start and to make things worse, he spent most of 2019-20 in the AHL. However, he went to SM-liiga for the 2020-21 campaign and has seemed to hit his stride there, scoring 11 goals and 19 points in 27 contests with HIFK Helsinki. At the age of 23, he still has the potential to become a force in the NHL and the Blackhawks certainly seem to think highly of him.

As for what the Panthers got for that price, Wallmark is a depth forward who can slot in as a third or fourth liner as needed while Carlsson is a young defenseman who isn’t likely to help the Panthers much this season but might be of some use in the future.

Looking at this deal, it seems the main motivation for the Panthers was freeing up cap space. In order to do that, they surrendered Borgstrom, who is a prospect with plenty of upside, but is also 23-years-old and still unproven at the NHL level. Florida is probably doing this to set up for another trade, but it’s worth repeating that Connolly was signed through 2022-23. Even if the Panthers aren’t able to pull off another trade before the deadline to take advantage of that freed up cap space, this was still a solid decision for them. With the flat cap for years to come, getting out from under contracts like that is very useful.

As for Chicago, their cap situation is fine right now, so they could afford to make a move like this.

Of course, there’s still plenty of potential trades on the horizon. Taylor Hall remains the biggest player on the market and that situation seems to be heating up. The Sabres even decided to scratch Hall on Tuesday, presumably just to make sure he didn’t suffer an injury before they dealt him.

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Meanwhile, an injury has taken Riley Nash off the market. He’s expected to miss the next four-to-six weeks with a sprained knee, which basically translates to him missing most, if not all of the remaining regular season. Given how thin the trade market is for forwards, it’s fair to believe there would have at least been some interest in him if he were healthy.

Let’s close out the week with the big X-Factor: The Vancouver Canucks. As of yesterday, 21 players and four staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. First off, you just hope that everyone will make a full recovery. From a hockey perspective, the question is when can they play again and what kind of season they might have.

On Thursday, Vancouver will miss its fifth straight game due to COVID. The next scheduled game the Canucks have is for Monday, but that probably won’t happen either, which also means that Vancouver probably won’t be a healthy team going into the trade deadline. There’s no precedent for a situation like this, but I’d be surprised if they made any trades even though they do have players who under other circumstances might have been on the market like Brandon Sutter, Alexander Edler, and Jordie Benn.

Moving past that, you have to wonder if the Canucks will play 56 games as was originally intended. Other teams have dealt with prolonged pauses due to COVID, but that was early in the season when there was more wiggle room. Vancouver is stalled at 37 games and currently the last day of the 2020-21 campaign is May 11.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Vancouver can start playing again on Friday April 16. That would give them 25 days to play 19 games. That just doesn’t seem feasible. If that’s the case, then the NHL would have two options: Further extend the regular season, which is obviously far from ideal especially if the NHL wants to wrap up the Stanley Cup Final before July 23 so that it’s big event doesn’t have to directly compete with the Olympics, or have the Canucks not make up every game that’s been postponed. That’s not ideal either, but it is feasible. The NHL could instead do the rankings based on PTS%. It helps somewhat that the North Division’s playoff teams are mostly set with Toronto, Edmonton, and Winnipeg looking pretty close to locks while Montreal has a healthy lead over Vancouver, so those final Canucks games likely wouldn’t have had playoff implications – though of course, there is still that chance and that chance alone might make the NHL reluctant to do anything less than reschedule every missed game.

No matter what, the NHL is in a tough spot.