One of about a dozen players in the world who have the talent to win an NHL scoring title has been traded to a new team. Let’s break down the main winners and losers – from a fantasy standpoint – of the deal that saw Ilya Kovalchuk and Anssi Salmela traded for Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first round pick.
Listed in order of greatest impact.
1. Andy Greene, New Jersey – Tobias Enstrom is having a monster season in Atlanta. That happens when you share the puck with a perennial 50-goal scorer on the power play. Now Greene gets that opportunity. He’s in a slump currently, but Kovalchuk helps teammates out of slumps just by stepping onto the ice with them.
2. Dainius Zubrus, New Jersey – The early favorite to be Kovalchuk’s regular center. If Kovy can turn a center like Todd White into a 70-point player (last campaign), he can do the same with Zubrus.
3. Rich Peverley, Atlanta – Just 11 of Peverley’s 44 points have come with Kovalchuk on the ice with him. To understand just how impressive that is take a look below at the similar stats I dug up for Nik Antropov and Max Afinogenov. When Kovalchuk was out for six games, Peverley tallied seven points.
4. Niclas Bergfors, Atlanta – As the Devils returned to health, Bergfors’ nice season slowed to a halt. In Atlanta, he’ll have a lot more ice time and will be able to pick up his 55-point pace from where it left off.
5. Evander Kane, Atlanta – While Bergfors and Peverley will replace some of Kovalchuk’s ice time, they won’t replace all of it. Give a couple of extra minutes to the shifty rookie Kane, which will translate into another seven or eight points by season’s end.
6. Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey – Kovalchuk skated with Zubrus and Langenbrunner in practice Friday. It stands to reason Langenbrunner will either line up with Kovalchuk or Zach Parise for the duration – talk about win-win!
7. Anssi Salmela, New Jersey – As long as Paul Martin is hurt, we could see Salmela get some ice time on his new/original club. Some ice time beats no ice time, which is pretty much what he was getting in Atlanta. His game is about offense, so he may be worth a flyer if you’re desperate for defensive depth.
8. Zach Parise, New Jersey – Not that he can really get any better than he is now, but another player in the lineup with elite skills can only free up more space for Z.P.
Five Biggest Losers
1. Maxim Afinogenov, Atlanta – It’s been a nice resurgence for Afinogenov, but 28 of his 44 points this season have come with Kovalchuk on the ice. That’s a pretty lopsided number and you may see a significant drop in his production.
2. David Clarkson, New Jersey – He’s been battling a leg injury all season long, but when he does play, his offensive game revolves around the power play. When he makes his return, don’t expect the same numbers, as there are fewer pieces of the power play pie available now.
3. Nik Antropov, Atlanta – Antropov is similar to Afinogenov in that 26 of his 42 points have come with Kovy sharing the ice with him. I think Antropov is a little less reliant on his linemates than Afinogenov is, but it will still hurt.
4. Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta – A 60-point blueliner now becomes a 50-point blueliner sans Kovalchuk. As I said above, Greene becomes the new Enstrom…so Enstrom becomes the new Greene.
5. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey – With 27 games left, Kovalchuk would get 33 to 35 points on about 25 different teams. On the Devils, however, it will be more like 30 points due to the style they play. Only a three- or four-point drop, but if your league is tight it makes all the difference.
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