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Fantasy Hockey 2014-15: What's Changed?

Continuing on with our Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit, Troy Langefeld outlines the major changes that occurred during the NHL offseason which you need to be aware of.

Spezza and Hemsky worked great together in Ottawa after the trade deadline last year. Can they continue their chemistry in Dallas though? Together they make up some of the best offseason moves made this summer. - Photo Credit
Spezza and Hemsky worked great together in Ottawa after the trade deadline last year. Can they continue their chemistry in Dallas though? Together they make up some of the best offseason moves made this summer. - Photo Credit
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Ok, I get it. My first two installments in this draft kit series weren't the most riveting and they didn't have anything to do with actually getting ready for your draft. There was no talk of any NHL teams or players. Relax. Today we start talking about the NHL offseason. Are you happy now?

That said, if you missed the first two articles, go and read them right now. There's actually a lot of useful stuff in there. You'll find a full draft kit schedule in the preview and learn how to set up your ultimate league in the commissioners article. You can find them here:

Fantasy Hockey 2014-15 Draft Kit Preview
Custom Features for Fantasy Hockey Commissioners

Alright then, let's get back to business. It's time to talk hockey.

Big Name Moves

Ryan Kesler - Kesler came off a disappointing season with the Vancouver Canucks last year, but the blame can hardly be place on him. The entire team played poorly, heck Henrik Sedin and brother Daniel Sedin each barely outscored him. He was traded at the NHL Entry Draft to the Anaheim Ducks and there he will still be a second line center, but I expect Bruce Boudreau to make better use out of him. Combine that with the fact that Kesler feels like he has something to prove this year and I'm expecting him to have a good year. That said, with an ADP of 70 in Yahoo! drafts so far, it looks like many are already expecting big things.

Brad Richards - Did the Chicago Blackhawks finally find the second line center they've been searching long and hard for? There is no doubting that they certainly can't go wrong with what they paid him. He's under performed the last couple years with the New York Rangers and has seemed maybe disinterested, but two million dollars on a one year tryout for a potential top line center talent - what's to lose? Richards has generally had a good season following a new team and I'm excited to see him be mixed in with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad. Don't forget, he was dynamite with the Dallas Stars a few years ago. At his ADP of 155 and playing for a payday, I think he's a steal in drafts!

Jarome Iginla - As a beloved Calgary Flames fan (it's been a tough ride for the last... long while...), I can tell you that I know almost everything about Jarome. He had a great comeback with the Boston Bruins last year and I think he really relished not being 'THE Guy'. The new setup with the Colorado Avalanche shouldn't be too much different than it was with the Bruins. He won't be the only one to be relied on to score and he can be mixed and matched anywhere on the top two lines where he'll have great play makers providing him the puck. The only knock is that he is getting older and has lost a step to the younger guys. A safe veteran, he should probably go a little earlier than his ADP of 90.

Jason Spezza/Ales Hemsky - These guys seem to be a packaged product now. After Hemsky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline last year, he really meshed with Spezza on the top line. Hemky must have liked Spezza so much that he followed him, signing as a free agent with the Stars after Spezza was traded there at the NHL Entry Draft. Both are great talents, but both are made of glass. Neither can be counted on to play a full season. Combine that with them now being the second line option in Dallas rather than the first line option they had in Ottawa, I am hesitant to draft them. Spezza's ADP sits at 47 and that's probably fair for an injury prone point per game player, however Hemsky isn't being taken until the 177th pick. You can certainly do a lot worse with a late round flier. He'll have good line mates and if he can stay healthy, that's a bargain.

Thomas Vanek - The Buffalo Sabres knew that at the end of the year, Vanek was not going to re-sign with them. He wanted out and Buffalo did a good job of bringing in Matt Moulson and a first and second round pick for him from the New York Islanders. The Islanders tried to re-sign Vanek, oh did they try, but Vanek was determined to test the free agent market and so he was traded a second time in the same year, this time to the Montreal Canadians who had use for him on their playoff run. Despite the hectic pace and obvious distractions, Vanek actually had quite a good year. He entered free agency as one of the most sought after players and signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild. He certainly has the skill to be a big time player, but projected to be on their second line, he might not reach the heights that he did in each of his stops last year. He's being taken with an ADP of 66th, which seems to be alright with me.

James Neal - Neal has been the beneficiary of having had star line mates the last few years with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but don't forget that he is a star in his own right. Just because he's no longer playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and is instead playing in what has been the land of dead offenses, this doesn't mean that he is worthless. Guess what? Barry Trotz, the steely minded defensive mastermind, is no longer the coach of the Nashville Predators, with Peter Laviolette having replaced him. David Poile also did well to bring in some more offense, bringing in Mike Ribeiro and Olli Jokinen. He won't be alone in Smashville and I expect a better offensive team than many will likely be giving them credit for. He's being taken with the 38th pick so far, which might be appropriate given the new situation, but I just want to remind you not to shy away from him. Or do, let me have him on the cheap.

Jaroslav Halak - Halak was traded to the Washington Capitals last season, a team not known for their defensive prowess, by the goaltending haven of all teams, the St. Louis Blues. We all expected regression from him following the trade, but he surprised us all by playing pretty well to finish the season. He didn't play up to expectation in his first season as a starter with the Blues and his new team, the Islanders, have been the laughing stock of the league over the last decade. But I'm here to tell you differently; don't look know, but the Islanders have been slowly turning the page over the last couple seasons. John Tavares leads a young core of skilled players that has potential to make a splash. The defense might be spotty, but Halak might surprise some people this year at his ADP of 97.

Christian Ehrhoff - The Penguins let Niskanen walk into the darkness of free agency, but found a cheaper, but none less talented, replacement in Ehrhoff. You may only remember Ehrhoff as the mid thirty point guy in a putrid Sabres offense, but prior to Buffalo, he had three straight forty plus point years in Vancouver, capped with a fifty point effort in 2011. The problem is, is that he is already being drafted as if the resurgence is going to happen with an ADP of 109. Playing with Crosby and Malkin and playing for a new contract (he only signed a one year contract) increases his chances of this for sure, but he's already fairly priced and not likely to provide too much value for you.

Paul Stastny - Besides Vanek, Stastny was probably the next biggest free agent on the market. After some pretty consistent and productive years with the Avalanche, Stastny earned a nice payday with the rival Blues. Most people shy away from the Blues as they are known for their defensive prowess and spreading the offensive wealth which usually means that you can get their players at a bit of a discount. Projected to be the second line center, people are shying away given his ADP of 126. Don't forget that he was a second, sometimes third, line center in Colorado and still was able to put up productive and useful numbers. The Blues are deep, if unspectacular, on offense and he will be playing with skilled players routinely as they often mix the lines. I'd kick the tires at that price.

Ryan Miller - The premier goalie to hit the market, Ryan Miller hopes to regain his 2010 Vezina form in Vancouver. I'm struggling to see it personally. Miller himself had a bit of a resurgence last year with Buffalo, but then lost his mojo after being traded to the Blues at the deadline. Vancouver has been on a downward trend since their back  to back President's Trophies in 2011 and 2012 and has made some interesting goalie decisions recently. Blessed with two top goalies in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, Vancouver held both for a couple years amid huge trade speculation and ridicule. Then, inexplicably, they traded both within a year of each other, leaving themselves without a solid option in goal. Enter Miller, who by the way is overpaid - the same issue they had with Luongo. Too much momentum moving in the wrong direction for me to take him at his current price, a 43rd overall pick.

Matt Niskanen - Niskanen capitalized on a career/breakout very good year last year. His forty six points marked the first year he finished with more than twenty five points since 2009 when he played for the Stars. That said, he has a first round pedigree and has been known for his offensive capabilities for some time. His move, from one offensive juggernaut in Pittsburgh to another in Washington, should provide little difference in value, but one has to wonder what the impact of new coach Barry Trotz will have on the club. Will they still be the free wheeling offensive team they were under the defensive mastermind? I don't believe so. The biggest question however remains, career year or breakout? With an ADP of 94, he seems to be fairly priced, but I'm likely to opt for safer options.

Goalie Battles to Watch Out for

Anaheim Ducks - Anaheim has a bit of a conundrum on their hands. They have been seriously blessed with a glutton of talent between the pipes. Last year, they started the season with Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth on the big team and Frederik Andersen and John Gibson in the minors. Fasth was traded to the Oilers mid season and they didn't attempt to resign Hiller at the end of the season. These decisions were made because both Andersen and Gibson came up and played terrific through the season. They were so good that Anaheim held three goalies on their roster at once rather than send one back down to the minors. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of the situation, but Boudreau has shown that he will play the hot hand in the past. Both are being taken late, Andersen at 142 and Gibson at 153, and if you handcuff them together, they can return top goalie value.

Buffalo Sabres - Should I even bother? Jhonas Enroth is being drafted on average at 182 and even then I don't want him as the starter on easily the worst team in the league. Michael Neuvirth is in contention for the role, but don't get very excited here.

Carolina Hurricanes - There may be a shifting of the guard down in Raleigh. Anton Khudobin came in as an injury replacement last year for a struggling Cam Ward, the longtime incumbent in Carolina and former Conn Smythe winner, and absolutely rocked it. We should assume Khudobin has the job for now, but this is a situation to monitor closely. Personally, I wouldn't be too excited about having either on my team as Carolina should be a cesspool for fantasy this year, but with Khudobin is probably being fairly drafted with an ADP of 116th. Cam Ward is going at 164 and I think this is ridiculous. He's being drafted before the likes of some starters such as Craig Anderson and other, better, backups like Jake Allen.

Edmonton Oilers - Another should I even bother... Edmonton has been terrible for fantasy goaltenders in years past and I don't see it changing this year. They'll hopefully have some young prospect defensemen coming up, but they'll be a work in progress. I thought Ben Scrivens was the one to own here, but Viktor Fasth is being taken earlier at 168th. Scrivens on the other hand in going at 179th and provides value if you want a piece of this tandem.

Minnesota Wild - If the Wild start one goalie consistently, that would be a good goalie to own. Unfortunately that won't ever happen. Josh Harding is probably the best of the bunch but because he has Multiple Sclerosis, he's almost guaranteed to miss time this and every year. Darcy Kuemper played well in relief last year and Niklas Backstrom has been a top tier goaltender before. Harding is going at 147, Kuemper at 166, and Backstrom at 167. All in all, this is a three headed monster to stay away from, although if clarity enters the equation, there is value to be had out of whoever grabs hold of the reins.

St. Louis Blues - The Blues are a goaltending haven for poolies, but it comes at the price of having to own tandem goalies. For the last few years, they haven't had a predominant starter and this year doesn't look too different. Halak is out, but Jake Allen is up in the big leagues to team up with Brian Elliot. They'll both put up great numbers and are worth owning is you can get them both. Elliot is available at 73rd and Allen at 178th. I don't think there is that big a value difference between the two, but hey, that's just me. Handcuffed, they will return top goalie value.

I'm new to the twitterverse, but I'd love to hear your feedback and questions. Follow me on Twitter @HockeyGauntlet for more of my thoughts and all of your fantasy hockey needs. #IsItOctoberYet