The NHL season is weeks away, even if some of you hadn't noticed. Let's take a quick swing through the league and analyze some of the biggest news that will affect your fantasy teams.
In my recently released
So why is Crosby so far down in my rankings? This is about the concussion he is dealing with. Crosby has been skating with his teammates. Still, he has not been cleared for contact. Even when he starts taking contact, there will always be a concern whether the next hit is going to send him to the sidelines again (think Justin Morneau and Denard Span in baseball, guys who had concussions, seemingly were over the issue, only to have the symptoms return yet again)? Maybe Crosby will be fine, and if he is there is no reason to think he won't be a top-10 scorer with a legitimate chance at leading the league in points. Still, are you willing to take the chance that your first-round pick might only play a handful of games? It's a huge risk taking him early, though it might even be a bigger risk to pass over him.
Carter was said to be furious when he was dealt from the Flyers to the Blue Jackets, especially after he signed a contract to cement himself as a building block for the Flyers. Apparently he spent some time thinking about it, and realized he would be skating with the beast that is Rick Nash. Carter, who has recorded at least 33 goals in each of the last three seasons, likely will be looking to pass a bit more with Nash. Carter could set a new career best in assists (38), and if he clicks with Nash he could also threaten to produce his second 70-point season of his career (his career best was 84 in '08).
One word -- health. If Connolly has it, look for him to be a solid point producer. Over his last four seasons in Buffalo he appeared in 70 games just one time, and twice was held to fewer than 50 games. Still, the guy produced when he was on the ice with 194 points in 237 games. That pace over 82 games would equate to 67 points. I'd place a bet that if he skates in 80 games feeding the puck to Phil Kessel that he will surpass the 70-point plateau, would you?
Early word is that Gagne will be reunited with his former Flyers teammate in LA. That could mean a ton of points for the Kings as Gagne recorded 34 goals playing mostly alongside Richards in '08. "I had a lot of success with Mike in Philly for many years. It's always a plus to have the chemistry building right away," said Gagne. Like Connolly, Gagne's key is staying healthy; he's appeared in just 121 games the past two years. As for Richards, he does everything well. In each of the last four years he has recorded at least 23 goals and 62 points, and he's also a beast on the power-play (an average of eight goals and 21 assists with the man advantage the past four years).
These wingers were traded for one another as each of their previous employers hoped a change of scenery would bring a change of energy.
After recording at least 39 goals in five-straight seasons, Heatley fell to just 26 markers last season. He had no excuse as the Sharks possess a plethora of point producers, not the least of which was Joe Thornton. Heatley also failed to record 70 points for the first time since '03 as he finished the year with only 64. Worse yet, he continued to disappear when his club needed him most. He's only 30, so a rebound to his previous levels is possible, but he has a lot to prove.
Havlat, like others on this list, is often unable to drag his weary body onto the ice. Still, he has averaged 77 games the past three years, so perhaps he has slayed that dragon. Three months younger than Heatley, Havlat brings more of a speed game to the ice and is a strong point producer (the last three years he's averaged 0.83 points a game). The current plan in San Jose appears to have him lining up on the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe, and that trio could outproduce some first lines around the league.
When last we saw Jagr it was '08 on Broadway. The past couple of years he's been skating in the KHL in Russia, and last season he appeared in 49 games, recording 19 goals and 31 assists. Obviously, he shouldn't be expected to tally a point per game as a 39-year old, but Jagr has always been an effective offensive force, and he should give the Flyers plenty of production with the man advantage.
Marian Gaborik is one of those rare skaters who actually brings people out of their seats. He posses a wicked wrister and his speed his breathtaking. Who gets to feed him the puck? That would be Mr. Richards. Over his 772-game career Richards has scored 716 points, and over his last three seasons in Dallas he registered 216 points in 208 games despite never having a talent like Gaborik on his wing. If Gaborik can stay healthy, Richards could match last season's point total of 77 with relative ease. Also note that Richards has averaged over 260 shots on goal a season during his illustrious career.
A seven-time, 20-goal scorer, Sturm moves to the Pacific Northwest to join an the impressive group of forwards. With Ryan Kesler (labrum tear) and Mason Raymond (vertebrae compression) slated to miss the start of the season, there's a legitimate chance Sturm will start the year out on one of the top two scoring lines. If he impresses early, he figures to have a big role with the club.
Talk about a guy who needs to stay healthy (he's appeared in less than 45 games in two of the past three years). If everything breaks right, Sullivan could be an excellent late-round pick (of course, he's already dealing with a groin strain). If he ends up on a line with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the points could flow. Add in the fact that the Pens are planning on giving him some time on the point on the power-play and you have a guy who could produce at a high level when he's on the ice.