If you're in a keeper league and first place is out of reach, it's always a good idea to look ahead to next year and position yourself for victory in 2015. The best way to do that is not only smart drafting and off-season trading, but also in-season trading. In fact, the time to get the best return for an asset who is producing well is now because the contenders are getting desperate to get an edge that will put them over the top when the dust settles.
Star players are usually pretty hard to acquire, especially when you don't want to give up a star yourself. Often targeting an underachieving star is much easier. After all, other owners may be reluctant to go after the underachiever, fearing the decline is a sign of things to come. So the trade market for that player isn't as much of a boom as it should be.
Here are my picks for underachieving star players you should target.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton
Eberle is on pace for 62 points, which is the same production rate as last season. But in 2011-12 he was nearly a point-per-game player and next year he'll be 24 years old. He still hasn't hit his prime and frankly neither has the rest of the young Oilers. If you could trade an overachieving Joe Pavelski or David Krejci and get Eberle and a good draft pick in return, that's the way to go.
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Letang is probably not going to play again this season and his fantasy owners are afraid he'll never be the same dynamic offensive player again. But Tomas Fleischmann returned and played full seasons after his blood clot problems and Tomas Vokoun is now medically cleared - I can't help but think Letang will be OK. Granted Letang’s is a heart problem, which has led to slightly different issues than with Fleischmann and Vokoun, but to me the risk isn't as bad as it seems. In fact, Letang is a Band-Aid Boy. He's very injury prone, but being sidelined for eight months could actually turn out to be a good thing – the lower-body issues that always nag him should be 100 percent healed. Call me a dreamer, but maybe this lengthy recovery time is the only way he’ll ever get back to playing 75 games in a season. You could acquire him right now for a coveted but unproven prospect defenseman, or a productive but injury-prone James Wisniewski-type. I wouldn't pay more than that, nor would I do a deal of this sort without getting a draft pick added (I believe in covering for the risk), but I would definitely try hard to acquire him.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
This is Kopitar's least productive season in five years, which means his price is as low as it's been in five years. He'll be 27 in the fall and to me that represents the start of his prime. The 11th overall pick from 2005 has been a model of consistency in both durability and production. You'll not find a better time to acquire him than right now.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact the Sedins could be 100-point players. I had always felt they were 80-point guys. So when Henrik had 112 in 2009-10 and then 94 the year after, I had no choice. But I'm having just as much difficulty coming to terms with the fact these two aren't even 60-point players (Henrik is on pace for 57, Daniel on pace for 55). I consider them somewhere in between those two extremes – so about 80 points. Which leaves me back where I started on these two. But I digress. Either brother could be had for a lower price than normal so you would be wise to explore their value in your league.
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia
Voracek is a young player (24) with little under his belt in terms of proven production, but last season he was nearly a point-per-game player. This year he started slow, just like the rest of his teammates, but now Voracek actually has 37 points in his past 45 games. Between that stat and his 46 points in 48 games last season, I'm convinced Voracek is a 70-point player. His current pace pro-rates to 56 points, so obviously there's an opportunity here to buy low.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.