Fantasy Freakout: Trade targets

As the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline nears, here are four players who will be good additions to your fantasy hockey team.
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Welcome to Friday Fantasy Freak Out, where we look at options for fantasy hockey general managers who are desperate to have a strong weekend.

With your trade deadline on the horizon, here are four players you should consider acquiring. They might not come cheap, but with a bit of crafty wheeling and dealing, you should be able to improve your lineup with them. Granted, there’s always a level of risk and reward involved, which is why each player is given a recklessness letter grade. The higher the grade, the more your fellow poolies will question your moves if not your sanity. But there’s also a higher potential for reward involved as well.

• Joe Thornton, F, Sharks

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Don’t overthink this. Heading into the stretch, you’re going to want as many guaranteed points as possible. And Thornton’s points production is as steady as it’s ever been. His underlying numbers (12-39-51) indicate the 36-year-old having as strong a season as he has ever had in recent years (think 65-75 points). And in the short-term, Jumbo Joe is riding a seven-game points streak.

Again, Thornton won’t come cheap, but if his current owner doesn’t plan on keeping him long-term, pay up: In the Sharks’ next 10 games they face off against the lowly Canadiens, Sabres, Oilers, and Flames plus the struggling Canucks three times.

Recklessness grade: D-

• ​Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Capitals

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​I can’t imagine there are a lot of fantasy GMs who came into this season owning Kuznetsov, but after his breakout performance, there likely will be a widespread desire to keep him next season. Get on that Kuzy train.

Kuznetsov is currently fifth in the NHL in points (58). Sure, he’s a candidate for regression next season, but in the long term he looks like the type of player who can be a Top 10 scorer for years to come. It’s not unlikely that he’ll spend more than a bit of time on the same line with Alex Ovechkin in the future, which only increases his likelihood of putting up points. If you have a high-level player currently on your roster that you know you won’t be keeping next season, dangle him in front of Kuznetsov’s current owner.

Recklessness grade: C

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• ​ Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Sabres

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Buffalo has been all but eliminated from playoff contention, but that won’t slow Ristolainen. It might even help him. What’s more, the surging 21-year-old (0.57 points per game by a third-year back-ender is quite impressive) is playing for a contract. His entry level deal is up at the end of the season and like any player coming out of that kind of deal, he’ll be trying to prove to management he’s worth big dollars.

Don’t expect Ristolainen’s ice time to decrease in the coming weeks and don’t expect his production to fall off, either. Not exactly long-term keeper material (depending on how many you have) but certainly a player who can help you finish the season strong.

Recklessness grade: B-

• ​ Jake Allen, G, Blues

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Allen got off to a fantastic start this season, posting a .924 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average through 33 games. However, a knee injury has taken him out of the lineup since early January, but he’s practicing with the Blues again and his return seems close. You may have a fantasy owner whose patience with Allen has just about worn thin and could be convinced to flip him.

Blues goalie Brian Elliott has played remarkably well in Allen’s absence (.933 save pct., 2.03 GAA this season) and even when Allen does return, the case will be made that coach Ken Hitchcock should stick with the hot hand and not give Allen much of a chance to regain the net. But Hitchcock will likely want to see what Allen has, and he also has a history of making questionable goalie decisions. Expect Allen to get some starts and do everything in his power to steal the starter’s job. If you’re in need of a goalie, take a good, long look at Allen.

Recklessness grade: C