Free Agency is one of the most exciting moments of the off-season for hockey fans. This goes for fantasy hockey fans as well. Free Agency can make or break a player's value in the fantasy hockey realm. Let's take a look at how some players became winners or losers, either through Free Agency or trade during the off-season. We will first start off with the winners.
Carl Soderberg - C - Colorado Avalanche
As many of the readers here know, Soderberg was acquired right before Free Agency and signed to a 5-year contract. Last year, Soderberg had decent numbers, putting up 13-31-44 (I love that symmetry) in 81 games while his most common linemates on the Bruins were Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly. Soderberg will start out, at least in training camp, playing with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, and may get top six minutes. This may give his number a jump.
Phil Kessel - RW - Pittsburgh Penguins
On a terrible Maple Leafs team last year, Phil Kessel still scored 25 goals and tacked on 36 assists. He was then acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and probably bathed in a sea of hotdogs. Kessel is arguably one of the top three Right Wings in the league, and now he will get a chance to play with either Sidney Crosby, or Evgeni Malkin (on top of other good scoring threats). He's gonna have a great time, with a real shot at scoring 40, in my opinion.
Martin Jones - G - San Jose Sharks
Alex Stalock - G - San Jose Sharks
Alex Stalock was not traded or signed via Free Agency, but he does have a good opportunity this year. Martin Jones was acquired via trade from Boston (which made me laugh, because the Kings wanted Jones in the East). The Sharks traded the rights to Antti Niemi. This gives a great opportunity to both Stalock and Jones to win out a starting job, which neither of them had last year. One of these goalies' value will rise, and another will generally stay the same.
Chris Stewart - RW - Anaheim Ducks
Chris Stewart has jumped from NHL team to NHL team, with the hopes that he becomes the 28 goal-scorer that he was in his second NHL season with the Avalanche. he put up 14-22-36 last year, in 81 games for two different teams. In Anaheim he gets a chance to win a spot in the top six to possibly play with Getzlaf and/or Perry. If he gets top six minutes with some solid players, his value will definitely rise and could be a decent late round pick to add to your team.
Antoine Vermette - C - Arizona Coyotes
Let's get this straight, anyone that signed with the Coyotes is a loser in the fantasy world. Antoine Vermette left with his name on the Stanley Cup and ended up back with Arizona. He will probably get top six minutes, but without anyone to help him offensively, it will be a rough year for points, let alone +/-.
Antti Niemi - G - Dallas Stars
Antti Niemi acquired by the Stars, with the idea of having a 1a. and 1b. set up with Kari Lehtonen. This will lower his starts, and with a Dallas defense that hasn't really improved this off-season, goaltending will continue to struggle. In a tough Western Conference, he will have decreased playing time behind a poor defense. I wouldn't look for better stats this year out of him.
Andrej Sekera - D - Edmonton Oilers
Andrej Sekera had lower than expected production with better than expected +/- with the Kings. On a team, where the only plus player was Steve Pinnizzotto (+1), I don't forsee Sekera having an easy year defensively. There are some great offensive options, but between the poor defense, and goaltending that I don't expect to be any more effective than it was last year, I don't expect a good fantasy year for Sekera.
Matt Beleskey - LW - Boston Bruins
Matt Beleskey couldn't have picked a worse fitting team to sign a David Clarkson contract with in my opinion (although super funny). He has no elite offensive talent to carry him, and will probably never hit 20 goals again. Last year he had 22-10-32 in 65 games. My advice is to stay away unless you are in a 20 team league.
PA Parenteau - RW - Toronto Maple Leafs
Regardless what you think of Patty and his opinion of Parenteau, this guy has talent. He won't have much to work with in Toronto, but he will get top six minutes. PA is a low risk, high reward option for a late round pick. Take a chance.
Ryan O'Reilly - C - Buffalo Sabres
This Avalanche fan favorite (that's sarcasm, for most of you, unless it isn't, in which case it's not) was traded to the worst team in the league. That then went out, and got a lot better. The entire Buffalo Sabres team is a wild card. How will Evander Kane bounce back from injury? Will increase minutes help RoR put up more points? What will Eichel put up? Sam Reinhart? I could see RoR go either way in terms of production.
Brandon Saad - LW - Columbus Blue Jackets
Saad most likely rounds out a top six in Columbus that includes Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinskey, Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno. That's a good group to play with. He may not be with Toews and/or Kane, but he could still have a better year than last year, especially if he grows as a player.
Mike Green - D - Detroit Red Wings
Mike Green is always a wildcard because he has trouble staying healthy. Beyond that, he just signed to an aging team, and no longer has Ovie and Backstrom (among others) in front of him. In terms of his production, if he stays healthy, he could still hit 40 points. A lot of it will depend on how the oldies and the youngins in Detroit decline and improve respectively.
Dougie Hamilton - D - Calgary Flames
I am super excited to see how he works in Calgary. He gets a chance to play with an amazing defenseman in Giordano, on a team that struggled with possession. Will he help the possession? Will he still be able to put up 45 points a year? More? Less? This is my player to watch this year in terms of Fantasy Hockey and how exciting it could be.
So during the off-season, which players do you think became winners and losers going into next season? Who are your wildcards?