By Janet Eagleson, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
Carey Price is off to the worst start of his career since 2009-10. His save percentage of .877 is 40th in the NHL. He’s hearing boos. He’s day-to-day because of an injury south of the equator.
Buy now. And fast.
He finished strong the last time he started the season this poorly. Save for losing the postseason starting gig to Jaroslav Halak.
But I digress.
Now is the time to pounce on Price’s owner. His numbers are bad; the team he’s on is worse. But we both know Price won’t stay down for long.
He’s the epitome of a buy low. And that’s BUY NOW in my books. I’ll even give you all you need to get his owner thinking after the list below.
Now let’s look at who caught my eye this week.
Jesper Bratt, LW/RW, New Jersey (36 percent Yahoo owned) – This guy is hot. So hot, in fact, that his ownership more than doubled Friday. Bratt’s poise and maturity belies his youth. And his game, which is based on speed and skill, epitomizes the new-look Devils. He put up a three-spot last Saturday night against Arizona and popped in his sixth goal of the season against the Oil on Friday. Yes, he’s young. And yes, the toll of a long season playing against bigger, stronger men will get to this 19-year-old winger. But right now, Bratt’s worth a look in single-year leagues. He’s already gone in keeper formats. My late friend, RotoWire colleague and Devils fanatic Dan Pennucci would be so proud.
Phillip Danault, LW/C, Montreal (7 percent owned) – Danault had a career night last Saturday night – two goals, including the winner, two assists and a plus-3 rating. Those games are rare, even for the league’s best. At this point in his development, there’s no way he should be the Habs’ best center – he’s better than a number three, but not quite a two. Yet. But opportunity (and a crappy lineup) is giving him the chance to flash his offensive skill. In fantasy, ANY guy playing on a team’s top line needs to be rostered, at least until they leave their skate guards on and fall flat when they hit the ice.
Jason Demers, D, Arizona (5 percent owned) – Demers is thriving in the dry Arizona climate. His two helpers Thursday night gave him five points in his last four games, and he’s playing his best hockey since his San Jose days. The ‘Yotes are awful again this year, but Demers could be a 35-point surprise from the blue line. That’s valuable, as long as you can absorb a potential beating in plus-minus.
Lars Eller, C, Washington (1 percent owned) – Eller seems to have great chemistry with the abrasive Tom Wilson – speed and sandpaper on the same line means pucks will pop loose. This happened time and time again Thursday night against the Isles and Eller drilled two pucks into the net, including the winner, and added a helper. Eller and Wilson’s chemistry will be the key to the Caps’ success this season. Teams that plan for Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s lines will end up mismatched against Eller’s line. Strong secondary scoring from this guy will be the result. Eller is a sneaky pickup.
Yanni Gourde, RW/C, Tampa Bay (3 percent owned) – Gourde is a talented AHL scorer who is making the most of a gig on the Bolts’ second line. He has seven points in eight games heading into weekend play and is showing a real connection with Brayden Point. The Bolts seem to have a way with skilled, but undersized forwards and Gourde is yet another. There’s no way his 70-plus point pace from this streak will continue, but Gourde could top 40 on the season. His streak warrants immediate pickup; his potential warrants season-long consideration in deep keeper leagues.
Boone Jenner, LW/C, Columbus (22 percent owned) – Jenner went undrafted in many formats this year, in part because he started the season injured and also because of his struggles last season. But my heart fluttered a little Thursday night when I saw him pick up three points. The drive he had two seasons ago seems to be back! Can Jenner be the 30-goal guy he was two seasons ago? I think it’s possible. Goals are gold in fantasy, so jump on him if you need them.
Tyler Myers, D, Winnipeg (4 percent owned) – Myers has put an awful 2016-17 behind him. On the ice, he was limited to just 11 games due to recurring hip and groin injuries. Off the ice, his son was born five weeks premature and suffered serious medical complications that made his first weeks touch-and-go. Today, Myers is both healthy and happy (so is his son), and his production is finally starting to come. He has a point in each of his last three games heading into the weekend and that includes one power-play marker. There are no guarantees with this guy, but his combination of skill and size means he’ll be tough to handle. I snagged him, at least in the short term. The Jets are for real this season.
Markus Nutivaara, D, Columbus (0 percent owned) – Nuti got sent down to the AHL this season despite playing 66 NHL games in 2016-17. But an injury at the big club saw him recalled and he’s showing an offensive touch that wasn’t present last year. Nutivaara is playing in the third pairing with the steady Ryan Murray and has five assists in his last five games, including two consecutive two-point games. He’s agile and fast on his edges, and he pushes the puck with simple, but strong outlet passes. Nuti will continue to pick up helpers here and there, not unlike Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin. Again, this is a deep-league pick where blue-line points are hard to find.
Tanner Pearson, LW, Los Angeles (5 percent owned) – It’s about dang time. Pearson picked up three assists Thursday night after delivering just one in his last six games. I was starting to doubt him (and my decision to keep him coming into this season). But I’m holding on a bit longer. He and Tyler Toffoli have been missing Jeff Carter, but they’re both starting to turn it on. You won’t get Toffoli cheap, but you can grab Pearson with pocket change. For now, because that’s about to change.
Alex Tuch, RW, Vegas (3 percent owned) – Tuch is a guy you can’t ignore. He played well enough to make the Golden Knights out of camp, but was dispatched to the AHL simply because he didn’t need to go through waivers. There, he opened the season with a hat trick to force the Knights’ hand. Since his recall, Tuch has delivered six points in eight games and has really clicked with Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg. Tuch could end up being the one that got away from the Minnesota Wild – they made him available in the expansion draft after a middling first AHL season. Tuch remains a short-term look for me, though – the Knights are going to come back to earth soon enough. And the ice will get soft for a lot of their young players. But Tuch is back on my keeper radar for sure.
Back to Price.
I’ll give you some talking points to help you get a deal done. Tell his owner that Price’s high-danger save percentage (HDSv% in advanced stats) of .727 is the fifth-worst in the NHL. And tell that owner that Price hasn’t had an HDSv% lower than .800 since the lockout. Then say that .727 is the worst since 2009-10 when Jaroslav Halak took over the starter’s reins.
Then express your interest and walk away. Let that owner stew. Because he or she will.
Price isn’t the goalie he was in 2009-10. He’ll bounce back. But that brain worm you planted in the mind of his owner will gnaw away, just like a beaver on a tasty young poplar.
Price’s owner will come knocking. Make a good offer and he could be yours. I just hope his owner in my leagues don’t read this, so I can make my move.
BTW, a quick update on my Leon Draisaitl trade. I know a lot of you raised an eyebrow about the owner who traded him to me. Well, you shouldn’t. That owner has rocketed up the standings into third and I’ve dropped to eighth. GAH! It’s not all because of that single trade, but it is related. I have too many goal scorers and almost no other offensive production.
It’s a good reminder that not every shiny trade offer will deliver the things you need. Not yet, at least.
I’m still holding out hope. I have to.