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Late trades bring better numbers

Whether it's the change of scenery or the thrill of joining a squad that can compete for the Stanley Cup, one thing is clear -- those players "sold" at the NHL trade deadline pay dividends for their fantasy owners.

In preparing for Wednesday's deadline, I analyzed the fantasy stats of the three biggest names who changed addresses last season. In each case, fantasy numbers either took a step up or stayed the same.

I also tried to find a comparable player this season rumored to be on the market. The first player I looked at is old friend Brian Campbell, who of course went from the Sabres to the San Jose Sharks.

In 63 games with the Sabres, Campbell had just five goals and 43 points. After heading west, however, he put up three goals and 19 points in 20 regular-season games. His nearly point-per-game average is outstanding for a fantasy defenseman.

So who's comparable to Campbell this year? There's several top-notch defensemen believed to be on the market, but the best comparison to Soupy is Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer. His stat line (63 games, eight goals, 43 assists) through Friday is almost identical to Campbell's with Buffalo, and they are both slick carrying the puck. Add in Niedermayer's vast experience with playoff races and he's a good bet to make fantasy owners happy.

Another player who was on the move a year ago was Marian Hossa, who hit the fantasy lottery by moving from perennial bottom-feeder Atlanta to Pittsburgh. Hossa's production stayed consistent, as he had 56 points in 60 games with the Thrashers and 10 points in 12 games with the Pens. The latter total can be viewed somewhat as a disappointment, but Hossa missed seven games with a knee injury.

Phoenix's Olli Jokinen doesn't have quite the numbers (41 points in 56 games) Hossa did at this point last year, but their situations are similar. Jokinen's a gamer whose numbers I see improving once he gets the taste of a postseason race, something he's rarely seen in his time with hockey deathbeds Florida and Phoenix.

The last player I analyzed was Brad Richards, who left Tampa Bay for Dallas. Richards had 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists) in 63 games for the Lightning, then put up 11 points in 12 games with the Stars. Richards has a near clone this season in Ottawa's Jason Spezza. Both are playmaking centers who will set up more goals than they score, and each carry huge price tags. Spezza has 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists) in 60 games this year. The only concern with his production will be leaving linemates Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.

There's not as big of a sample size to look at when it comes to goaltenders, but one big name who did move a year ago was Cristobal Huet, who went from Montreal to Washington. Huet had the biggest improvement of all, as his goals-against average and save percentage went from 2.56 to 1.63 and .916 to .936, respectively. Huet had an 11-2 record in 13 games with the Capitals and was one of the biggest reasons they made the postseason.

It should come as no surprise that trades help fantasy production, as in the case of Campbell, Hossa and Richards, each went from a team that missed the playoffs to one that made the postseason. Better teams equal better teammates.

So while you keep one eye on what the Sabres do Wednesday, keep the other on your fantasy roster. Pay particular attention to players who may go from teams currently out of the postseason race to those in the thick of the race for the Cup.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com

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