Fantasy hockey – Updates on when Kane, Malkin and more will return to the ice

Striker Evander Kane is ready to return to the NHL. Whether the NHL is ready for Kane is a whole other matter. But after being taken for allegedly submitting a fake vaccination card to the league and completing a 21-match quarantine as punishment, he is back on the ice. Not in a San Jose Sharks uniform, mind you, but skating nonetheless.

What comes next may interest fantasy managers with little to lose, either those who are already struggling to compete or who want to fill an extra large list in deeper leagues. Kane, 30, seems both keen and optimistic about returning to the NHL game. Like soon. In preparation for joining the AHL’s Barracuda, the scoring winger faced journalists and seemed convinced that it would all work out soon. Maybe he’s right.

Off-ice situations – no deep dives into that pool here; this is a fantasy column – except the guy can score. Kane led the Sharks with 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games, which would equate to 32 goals and 40 assists over a season of 82 games. If the Sharks can implement a scheme that involves retaining a certain salary, a trade can see Kane win yet another fresh start elsewhere. I do not suggest that such an agreement is in the bag, but it is certainly not out of the question. When a new agent is working, the situation only helps. NHL teams are busy winning games, and a key element to achieving that goal is scoring goals. Kane does it better than most.

Though cluttered with uncertainty, the imagination from Kane’s indefinite future is like this: If your team is not going fast and there is not much to be gained by finishing the midpack, the controversial winger may deserve a roll of the dice. Perhaps another NHL club (a future with the Sharks’ organization seems less likely) feels that the risk of inviting Kane into the locker room is worth the potential gain. Maybe he goes back in a fresh top-six / power-play role to light up, as is customary. At his best, Kane is a fantasy gem in leagues that rewards goals, shots, hits and penalty minutes. He’s a discriminator and is available in 75% of ESPN.com leagues. Whether he is worth the bet is up to you.


In other fantasy news, a few other high-profile assets may re-enter the game, sooner rather than later, after prolonged absence due to damage (and in one case, does not will return anytime soon). Here’s what to do about such transitions and the accompanying fantasy fallout:

Pittsburgh Penguins: According to coach Mike Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin is “at the next stage of his rehabilitation process, where [the] medical team believes he is ready to get more players around him and participate in a contact-free way. “In line with that plan, the 35-year-old center travels with the team out west. Once ready to go, in the next one few weeks is my guess, Malkin should start Jeff Carter – who has been a fantasy disappointment to date – from the second line center position.A place on the team’s No. 1 powerplay unit is also there for the veteran’s intake.Goodness that the Penguins could use the scoring boost No one named Jake Guentzel has produced with any consistency to date, and Malkin – who scored 74 points in just 55 games two seasons ago – remains available in 20% of ESPN.com leagues. meanwhile, Bryan Rust remains listed as week-to-week with a lower body injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Lightning can have two key figures left before the end of the month. Aside from setbacks, both Nikita Kucherov (lower body) and Brayden Point (upper body) can return to the game before the new year (if not shortly after). While fantasy takeaway here is superficial and rudely obvious – make sure these healthy elite players are in your lineup! – It is worth keeping an eye on where other attackers switch when everyone is in good shape. Especially Alex Killorn (56.5%), Anthony Cirelli (67.9%) and Ondrej Palat (87.7%). For example, who skates with Points and Kucherov if reunited on a scoring unit? Or will Jon Cooper return to the Killorn-Point-Cirelli line, which was effective in early November? Who agrees with Stamkos, who collect points as in the old days (2019)? Invested fantasy managers will pay close attention to how it all shakes out.

Washington Capitals: As announced by the Capitals Twitter account, he is “Back-y with the boys”. After retraining after a hip injury he suffered last spring, Nicklas Backstrom is really back to training with his teammates – albeit in a non-contact sweater. Still no return date set, but this is progress. When Backstrom – available in 13% of ESPN.com leagues – is ready to roll, center-Lars Eller will drop to the bottom six. Or has been battling his own injury problems lately, and has been productive when he was active, averaging one point / game in his last five competitions on a scoring line with Tom Wilson.

Los Angeles Kings: Nearly two months after incurring an ankle fracture ahead of the season, Quinton Byfield is back to practice with the Kings. Good news for a team that could use a little inspiration in the scoring department. After a predicted fitness period with Reign, Byfield will probably first play in as Kings’ third-line center. We’ll see how things shake after that. Even outside of dynasty / goalkeeper leagues, the 2nd overall draft pick (2020) is a must see.

Columbus blue jackets: After suffering an oblique strain in early November, Patrik Laine is back to skating and may return within the next week or two. The winger, who was raised all the way up in his second round with the Blue Jackets, collected three goals and seven assists in nine games to start the year. His availability is worth checking out in all but the lowest of ESPN leagues. Whichever center line up with Laine – if not Boone Jenner (73.0%), Cole Sillinger (1.6%) or Jack Roslovic (49.6) – will benefit from the winger’s healthy return. Linebacker Jakub Voracek also deserves a fresh look for those who are not already crazy about the winger’s 18 points of the season.

Edmonton Oilers: Last we heard, Mike Smith suffered a setback in his recovery from a lower body injury and was sent home from a recent road trip. With no new timeline in sight, this stinks of Smith, the Oilers and fantasy managers eagerly awaiting his return. It also means that Edmonton’s network belongs to Mikko Koskinen – does not Stuart Skinner meanwhile (who could stretch out to quite a while). After a brief stumble in mid-November, Koskinen is back in shape and wins three in a row. He was absolutely amazing last week against Pittsburgh and Vegas. And the Oilers – especially vicious ones at home – are at the top of the Western Conference table with 16-5-0. Still, Koskinen remains available in nearly half of the ESPN.com leagues. Enigmatic.

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