Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: If you can't get a trade going in your league, consider these pickups

Samuel Ersson #33 of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Samuel Ersson overcame a rough recent outing and is the primary netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers, so he's a valuable picking in fantasy hockey leagues. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Last week, we discussed trade strategies and how contenders will generally go for players who can immediately help while those out of the running seek out future talent. But there are times when both strategies can be used.

Before we get to the pickups, a brief tale: in the RotoWire Staff Keeper Hockey League (SKHL) — a head-to-head salary cap league with a minors-and-reserve draft — there are 16 teams, with six making the playoffs after 23 weeks. After 18 games, there are three at 12-6 followed by another three — including myself in fifth — at 10-8. Despite some strong skaters, my lineup has recently sputtered. And as our trade deadline was on Monday, I needed to decide whether to make a big splash or blow up my roster.

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I first tried to go after big names on expiring contracts, though deals couldn't be reached. I was then offered Pavel Zacha — who's on a reasonable non-expiring salary and was repeated in this column last week — for a third-round draft pick next season. That seemed like a solid move since he's doing well while retaining the option to be carried over.

My goaltending has primarily relied on rotation. Each team starts two per week, and I've mainly been using Alex Lyon and Marc-Andre Fleury while sometimes inserting whoever is hotter between Charlie Lindgren and Darcy Kuemper (and closing my eyes whenever I choose Antti Raanta). So when I had the opportunity to acquire Joey Daccord, that felt like something I needed to do, as he represented a significant upgrade. He was originally selected in the reserve round, meaning I can keep him next year for $5. Despite having to give up Tyson Foerster and his eventual $3 designation (as a current minor leaguer who hasn't been activated), this trade is a win-win for both sides.

So, in the end, I completed two transactions carrying benefits both now and in the future while maintaining a strong lineup with a solid chance of reaching the playoffs.

While a deal like this may not work out for your squads, perhaps some free options on the wire can bolster them.

(Rostered rates as of Feb. 23)


Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 40%)

A lead player returning to this column usually denotes some sort of recent positivity, yet at the same time there's a suggestion something's gone wrong since. When McTavish debuted here in late December, he had recently come back from injury and just notched a three-assist effort while sitting at 53% coverage. The problem over the next 10 games stemmed from the Ducks only producing 20 goals, so that's not something that should be attributed to any individual. The team offense has turned around, and so have McTavish's numbers with 11 points, 18 shots, 30 PIM, and 14 hits in 11 matchups. Expect him to keep the stats flowing alongside Anaheim's other talented forwards.

Gabriel Vilardi, Winnipeg Jets (Yahoo: 45%)

Vilardi has struggled to stay healthy. But when available, he's proven to be a lethal scorer. Soon after Opening Night, Vilardi would be sidelined for over a month. And then came a five-game pre-holiday run where he'd rack up six goals, six assists and 19 shots. Another brief spell on the sidelines would result in five straight pointless performances, though the last three have more than made up for the drought with four goals, four assists and a whopping six PPPs. With how hot Vilardi has been and his continuing partnership alongside Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, there's no reason he should still be available in roughly 60% of Yahoo leagues.

Wyatt Johnston, Dallas Stars (Yahoo: 38%)

If there's anything that stands out from Johnston's second season, it's that he's almost matched his impressive rookie scoring haul with 24 contests remaining. The Stars were primarily led by their top line the last few years, though a larger share of recent contributions have come from the middle six. Since Jan. 16, Johnston has gone off for seven goals, eight assists and 50 shots. He's also posted three power-play points while firing 20 pucks on net in the last week alone. Snap up Johnston before others beat you to it.

Jake Neighbours, St. Louis Blues (Yahoo: 17%)

My apologies to Neighbours as his inclusion back in November led to an offensive slump where he'd only manage eight points across 24 outings. Fortunately, he's recovered the last week-and-a-half with a tidy line of four goals, three assists, 17 shots, seven hits and six blocks. Neighbours also participates on the Blues' top man-advantage, where he's recorded 10 points overall and four during the aforementioned streak. With decent ice time and excellent placement in all scoring situations, he's one to strongly consider.

Bobby McMann, Toronto Maple Leafs (Yahoo: 11%)

Many have doubted McMann throughout his rise to fame due to low minutes and the fact he's a 27-year-old journeyman NHL rookie, yet there's no way one can overlook what he's done so far. The season stats may show he's only averaging 9:50 a night, but he's logged double digits in each of the last six games where he's combined for seven goals, three assists, 17 shots and 17 hits. Included in that tally is McMann's first career hat trick last Tuesday and his debut PPP Saturday. Teaming up with veteran centers like John Tavares and Max Domi can only help him in his progress, though you have to wonder when the bubble will burst. While he's still with the Leafs, McMann is at least worth a flier.

Jordan Greenway, Buffalo Sabres (Yahoo: 2%)

I've been surprised at how little power-play time Greenway has received over the years based on his size and decent hands. He's a leader while short-handed, but you have to figure someone standing 6-foot-6 would come in handy in front of the net while up a man. No matter where he's been placed on the Buffalo depth chart, Greenway is doing his best to make himself valuable — whether that be grinding in the lower half or trading passes with the likes of Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt. The Sabres may have gotten wind of his power-play potential as they've frequently used him on the second unit the last two weeks. If Greenway can build upon his attacking opportunities and maintain enough minutes, his fantasy profile would seriously improve.

Jack Roslovic, Columbus Blue Jackets (Yahoo: 1%)

Roslovic makes it nine Columbus forwards featured here this season. He was off to a favorable start before breaking an ankle in November while blocking a shot. Roslovic required a significant adjustment period after coming back and only registered a pair of assists from the first 14 appearances. It helps to be surrounded by great linemates, and there may not be two better Blue Jackets up front than Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner. With that duo helping out Roslovic, he's provided five points in the four most recent outings to go with 14 shots and a regular role on the backup power play.

Tyler Johnson, Chicago Blackhawks (Yahoo: 1%)

The Connor Bedard effect has already lifted a few teammates, with Nick Foligno and Philipp Kurashev the two most prominent examples (and current even-strength linemates). And then there's Johnson, who joins the phenom on the first man-advantage. He missed all of January dealing with a foot issue but has made his mark since returning, producing three of his four points on the power play. There's the obvious plus-minus deterrent involved with taking anyone on Chicago, and Johnson isn't the most consistent scorer, yet he offers a significant power-play resume from his time in Tampa and is being allowed to continue that tradition next to Bedard.


Mattias Ekholm, Edmonton Oilers (Yahoo: 47%)

When Ekholm was mentioned here in November, he had found the scoresheet in each of the previous three games. That trend has repeated itself with four assists from his last three. Ekholm has supplied solid output since Jan. 18, totaling 21 shots, 26 hits and 17 blocks. The second PP unit status isn't anything special and the overall offense won't be plentiful, though enough opportunities will come at five-on-five skating next to Evan Bouchard and on Edmonton's top-five attack. Combine that with Ekholm's sufficient work in other categories, and that should be enough to get him on more rosters.

Brandt Clarke, Los Angeles Kings (Yahoo: 10%)

It may have taken a couple years, but it looks like Clarke is finally getting an extended run in LA. And that's mainly thanks to the goal and three assists — two of those PPAs — he produced over five outings, a stretch in which he's also accumulated 12 shots and eight blocks. Clarke boasts an elite pedigree and has already dominated the OHL and AHL, though the Kings won't overwhelm him with ice time. There's a chance he slips back down to the bench or minors, yet there's too much current upside to ignore.

Mason Lohrei, Boston Bruins (Yahoo: 1%)

Lohrei reentered the Bruins' lineup on Wednesday after it was announced Hampus Lindholm will be out for at least the next week. He had done well in the AHL registering 13 points across 17 matchups, though only managed six from his first 27 NHL appearances. Lohrei would boost that total by 50% against Edmonton on Wednesday. His responsibilities further increased Thursday as Matt Grzelcyk was unable to go after being forced out early the previous night. That's definitely something to monitor, as Lohrei could be a sleeper if he's holding a consistent role.

Declan Chisholm, Minnesota Wild (Yahoo: 0%)

There wasn't much chance for Chisholm to stick in Winnipeg following 23 consecutive healthy scratches. So when he went on waivers at the end of last month, the Wild swooped in to claim him. Chisholm marked his Minnesota debut Saturday with a PPG of 14:46. And three days later, he'd notch a PPA alongside three blocks against his old club in an extended capacity as a result of Zach Bogosian leaving that game. Chisholm seems to have cemented his place on the active roster and could receive a further boost should Bogosian miss additional time.


Samuel Ersson, Philadelphia Flyers (Yahoo: 46%)

Ersson was originally discussed in the first column of 2024 and proceeded to pull off three straight wins, including a 35-save shutout in Winnipeg. He'd then go through a tough eight-day stretch that ended with getting the hook after giving up four goals in one period versus the Bruins. Ersson has looked steady the last two games — check out his highlight-reel save against Chicago on Wednesday — and should keep dominating the starts for the Flyers unless the club decides to acquire a more experienced netminder.

Kaapo Kahkonen, San Jose Sharks (Yahoo: 3%)

The Sharks rank last in GAA and are battling the Blackhawks for the basement when it comes to goals and shots, so you may be wondering why I'm recommending one of their goaltenders. But hear me out. Kahkonen hasn't been terrible the last month with a 2.79 GAA across six appearances. And he's posted a .926 save percentage during that stretch, which puts him within Yahoo's top 10 for netminders who've logged at least four outings. As San Jose will be hosting three weak defenses in the coming week, maybe Kahkonen — and/or Mackenzie Blackwood (12% rostership) — can pick up a win or two.

Players to consider from past columns: Seth Jarvis, Juraj Slafkovsky, Ryan O'Reilly, William Karlsson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dylan Cozens, Johnny Gaudreau, Quinton Byfield, Boone Jenner, Gustav Nyquist, Troy Terry, Josh Norris, Robert Thomas, Nazem Kadri, Andrei Kuzmenko, Lucas Raymond, Artturi Lehkonen, Nikolaj Ehlers, Chandler Stephenson, Dylan Strome, Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev, Charlie Coyle, Mason Marchment, Pavel Zacha, Shane Pinto, Jonathan Drouin, Marco Rossi, Nicolas Roy, Trevor Moore, Sam Bennett, John-Jason Peterka, James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Palmieri, Blake Coleman, Morgan Geekie, Yegor Sharangovich, Sean Couturier, Eeli Tolvanen, Ross Colton, David Perron, Matias Maccelli, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Killorn, Daniel Sprong, Jake Sanderson, Mike Matheson, Brock Faber, Noah Hanifin, Filip Hronek, Thomas Harley, Torey Krug, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Cam Fowler, Neal Pionk, Simon Nemec, Ivan Provorov, Darren Raddysh, Pyotr Kochetkov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Lyon, Joey Daccord, Ilya Samsonov, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Jonathan Quick, Anthony Stolarz, Laurent Brossoit, Joel Hofer, Petr Mrazek