Perhaps the most significant blow to fantasy teams this season occurred on Saturday, when Penguins coach Dan Byslma revealed that Evgeni Malkin had suffered a torn ACL and MCL as a result of a collision with Tyler Myers during Friday’s game. Malkin owners were well aware that he had just returned to the lineup after a five-game absence, so they are probably asking themselves why Geno couldn’t sit for just one more game.
As it stands, a torn ACL and MCL normally require surgery and a six-month recovery period. At this point, we’ll assume that he will go for surgery, which you can pretty much take to the bank unless the Penguins hire a doctor with magical healing powers. The more likely scenario would result in Malkin missing the rest of the regular season and whatever playoff run the Penguins go on.
A not-so-fun fact for Penguins fans: Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jordan Staal have dressed for only two games together this season, one of which was the Winter Classic.
With Malkin on long-term injury reserve, the Penguins will likely use his Nashville Predators-like $8.7 million in cap space to trade for one forward – maybe even two forwards – plus a defenseman. One possibility right now is a player within the division in Jason Arnott of the Devils (although The Net Effect writer David Satriano still believes that the Devils can make the playoffs). I would also not be all that surprised if the Penguins inquire about the availability of assist wonder Ales Hemsky to improve their situation on the wing, although the Oilers had mentioned earlier this season that he was not available.
Malkin’s injury will immediately thrust Staal up to top-line duty. Staal should see a ridiculous amount of icetime while Crosby is sidelined, as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will no doubt use Staal in all situations: even strength, power play, and penalty kills.
Chris Kunitz’s value is already down slightly while linemate Crosby is out, although he has three points in his last three games. He will continue to see top-line minutes, although it will be interesting to see how he will be able to keep up with Staal as his center and not Crosby or Malkin.
As for prospects, Dustin Jeffrey, who has been shuttled back and forth between the Penguins and the AHL this season, should finally stick with the big club and see some minutes. Eric Tangradi, who was a popular deep sleeper at the start of the season, should also stay with the big club and will finally see his opportunity.
Hopefully the Penguins don’t use the Malkin injury as a reason to rush back Crosby from his concussion. We have no idea how long it will take for Crosby to recover, although he has begun off-ice workouts.
As for possible replacements for Malkin, fantasy owners will not be able to replicate his point totals off the waiver wire. A trade may be the best possible solution, although teams that already have a surplus at center shouldn’t worry about addressing the situation. Fantasy owners still have about another month to work out a deal if needed, although it is advisable to check your league settings for your league’s trade deadline date.
Do you have a question about your fantasy hockey team? Email Ian at email@example.com, and he’ll add it to the Fantasy Mailbag. Or follow fantasyhockey.com on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates, general hockey discussion, and any fantasy hockey questions that you have. You can also become a fan on Facebook.