But games remaining is only one consideration. What about who those games are against? This is one for the rotisserie crew, but I'll keep some tidbits for head-to-head leagues at the bottom.
The following is list of all NHL teams, their remaining games as of Feb. 28 and the cumulative total of all their remaining opponent's goals against per 60. In other words, how many goals are likely still left to be scored. I didn't bother with each team's own goals for per 60, as we want to take action from an individual standpoint; So you can make your own assessment of how likely a player is to score based on how many goals their opponent gives up.
Rest of the NHL schedule
As you can see, we get a pretty broad range from 77.07 all the way down to 59.36 for remaining opponents. You can also see that more games generally equals a higher goals total, but not always; The No. 1 Colorado Avalanche have fewer games remaining than the No. 2 Nashville Predators, for example.
With the schedule chart in mind, here are some stretch-run swaps you can potentially make on the free-agent market with a better schedule in mind. The drop suggestions here, for the record, are not necessarily the best drop suggestion for your team. They are included as an example of players that aren't performing up to snuff and have bad schedules ahead.
Schedule-based waiver wire moves
Compher is the Avs No. 2 center unless something happens before Friday's trade deadline. It would have to be a big move at this stage to supplant Compher, as he has settled in as an adequate replacement for what the Avs lost in Nazem Kadri during the offseason. There is clear chemistry between Compher and Mikko Rantanen on the second line and Compher is doing well on the power play, where he will stay at least until Gabriel Landeskog returns later in March.
As for Kuznetsov, we are finally seeing the Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin and Kuznetsov trio back together, but it's too little, too late. His 1.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) this season is what really stands out, not his four-point night on Saturday. Maybe you can find a more appropriate player to drop on your own roster, but given the schedule ahead, I'd rather have Compher on my team.
It's hard to say how much of Byram's current juice would fade away when Cale Makar returns to the Avalanche lineup. But I don't think it would be too much. Three of his eight points have come on the power play, but he might still be in store for some secondary work there even with Makar in the lineup. The key, however, is that Byram may get an extended run as the Avs take a cautious approach with their young superstar defenseman. They are not at risk of missing the playoffs without him and two head injuries in the span of a few weeks likely garners a element of caution in his return this time.
As for Ekblad, he's having way too many stretches with no points. His current streak is six games and he had a point-less streak of seven games in December-January. He is ceding more power-play time to Brandon Montour, who outpaces him in power-play points (seven to five) and power-play ice time per game (4:01 to 3:18) since Jan. 1.
A combination of an injury to Ryan Johansen and the continued jettison of Preds forwards ahead of the trade deadline has landed Novak up-jumped to the role of top-line forward. He played Sunday with Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene, also joining them on the top power-play unit. Novak has been kicking around the AHL for the previous three seasons, but found his groove this year, notching 26 points in 25 games with the Milwaukee Admirals. The scoring touch has translated to his elevated role in the NHL, with 11 points in just five games since joining the top-six group.
Hayes, for his part, has gone completely quiet, with just one assist in his past seven games and 0.8 FPPG for the past month. The Flyers don't have a strong schedule ahead, so perhaps Hayes' only potential savior is a trade -- with his name joining the list of speculation ahead of Friday's deadline.
Admittedly, Dunn is a little less available than some others, but is worthy enough to check on in any league. He's emerged as the power-play quarterback and best puck-moving defenseman for the team. He's already crushed his previous career highs in points and assists, and needs just one more goal to equal that mark. His 11 goals are eighth among all defensemen. Dunn and the Kraken should take advantage of their stronger schedule to run out the season, which includes three dates with Arizona, two with Anaheim and one each with Columbus, Chicago and Vancouver.
Andre Burakovsky does offer some threat to McCann, as the Kraken have preferred Burakovsky on the top line when he's healthy. But his lingering lower-body issue has given McCann some good run with Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle of late. The trio with McCann has a better expected goals per 60 rate and much better goals per 60 rate (MoneyPuck). McCann should have little trouble passing 30 goals this season, with 40 potentially in reach thanks to the beneficial schedule.
As for Bennett, I'm wondering if the third line awaits him upon his eventual return. With a healthy Anthony Duclair, the Panthers have seven top-six forwards at their disposal -- and that's not counting the rising Eetu Luostarinen. I suppose this could be a bit fear mongering, as Duclair has only been healthy one game and Aleksander Barkov missed that one, but I wonder if the return of Duclair lets the Panthers commit to what has been their best line this season: Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe. The line has seen limited usage overall (175 minutes), but ranks fifth in the NHL (minimum 150 minutes) in goals per 60 (4.81, all via MoneyPuck). That would potentially leave Bennett out in the cold -- especially if Anton Lundell can claim the next center spot.
Add Gabriel Landeskog, W, Colorado Avalanche (86.7%) and drop Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders (71.7%)
Is it even a hot take to suggest that Barzal could be missing the bulk of the remaining schedule? Maybe, but maybe not, given the way the Isles first response was to not speculate on whether he would be back for training camp (as in, next season!), but then walk it back the next day to "week-to-week" status. That's some muddy waters to go with the league's worst remaining schedule.
Landeskog, on the other hand, is back on the ice and still has a mid-March target set for a return. As you can see by the schedule, he's returning to the team with the best schedule remaining. If he's still out there in your league, he could be a game-changer for the fantasy playoffs and stretch run. The only concern would be if the Avs pull a "Nikita Kucherov" and have Landeskog conveniently, er, coincidentally return just in time for the actual NHL playoffs (when there is no salary cap), thus removing him from the fantasy universe for the remainder of the season. Whether that's an actual concern or not will depend on how the Avs cap situation looks after Friday's trade deadline. If they add a bunch of salary that seems to eat what Landeskog takes up on long-term injury reserve, I would suddenly have reservations about whether he will return. Not that teams would do that on purpose, right? Right?
The head-to-head fantasy playoffs
The default ESPN playoff system for most of you has two rounds, each two weeks long. To help inform any free-agent decisions between now and then, here are the same charts as above but for only the games after March 13 (both playoff rounds) and March 27 (the championship round).
The Avs are still top dogs going into the postseason for fantasy and, just for the record, this is about the time Gabriel Landeskog could return in the current best-case timeline. The Canucks and the Blue Jackets near the top of the chart are both nice surprises, as both teams have several players that can be useful to stream in and out of lineups.
The Lightning's schedule is bad, but a lot of that comes from three games with the New Jersey Devils in just one week to open the fantasy playoffs. But they also have matchups with Boston, Carolina, the Islanders (two) and Leafs, who are all top-10 teams in goals against per 60.
And, for just the two-week championship round in head-to-head, we have the following.
Looking at all three charts, head-to-head leagues should concentrate on having any potentially valuable Avalanche and Kraken on rosters sooner than later. They are the teams that manage to be at or near the top of the list in all three instances of the schedule we looked at here. The Kraken play the Arizona Coyotes three times during the championship matchup, in addition to facing the Ducks, Blackhawks and Canucks.