Some big moves in early July completely changed the face of your fantasy squad. In part one of a four part series, let’s take a look at where some of these guys fit in with their new teams and, by extension, your fantasy league.
With superstar defenseman Scott Niedermayer on the cusp of retirement and sniper Teemu Selanne also looking in that direction, the Stanley Cup Champions needed to act quickly. They did so with the signings of former Red Wings Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi.
For the record, the only thing that stopped Niedermayer from officially retiring was the logic that if he waited until September he could avoid some embarrassment in the event that he changed his mind. Selanne seems to be 50-50 on the subject – he really wants to leave the game on top, but the competitive fires are still burning in his belly.
Schneider will be good for 50 points this season. If Niedermayer comes back, the Ducks will trade Schneider and he’ll get his points elsewhere. But rest assured, he’ll get his 50, while missing his usual 10 games due to injury. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin will again play second (third?) fiddle behind Chris Pronger and Schneider, so a 40-point season is likely out of reach for him this season.
Bertuzzi, on the other hand, will produce like Selanne, by any means. His bad back is causing him to play cautiously, which will cost him his usual point-per-game pace. Therein lies the big question. How many games will he play? Use a conservative approach here and put him down for 65 games and 55 points. The upside is no higher than 75, and you can imagine the downside.
As a team, the Ducks will be much weaker if they lose their two stars, however keep in mind that Ryan Getzlaf is clearly poised to break out this season.
The Thrashers managed to hang onto Slava Kozlov, so all of his owners can now breathe again. The problem that plagued this team last season persists now – they need a first and second line center. So far their solution has been to let Todd White, Steve Rucchin and Eric Perrin fight it out.
Last season, they had some success putting Kozlov at center with Marian Hossa. This year, White will center Hossa and Kozlov, with the latter going back to the wing. Remember – White and Hossa played well together in Ottawa.
Rucchin has already proven incapable of the role at this stage in his career, so there are a pair of dark horses to keep an eye on for your fantasy squad. Firstly is Perrin. A point-a-game player in the American League, he does have some offensive upside and if the chemistry is there with Kovalchuk, 70 points is not a stretch. The second candidate is blue chip prospect Bryan Little. Atlanta’s top prospect will get a long look in camp and it won’t be to stick him on the fourth line as a checker. If he makes the team, he will challenge Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews, Peter Mueller and Eric and Jack Johnson for the Calder Trophy.
Other UFA signings – Ken Klee and Pascal Dupuis – were strictly depth moves. Klee is a serviceable No.5 rearguard, while Dupuis has struggled ever since his contract dispute with Minnesota in 2003. He has been a healthy scratch several times over the past couple of seasons.
Tim Thomas just went from a serviceable 30-win goalie for your hockey pool to a guy who might possibly find himself without a job. The word out of Boston is that they are interested in promoting Toivonen to the backup role this year behind newly acquired Manny Fernandez. It seems hard to imagine, given what Thomas did for Boston last season, but they may be leaning towards shopping him and odds are he will not be a starter this season on another team.
If you own Thomas, your only hope is a trade to Phoenix. If that were to happen he would form a decent 1A and 1B duo with Mikael Tellqvist.
Other UFA signing