Austin Wallace checks in with a comprehensive update on his fantasy hockey offseason
I am two years into a full-on rebuild in a complicated fantasy hockey league, but the end is within sight. Two years ago, I took over a struggling franchise, which you can read about here, and tore it down. I have built from the ground up, after having inherited a team without goalies in a league where goalies are at a premium. I am now ready to make the final transition and set my sights on a championship.
To some, this final transition to contention is the most difficult thing to do in fantasy hockey. Often, if not always, it involves trading the young players you worked hard to gain and develop for older players, even when you know that the player you traded will be the better of the two within two or three years.
All poolies have a certain style of constructing and managing a roster, and many have a certain bias towards one strategy or one class of player over another. You can find droves of managers that are willing to go for the win each and every year, and who will trade a long term asset for that "final piece". Less common is the other end of the spectrum: those managers who will continue rebuilding eternally, and who think that because they have a talented young roster they are guaranteed league championships year after year. What is rare though, is a manager that can seamlessly switch between the two mindsets; someone who will sit on a Detroit prospect for what feels like forever, then trade him just as he is establishing himself in the NHL for a multi-category aging veteran. This is what I am struggling with right now.
I have invested a lot of time and effort into acquiring the right young players for a successful rebuild in my league. These are players that I can keep in the farm, but will be valuable producers by the time they play 92 games in the league (our limit before they have to be brought up). They can be the superstar prospects (Yakupov and Huberdeau), those raised by Detroit or the Detroit model (Tatar, Smith and Nyquist), or players otherwise ready to make an immediate impact. The best example on my farm, and maybe in recent history, is Washington prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov.
I acquired him for far below market value, knowing that he would not arrive to the NHL for a while… But once he does, he will quickly become a highly producing top six forward on a good team while still on his ELC. That type of immediate impact and production is invaluable in all salary cap leagues, especially during a rebuild.