Thoughts on Kessel, Kassian, Sharp, and the NHL's All Unsigned Team
Thank you to Neil for filling in for me last Sunday while I was enjoying some quality time off sitting by the lake. But now I'm back and I'll attempt to throw something together here for the first time since July 1, when I was typing away like a madman in over 30 degree Celsius heat, helping Dobber out with the free agent signings.
One thing's for sure: we had you covered that day. Michal Neuvirth, Zack Kassian, PA Parenteau, Brad Richards, and even Viktor Stalberg were the signings I covered. Not exactly the biggie signings, especially Stalberg. I started the thread over at the Forum, and the reaction there was priceless. I guess fantasy teams won't be rushing to buy stock in Stalberg.
There are always a lot of smaller signings on July 1, but this year seemed to lack the home run kind of signings, as teams attempt to conserve a little more and avoid the David Clarkson type contracts of years past. In fact, the Vladimir Tarasenko contract may signal a reduction in the number of bridge contracts. There's a great read over at TSN about this.
But if you think about it, paying the stars before they enter their prime makes perfect sense. Too often, we see the players on the downside of their careers with the big contracts. It is a bit of a gamble for teams to sign a young player to a significant contract – case in point Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad. But both of these players are clearly trending upward.
I didn't get to edit Demetri's Contrarian article last week, but I did get to read it. This was perhaps his best (and funniest) article yet. But all joking about hot dogs aside, is there one player whose fantasy value took a higher leap this offseason than Phil Kessel? I was debating setting him loose in a "keep 4 skaters" keeper league where I also own Tuukka Rask, Devan Dubnyk, Zach Parise, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Henrik Sedin, and Eric Staal. Not anymore. (By the way, I can keep only one of the two goalies. That's another dilemma that I haven't completely made up my mind on.)
In fact, I'd estimate that Kessel's fantasy value increased at least two rounds in a standard 12-team draft format from where it would have been had he stayed in Toronto. It goes without saying that Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin are a significant upgrade over Tyler Bozak. Kessel can also concentrate on scoring goals, away from the voracious Toronto media that tracks his every move and criticizes him for not being a well-rounded player. Kessel should have no problem reaching 35 goals, a positive plus/minus, and 300 shots on goal. Those are even conservative estimates to me.
During Friday's Ramblings, Mike made some very solid points about Zack Kassian as a possible breakout player for the Canadiens. These were points that even I as a Canucks fan didn't know about. Mike knows his stats and does his research, and I'm sure he's going out on a limb to some degree on this one. But based on my experience in watching the Canucks a lot, I don't see a breakout coming for Kassian. Contrary to the approach used by many on here, I'm not going to use stats to support my argument.
As I mentioned in my July 1 Fantasy Take, three Canucks coaches – Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella, and Willie Desjardins – did not trust Kassian enough to give him top 6 minutes. The fact that the Canucks were willing to give up a fifth-rounder and Kassian for a fourth-liner in Brandon Prust shows that the Canucks wanted to get him out of the organization.
Kassian's lack of defensive play and propensity to disappear over long stretches would be considered reasons for his lack of icetime. His high points per 60 minutes total come from stretches over a handful of games where he appears to be fulfilling his potential. If Michel Therrien has a defensive-minded focus again in 2015-16, then he's a good bet to become coach number four that can't trust Kassian.
But Kassian is still only 24 years old and coming to a new team, so anything is possible. But as much as I love stats and numbers, something I've learned as I've gotten older is to trust my gut more, both in fantasy hockey and life in general.
So here's who is left for unsigned UFAs. Not exactly players you'd build your fantasy team around, but some names that could help some real life NHL teams.
The Underachievers – Chris Stewart, Alexander Semin
The Underappreciated – Mike Santorelli, Lee Stempniak
Cody Franson, Johnny Oduya, Christian Ehrhoff, Marek Zidlicky
For the full list, check out this article at NHL.com. There were no goalies on this list, which could mean that every goalie of note now has a home. But there are always goalies that you've barely heard of at the start of the season that may end up on someone's fantasy team.
Some tidbits on the forwards listed above:
Stewart is reportedly close to signing with the Ducks, according to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. Once the signing is announced, of course, you can bet that we'll have something up about it. But not until then.
This week's Contrarian focuses on Semin and whether teams should look into him, along with players in general that have recently been bought out. I'd be willing to bet that you wouldn't be too thrilled if Semin signed with your favorite team.