August 31 2015
Radim Vrbata, the Ducks’ cap situation, Tuukka Rask vs. Devan Dubnyk, and more…
To start: My apologies for getting my Sunday Ramblings up on Monday afternoon (or Monday evening, for those of you on the East Coast). I was without power for 50 hours – from Saturday at around noon until Monday afternoon. This isn’t a hockey link, but you can read more about the situation where I live at CBC.ca. Losing power is a major inconvenience, but it could be a lot worse. Indoor camping is kind of fun, actually, at least for awhile…
… and Dobber is thrilled to keep his Ramblings streak alive! We’re essentially swapping Ramblings days to enable this to happen.
When you’re getting into August, you’re kind of wearing thin for possible current events hockey topics. And if you’re like me, you suffer from occasional writer’s block. So I thought I’d put it out there for my Twitter followers to decide which topics I could focus on for the Ramblings.
Thank you to Dobber Prospects Tampa Bay Lightning writer Randall Buschmann for selecting topics for today’s Ramblings. You’re the best, Randall… except when your fantasy team is facing mine this coming season.
If you’d like a say next week, send me a tweet and I’ll try to get it in.
So what should we expect from Radim Vrbata this season? Actually, I’d already written something about Vrbata earlier this summer for Today’s Slapshot. In the article, I discussed how Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis would become trade bait should the Canucks be in a position to sell at the trade deadline. Both veterans are set to become UFAs following the 2015-16 season.
Vrbata was one of last summer’s smartest free agent signings, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his first season with the Canucks. Vrbata had reached the 60-point mark once before in Arizona with linemates that weren’t as talented as Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. But how much of an impact could not playing on the Sedin line have on Vrbata’s production?
According to the line combinations on Dobber, Vrbata was on the Sedin line over 50 percent of the time, which includes both even strength and power-play time. He was sometimes bumped down to the second line with Nick Bonino when Canucks coach Willie Desjardins decided to spread the scoring around and try old Sedin linemate Alex Burrows or even Zack Kassian or Jannik Hansen with the Sedins.
Conventional thinking would assume that Vrbata was best served alongside the Sedins last season, scoring 2.23 goals per 60 minutes alongside Henrik and Daniel. Both Sedins had much higher assist totals than goal totals last season, so Vrbata with his quick release seems like the ideal fit on that line. But what if I told you that Vrbata’s GF60 alongside the now-departed Bonino was 2.98?
The difference is not a big deal. But’s it’s enough to make a point that Vrbata might be due for a minor dropoff in points. Vrbata will probably spend at least a bit of time on lines with Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter. Vrbata didn’t spend much time with Horvat last season, while Sutter is a newcomer who has never reached 20 assists in a season.
I’ll predict 29 goals and 30 assists for Vrbata in 2015-16. That probably won’t affect his draft position in fantasy leagues that much. Vrbata is still a strong bet to provide at least 250 shots on goal and ten power-play goals to fantasy teams.
Source: Hockey Analysis
I’m okay with recommending Ryan Kesler for a fantasy team, as long as you temper your expectations at no more than 50 points. But I think the Ducks are going to regret the six-year contract worth $6.875 million per season that they signed Kesler to this offseason. His physical style of play will take a toll on his body, if it hasn’t already. Those of you in real salary cap leagues are probably best to stay away from Kesler based on your return on investment.
Kesler’s major salary won’t help the Ducks next summer. At that time the Ducks are expected to have $52 million in used cap space for only 11 players. Depending on what the 2016-17 salary cap will be, the Ducks could have only $21 million left over to sign remaining players. And there are a few RFAs that they’ll need to sign.
If Frederik Andersen has another season like 2014-15, he’ll be in for a significant raise on his current $1.15 million cap hit. John Gibson will also be an RFA, although it remains to be seen whether the majority of his minutes will be spent in the NHL or AHL.
The situation could be even scarier on defense. Young up-and-coming defensemen Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres, and Hampus Lindholm are all RFAs. This on a team that is paying third-pairing defenseman Clayton Stoner $3.25 million per season and 34-year-old Canucks castoff Kevin Bieksa $4 million per season, both with multiple seasons remaining.
At forward, only Rickard Rakell, Jiri Sekac, and Chris Wagner are RFAs, although the Ducks will also need to decide what to do with veterans Chris Stewart, Mike Santorelli, and Shawn Horcoff, all of whom signed for one year as free agents. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are the faces of the Ducks’ franchise, but each now pull in identical $8.625 million per season salaries for another six years.
Even with some excellent young talent, it’s win now for the Ducks. Next summer, they might be facing a similar situation that the Blackhawks were forced to handle this summer.
Source: Cap Friendly
Mini cage match time! Apologies again to Rick Roos for borrowing his article’s title. But I could never do as thorough a job as he does in his own Fantasy Hockey Cage Match.
I’m in a keeper league in which I am allowed to keep only one goalie. I can choose between Tuukka Rask, Devan Dubnyk, and Mike Smith. I think we know which goalie we can toss aside, so I’ll concentrate on the other two. What makes this challenging is that Rask is ranked #7 and Dubnyk #8 in the Dobber Rankings. But the league rules won’t allow me to keep both.
Rask was the top-ranked goalie in fantasy leagues at this time last season. His 34-21-13 record and 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage were good, but those numbers did not justify where he was drafted in fantasy leagues. Rask is still a top-10 option among goaltenders, but he won’t be elite material if the Bruins continue to struggle as expected.
Dubnyk’s stock hit rock bottom in 2013-14, when he was demoted to the AHL. Not on anyone’s fantasy radar to start 2014-15, a midseason trade to Minnesota started an incredible run in which he posted a 27-9-2 record with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage with the Wild. Simply put, he was fantasy hockey’s top second-half goalie last season.
Is Dubnyk the real deal? Will the Bruins’ struggles really affect Rask? I have seriously been flip-flopping all summer between these two goalies. They have similar rankings in other ranking systems that I have checked out. Maybe you’ll face the same dilemma in your league draft this season.
When I project players, I like to go back 2-3 seasons to make an estimate while factoring in their age and team. Both goalies are in their late twenties, which makes that part a dead heat. Teamwise, I’d give the edge to Dubnyk, although the difference is not major. Both goalies are the clear-cut starters, so there’s no worries about a backup that will cut into their work significantly, unless they struggle.
I’m going to keep it simple and maybe tow the company line here a bit. My most important criteria is pure numbers. Although Dubnyk was the better goalie last season (particularly in the second half), Rask is the more proven option. Compare Rask’s career 2.16 GAA to Dubnyk’s career 2.69 GAA – more than half a goal better per game. That may be the result of Rask playing for stronger teams that Dubnyk. But I think I’ll sleep just a little bit easier if I go with Rask as my pick – at least right after the pick is made.
Obviously, there are a lot more variables that could be considered when making this comparison. Neil would tell me to pick Dubnyk, based on what he wrote about Rask’s supporting cast in Tuesday’s Ramblings. But this just gives you an idea as to my thought process. See if you can get me to change my mind below in the comments. I still have a few more weeks to decide, and I haven’t carved this in stone.
Sometimes supremely talented players go completely unnoticed by most scouts. Such was the case for Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick of the Bruins in the 2014 draft. You can check out his Dobber Prospects profile, updated back in March by Michael Boeckler. His story, as told by Kirk Luedeke in his blog, is an interesting one, since no one had heard of him when the Bruins drafted him. Yet he averaged a point per game in the NCAA in 2014-15.
I’ll have to admit: Like the scouts, I missed out on watching this kid. Heinen was playing right in my own backyard and I didn’t even know it (Heinen played for my local BCHL team the season before). Will better scouting mean that more late bloomers growth-wise will get discovered? Think of Tyler Johnson and his story.
Thanks for reading and being patient!
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