Perreault and Palmieri sign, streaming goaltenders, and thoughts on the fantasy rookie crop.

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The Jets signed Mathieu Perreault yesterday to a four-year extension with an average annual value of $4.125-million. That contract is set to start after his current contract runs out at the end of the 2016-2017 season.

From a real hockey point of view, this is an excellent deal. After the upper-tier of two-way forwards like Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar, Perreault is in the next level. He’s proven to be a consistent 40-plus point guy, and is one of the top defensive forwards in the league. All told, it’s a pretty solid contract for the Jets, and provides five years of security for Perreault.

For fantasy, it’s a wonder when that one season will come for Perreault. Up until this past season, his point per minute rate among all NHL forwards was excellent for his career. The problem there was there are a lot of smaller samples for those individual seasons as Perreault had typically been a depth player. In 2015-2016, he played a career-high 16:33 per game.

The only reason that Perreault didn’t push a 50-point season last year was his abysmal shooting rate. At five-on-five, Perreault shot 3.12-percent. For his career, up until last season, Perreault shot over 15.6-percent at five-on-five. It is hard for me to imagine that there is not a significant turnaround in this regard for the 2016-2017 season. This isn’t some guy in his mid-thirties that is in a serious decline; Perreault turned 28 in January. If Perreault shoots around 15-percent like he typically has, he has 50 points last year.

Nothing else was egregiously out line for Perreault last year; his production on the power play was probably a bit high, but maybe by a few points.

Perreault’s usage next year is going to be key here. With Andrew Ladd gone, I think there’s a good chance for Perreault to play in the top-six. It would make sense for both Perreault and Nikolaj Ehlers to be on the top two lines, then allow the younger players like Marko Dano and Adam Lowry to play easier competition on the bottom two lines. I think that allows Perreault to have a pretty consistent ice time from last year.

A rebound in goal scoring, with a top-six role and consistent power play minutes, should allow Perreault to finally break that 50-point barrier next year (with health, which is always a concern with him). He will not be a roto stud because of a lack of peripherals, but Perreault can be solid depth in points-only leagues. 

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It’s not a big secret that the Devils are lacking in offence. Playing low-event hockey and having an all-world goalie has kept this team somewhat afloat over the last few years. At the same time, teams need to score to win, and the Devils locked up a big piece of their offence yesterday, signing forward Kyle Palmieri for five years with an average annual value of $4.65-million.

The 25-year old Palmieri had a career year last season with 30 goals and 57 points. Normally, “career year” and “New Jersey Devils” should be enough to scare people away in fantasy for the following year. The expectation would be a reasonable regression down in production. Let’s hold that thought for a second.

At five-on-five, Palmieri was all over the place. At 1.58 points per 60 minutes, it was about equal to what he did the year before (1.51), but well below his career rate to that point of 1.96. He set a career-high in five-on-five points (29) because he also set a career-high in 5v5 ice time by over 370 minutes. That off-set the fact that he had a five-year low in on-ice shooting percentage – the rate at which the Devils scored with him on the ice.

One concern is that the rate at which he garnered a point on goals scored with him on the ice (individual points percentage, or IPP) was nearly 88-percent after being about 70-percent for his career. Not that it is unusual for a player to get more involved as he takes on a bigger role and ages, but that is a big number that should come down. Given his team’s low shooting rate with him on the ice, a rebound there could help concerns about a drop in IPP.  

My biggest worry is that New Jersey’s power play, with Palmieri on the ice, was ludicrous last year. This was the top-10 in team shooting rates with a specific player on the ice on the power play for the 2015-2016 season (from Hockey Analysis):

The addition of Taylor Hall will help, but it remains to be seen how New Jersey’s power play will be deployed. Four forwards on the top unit with Hall-Palmieri-Cammalleri-Henrique makes sense, or maybe they are spread over two power plays.

Palmieri’s contract is a good one for the team, and he’s a good player. I have a difficult time believing, though, that he’s going to surpass 20 power play points. Maybe an increase in five-on-five points makes up for a drop in PPP, but I am skeptical for now.  

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Just a quick word on streaming goaltenders.

For readers that may be unfamiliar, streaming goaltenders essentially means leaving one roster spot free to add/drop goalies throughout the season that are on the waiver wire, and in good situations, for maybe a few games. It’s a nice idea in theory, but I have a few issues with this:

  1. In a 12-team league, with three goalies a team, every starter is gone, as well as the elite backups or time-shares. I know it varies from league to league, but most leagues I play in, some teams even have four goalies. So now we’re at least 40 goalies deep into the player pool. Last year, there were 69 goalies that played at least 10 games. After the first 40 goalies, that leaves 29 goalies in the pool to select from. Of those 29 goalies, from Hockey Reference, only 11 of them had both at least a league-average save percentage of .915, and league-average goals against average of 2.51. To help ratios, a goalie should be roughly a .918 goalie with a 2.40 or better GAA. There were eight goalies that fit that criteria out of the original pool of 29. See how hard it is to pick the right goalie?
  2. There will be other league mates looking to stream as well. For those that can’t get to the free agency pool early in the morning, you may end up with the second, third, or worse choice of the day. As just demonstrated, it’s hard enough to get it right as it is?
  3. “Well I’ll just pick goalies facing the Sabres, or Devils, or Canucks, or…” If this is a thought, please see number-2 above. Fantasy owners may not get the matchup they were looking for.
  4. Goalies are inherently difficult to project over a full season, let alone a single day (which is a bane for daily fantasy players). Braden Holtby had an .892 save percentage last year in two games against Colorado with a 2.50 GAA, but had a .946 save percentage with a 1.50 GAA in two games against Boston. Go figure.

This isn’t just to say that streaming goalies cannot work. I have done it to some success in the past, as others surely have. What I am saying is that going into a fantasy draft with the thought of “I’ll just stream goalies” is not a good thought process. Streaming goalies should be a result of your draft, not a main tenet the way you draft. If goalies fall on the draft board, then it makes little sense to hold out on drafting goalies just because of the desire to stream. Similarly, if goalies are going high on the draft board, then employing a streaming strategy once the season starts may be the best course of action.

It is hard to pick goalies on the right day, and there is competition for the goalie pool among league mates. Be flexible on draft day, and be prepared to employ different strategies.

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I just wanted to get a feel from the readers about what the thoughts are next year with regards to the crop of rookies coming into the league. Last year, between Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Artemi Panarin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Dylan Larkin, and others, there was a plethora of useful rookie talent that I don’t remember since just after the 2005 lockout. This year, there are names like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner (maybe?), Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Dylan Strome, and others, there looks to be a few useful names this year as well.

Let me know in the comments where you guys stand on drafting the rookies in a one-year (i.e. non-keeper/dynasty league) next season.

Just thinking out loud here, I worry about the value for Matthews and Marner next year. Mike Babcock has never really been one to give starring roles to rookies, and the only reason guys like William Nylander were given such roles last year was a mix of the roster being decimated by injuries, and decimated by the front office. I’m not sure that will be the case this year.

Truthfully, I think the wingers – likely Laine – will have more value in the 2016-2017 season than guys like Strome or Matthews. What say you?

*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap information from Cap Friendly