This week's edition of the Eastern Edge takes a closer look at the free-agent signings of Eastern Conference teams …
With the NHL’s free agent market settled down, this is a good opportunity to look at the fantasy landscape following the numerous changes. While much of the time has been spent evaluating the dollar figures and contract lengths, the signings also cause a stir in standard leagues that do not use player salaries. When a player switches to a new team, his ice time, quality of linemates and opportunities on the power play are all subject to change. This week we will cover players who have had their fantasy value rise now that they find themselves in a new environment.
In addition to the obvious benefactors in points-only leagues, there are also winners on the multi-category front. A change of scenery can make someone play with a chip on his shoulder and if he is lucky he may see additional minutes. A greater role means more opportunities to pad the peripheral categories while also allowing for a few extra points.
Note: This will focus strictly on one-year leagues for the 2016-17 campaign.
Andrew Ladd (LW) – New York Islanders
After blossoming into a high-end winger while with the Jets’ franchise, Ladd actually took a step back offensively in his contract year. Usually in the 50- to 60-point range, he ended the year with just 46. At the age of 30, this could be a sign of the beginning of a decline for a player that plays so hard every night. However, now that Ladd has signed on with the Islanders, he has a chance to spend significant time on the top line next to John Tavares which should put him back in his usual production range.
The losers in this scenario are the young forwards in New York that failed to step up and claim a top-line spot before Kyle Okposo left town. This includes Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey. As such, the incoming big-name free agent will get every opportunity to be a staple on the top line while the younger homegrown talents will be higher risks to draft, as they will likely experience more growing pains playing mostly lesser roles.
Ben Lovejoy (D) – New Jersey Devils
Since becoming a full-time NHLer, Lovejoy has been a solid depth defenseman in multi-category leagues, combining great totals in hits and blocks with surprising contributions at the offensive end. However, since returning to Pittsburgh at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, his offense has taken a hit as he played heavier minutes while shorthanded.
Lovejoy signed with New Jersey to help fill the void created by the departure of Adam Larsson. Once again, Lovejoy will likely be deployed primarily in a defensive role. This time, he should see an increase in ice time in all situations as the Devils possess a lack of quality defensemen on their roster. The expanded role should help Lovejoy chip in a few extra points and get back to his old self being an underrated multi-category contributor.
Steve Ott (C) – Detroit Red Wings
No longer is Ott a dominant multi-category performer who is a yearly threat to hit 40 points. However, he is still worth a look in deeper leagues because players of his ilk are becoming rare, and prior to his arrival in St. Louis, he was still posting respectable point totals. In Detroit, he will have something to prove. If he is unable to be a regular in the lineup this could be his last year in the NHL.
Further adding to the risk is the end of his tenure with the Blues. This past year, Ott played just 21 games while being struck by the injury bug for much of the campaign. Even more alarming is the fact he was used so sparingly during the team’s playoff run, a time when gritty veterans usually shine. In most leagues, he will rightfully be kept on the waiver wire, but in the right setup, he should be kept on the radar if your team is in need of some sandpaper.
P.A. Parenteau (RW) – New York Islanders
During his first stint with the Islanders, Parenteau came out of nowhere to become one of the top value picks in the entire league as he peaked at 67 points in 2011-12 while lining up next to Tavares. Since leaving the Islanders, he has gradually declined and hit rock bottom in Montreal in 2014-15 with just 22 points. Coming off a bounce-back year with the Leafs, he was able to earn a one-year deal with the same franchise that put him on the map.
As mentioned, the Islanders’ group of young forwards failed to impress which leaves a lot of uncertainty moving forward. Parenteau is by no means a sure bet to play on the top line and produce fantasy-relevant numbers, but the opportunity is there. As a late-round gamble he could provide a great return on investment.
Alexander Radulov (RW) – Montreal Canadiens
Radulov is included in this list by default as he is no longer a KHLer providing nothing but false hope to his owners in keeper leagues. He is now back in the NHL and will immediately be used in a top-six role. Despite his flaws, Radulov has been extremely productive at every level since he debuted with the Quebec Remparts in 2004. This includes seven consecutive seasons in the KHL producing a point per game or better and three scoring titles.
There is some risk, but in all likelihood, Radulov will have a very productive year with the Canadiens. He is one of the team’s most gifted offensive players and will be given plenty of opportunities to produce, especially on the power play. Additionally, his PIM totals in the KHL have been extremely high which should help boost his value in multi-category leagues as well.
James Reimer (G) – Florida Panthers
Landing in Florida is a bit of a disappointment for Reimer owners hoping he would find a gig as a team’s undisputed No. 1 goalie. However, as far as this year is concerned, he may have lucked out from a fantasy perspective. Starter Roberto Luongo is expected to be on the shelf until November due to offseason hip surgery, giving Reimer at least one month to be the Panthers’ primary goaltender behind a team that is improving rapidly. With the possibility that Luongo eases himself back into the lineup as he works off some rust, Reimer could still be the team’s main option when December rolls around.
Pegging Reimer’s value in one-year leagues is tricky. It depends on how you intend to use him. He has great value early in the year and is definitely most valuable if you can put your hands on both goalies. If your league is small and has limitations on adds and drops, then going with Reimer might not be a sound option as it will force you to burn a transaction, leaving fewer in the bank to cover for costly injuries.
Keith Yandle (D) – Florida Panthers
During his time with the Rangers, Yandle’s ice time plummeted below the 20-minute mark and his point total fell short of 50 for the first time in a full season since 2011-12. The fact he was still able to amass 47 points while playing second-pairing minutes speaks to his elite offensive talent. Still, the Rangers were an awkward fit from the beginning, and Yandle clearly needed to shake things up.
Now in Florida, the table is set for Yandle to take a step back to his usual upper-tier numbers. The Panthers have a sound group of defensemen, but nobody on their blueline is in his league in terms of offensive ability. This will ensure a high percentage of zone starts in the offensive end and a permanent spot on the top power-play unit next to Aaron Ekblad. And the huge contract he signed should help indicate he will no longer play second-pairing minutes.
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