Jamie Benn Earns a Huge Contract, Victor Rask/Jaden Schwartz signings, and More
One big restricted free agent domino fell last night as the St. Louis Blues re-signed forward Jaden Schwartz to a five-year deal. The deal carries a cap hit of $5.35-million a year with a modified no-trade in the final two years (his first two unrestricted free agency years, coincidentally). That puts him in company of recent RFAs like Filip Forsberg and Reilly Smith.
The first two full seasons for Schwartz saw him crack 25 goals, and average nearly 60 points. Now, he played about half of his ice time in those seasons with Vladimir Tarasenko, and that won’t hurt anyone in the assist department. With that said, Schwartz has value at both ends of the ice as he’s a good defensive winger, but we’re here for fantasy.
Injuries slowed down Schwartz last year, and that was a big factor in why he received less ice time per game than he did in 2014-2015. Assuming he’s healthy and all-systems-go when October rolls around, the anticipation should be above 18 minutes a game again.
Which league a fantasy owner participates is a factor in where to draft Schwartz. Given a healthy year, projecting 25 goals and 60 points as a reasonable expectation is fine. He is not a player, though, that racks up the peripherals in any sort of roto league. Be it big shot totals, loads of penalty minutes, or real-time stats like hits, there isn’t anywhere else where Schwartz has stood out. That isn’t to necessarily say he can’t, but there hasn’t been evidence of stuffing the non-point stat sheet.
Schwartz may play with Tarasenko again, and that’s good for value. In roto leagues though, barring a monster point production season, expecting him to be much higher than a top-50 player is misguided. Points-only leagues are a different story, but in roto leagues, I think he’ll probably be drafted about where he’ll finish by the end of the season. There is nothing wrong with grabbing players at value necessarily, just don’t expect much return on the investment.
Another signing earlier this week was Victor Rask in Carolina. From a purely curious fantasy angle, this is interesting.
At five-on-five, like most Hurricanes players over the last few years, Rask hasn’t been very productive. Given, he’s still fairly young, but Rask is near the bottom of the league over the last two years in points per minute. That typically isn’t a player to target in fantasy leagues. All hope is not lost, though.
Following last year’s trade deadline, Rask’s ice time jumped a lot. Despite averaging just under 17 minutes a game for the year last year, he actually played a little over 18 minutes a game through March and April. As discussed in yesterday’s Ramblings, ice time has a big influence on production. Assuming that Rask is going to play 18 minutes a game next year, an 80-game season puts him over 1400 minutes, and that’s very good news for fantasy.
On top of that, registering a point on just over 60-percent of goals scored at five-on-five (IPP) with Rask on the ice is a very low number. Rask is still a young player, and there’s no telling just what a natural level for him would be. Being that low, though, given what should be a skilled forward, is hard to believe.
All told, there isn’t really a lot of pure talent yet on the Hurricanes roster, or at least that’s been shown. There are very nice pieces like Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, and Elias Lindholm, but beyond that, it’s thin. This is a young, but very structured team that just needs to add some true offensive talent. With that out of the way, Rask should be a focal point for this team in regards to ice time, and he’s due for a bit of a bounce back in IPP. This isn’t a player I would be drafting hoping to hit a 60-point upside, but I don’t think he falls off from his production last year, either. Grabbing him at the end of drafts can provide security in case of injuries to others further up a fantasy roster.
Just as a small aside, how much better would the NHL offseason be if general managers actually used offer sheets with any regularity? There were so many viable restricted free agents to throw one at this year. Nathan MacKinnon would cost a first, second, and third round pick. A team like Buffalo has two second rounders and two thirds next year, and Toronto has two second rounders. If you have extra scond or third round picks left over from trading guys like Roman Polak or Mike Weber, giving up the first for MacKinnon seems like a reasonable idea?
I get that GMs don’t want to rock the boat and upset their brethren, but the rules are there for exactly this scenario. Teams acquire picks and cap space as currency to use in future trades – why not eschew those trades, and offer sheet elite, young talent? Just a thought.
The Dallas Stars locked up one of the core pieces of their team by giving Jamie Benn an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $9.5-million. That would make Benn one of the highest paid players in the league, and the third-highest earning winger behind Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin.
At face value, sure, this is a lot of money. But for anyone giving that much money to a winger, wouldn’t Benn be on an extremely short list of players deserving of it? He’s second in scoring in the league over the last three years, and he’s an absolute monster on the ice with a rare combination of size, skill, and vision. The knock was always his foot speed and skating, but it’s clear he’s at least competent in those areas now. And once he gets going, it’s like trying to stop a fully-stocked fridge that’s sliding down a mountain slope.
While it could hinder some cap space, according to Cap Friendly, the Stars have over $13.5-million off the books after next year when the contracts of Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, and Johnny Oduya run out. They have good young players like Esa Lindell and Denis Guryanov that can come in and fill the spots of the veterans.
There isn’t much reason to think that with the group of players the Stars have, Benn isn’t a 35-goal, 80-point player for the near-future. With better goaltending, this team is a Cup contender. I just feel bad for those in fantasy salary cap leagues. He may have taken a bit less to stay in Dallas, but fantasy owners will now be coughing up nearly $10-million a year for nearly the next decade.
Enjoy the ride – the guy is truly elite.
Question for the comments – would you rather have Stamkos or Benn on their new deals if you were an NHL GM?
From Hockey Reference’s Play Index, there have been four players to crack 20 goals and 220 shots on net in each of the past six 82-game seasons: Phil Kessel, Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski, and Patric Hornqvist. This isn’t necessarily to put Hornqvist in that tier with the others, but it’s more to point out just how hard it is to be consistent in the NHL.
What is a bit more curious about Hornqvist is that he really hasn’t had a career year. Despite cracking 20 goals in each of those six seasons, he’s never had more than 30. He also never had under 43 points in that stretch, but never more than 53. That is solid consistency, but he still hasn’t had that monster year yet. He may have had that year in 2014-2015 had he stayed healthy (25 goals and 51 points in 64 games), so maybe it never happens for him.
Given that Hornqvist should be back alongside Sidney Crosby next year, and likely back on the top power play unit, his production last year should be seen as his expected output. For those in roto leagues, he was around a top-50 forward, and he was drafted in the 10th-11th round last year in 12-team leagues on ESPN, and was ranked around the 90th player on FantasyPros. If he’s being drafted around the 100th player again this year, that is the perfect time to grab him. If he’s healthy, he won’t lose value at that position, and given his situation, there is a lot of upside there. That is the type of pick to make in the ninth round that helps win leagues (just look at what Marchand did last season).
Nazem Kadri should be a player that draws a lot of interest in fantasy leagues next year. Over the last four seasons, Kadri’s points per game mark (0.66) compares very well to other fantasy mainstays like Brad Marchand (0.68), David Backes (0.67), and Loui Eriksson (0.65). Where Kadri lost value relative to the other players is that his peripherals typically hadn’t been very good, but that changed last year when his shot rate jumped to a monster 3.4 per game.
Now, it’s a fair question ask if he just started shooting from everywhere (like Evander Kane does). Well, his average shot distance at five-on-five last year, via Behind The Net, was 31.6 feet. The previous two years were 30.3 feet, and 32.4 feet. While shot distance measurements typically have to be taken with a grain of salt, the shot distance graphics from Sporting Charts are even more favourable to this past season for Kadri. That is why I don’t think Kadri was shooting from everywhere last year, nor do I think he repeats his four-year low of 6.5-percent shooting overall.
The one concern I have with Kadri is that Mike Babcock will bury him against the toughest competition and killer zone starts in order to protect the other young centres (and Tyler Bozak). It would make sense, but it wouldn’t make me optimistic about his plus/minus turning around.
All that is left to wonder is whether or not Kadri keeps up that shot rate, or anything close to it. Even if he drops off to an even three shots a game, it would still be a huge total, and if can get back to converting anywhere near his career rate (which he should), it would mean 25 goals.
I will be curious to see where Kadri’s ADP ends up when September rolls around, but in all likelihood, I’ll be a buyer. He should see a lot of minutes, top power play time, and he is a gifted hockey player to boot. With those shots, and a hefty amount of penalty minutes, he could be a David Backes-type across-the-board roto stuffer (without the plus/minus, for those that use that category).
*Cap info from Cap Friendly. Some stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, and Behind The Net.