Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Tampa Bay Lightning
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint, and graded them. My 14th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The biggest change wasn’t a change at all. That of course being the re-signing of star center Steven Stamkos. GM Steve Yzerman would have been better off letting Stamkos walk – but not at that price. A last-minute sweet deal magically appeared, and Stevie Y jumped on it. And he was right to, even though the contract puts him in a bit of a predicament. The Lightning have just over $6 million in cap space and they have still to sign Nikita Kucherov, who I would argue is a better player than Stamkos going forward. To sign Kucherov now, Yzerman will have to give up the contract of either Jason Garrison ($4.6 million cap hit) or Braydon Coburn ($3.7). Either one will cost Yzerman a prospect and a pick – no team will take on those contracts without that incentive. And the list of teams that would do that is pretty much just limited to Carolina and maybe New Jersey.
But that’s not even the predicament. No, the tough part will be next summer when Yzerman has Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Slater Koekkoek as key restricted free agents to sign (and if Koekkoek takes a big step forward this season, then the cap problem becomes even bigger). Oh, and Ben Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent. All this was going to be tough to do even if Stamkos walked, let alone now.
So what does this have to do with fantasy hockey? Well, if you own Bishop, Kucherov, Johnson, Palat or Drouin – you’re probably going to lose two of them to a trade within the next 365 days. How will they do on a different team?
Ready for full-time – Jonathan Drouin has obviously made the team. His performance in the postseason while actually getting some ice time (thanks to the Stamkos blood clot issue) cemented that. And even when Stamkos returned for a game, Drouin scored a goal. He ended up with 14 points in 17 playoff games, which pro-rates to 68 points in 82 regular season games. That would be pretty lofty expectations. Very possible, but unlikely. In the Fantasy Guide I have him for a conservative 44 points in 72 games. But that’s a reflection of his attitude and the uncertainty of ice time that would result in any conflict with the team or with Coach Jon Cooper. I also gave Drouin a strong sleeper rating of 15% to get 65 points – it’s important to incorporate the sleeper and prospect charts with the projection/line combo chart in the Guide.
Slater Koekkoek should make this team if James Wisniewski does not. But I think Wisniewski, who is on a professional tryout contract, will make the squad. Koekkoek can still be sent down without going through waivers. He’ll get called up at some point this season, but keep expectations low. (Read more on Koekkoek here)
Fantasy Outlook – Want to know the effect that a pile of injuries has on a team? Look no further than Tampa Bay. They were the NHL’s top-scoring team in 2014-15 and last season they toppled to 13th. Palat missed 20 games, Johnson missed 13 games – but played with an injured body for half the games he did play, and even Stamkos and Kucherov missed five games each. Assuming reasonable health to the key players, the Lightning should bounce back. The prospect pipeline is also flush with quality fantasy players.
Fantasy Grade: A (last year was A+)