Ramblings: Contracts for Slavin, Johnson, and Faksa; the New Jersey Devils – July 13

Michael Clifford

2017-07-12

The Hurricanes continued a busy off-season that’s included acquiring Scott Darling, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Marcus Kruger, as well as signing Justin Williams, by locking up Jaccob Slavin for seven more years beyond the 2017-18 campaign with an average annual value of $5.3 million.

The 23-year-old blue liner had 34 points in 82 games last year.

On the surface, Slavin is probably going to be a better real-world player than fantasy. That isn’t meant as a slight; he’s a very good young defenceman, and profiles as a solid top-pair guy for years to come. He is a guy, however, who hasn’t shot much over his first two years in the league, putting up a similar rate to other blue liners like Zach Bogosian and Nick Leddy. Of course, Leddy has fantasy relevance, so it’s very possible Slavin will eventually as well. The difference is that Leddy has often been used as the primary defenceman on the top power-play unit while last year Carolina used one of Justin Faulk or Noah Hanifin as primary power play options. This led to Slavin managing less than a minute per game of power-play time. Without more than a handful of power-play points, with his limited shot rate, it’ll be hard to have much fantasy relevance.

Those in cap leagues that aren’t in full rebuilding mode should be looking to trade Slavin. Faulk should be around for at least three more years, and though Hanifin’s name has been floated as trade bait, it’s hard to rely on rumour to build a fantasy roster. His role on the team likely means Slavin’s 2016-17 season is about what we can expect for production in 2017-18.

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Tampa Bay locked down one of their restricted free agents by signing Tyler Johnson to a seven-year deal with a $5 million AAV. Now they just have to deal with Ondrej Palat.

Johnson turns 27 near the end of July. He had 19 goals and 45 points in 66 games last year.

On the surface, there should be a bit of concern here. One season has carried his reputation, and it hasn’t been pretty since. In fact, in the two seasons since that 72-point campaign, he has the same points per 60 minutes rate as Jussi Jokinen and P.A. Parenteau. One guy was bought out, the other has been bought out before and can’t find a new team. Injuries have played a factor, sure, but that’s a long term.

Fantasy-wise, it’s time for owners to adjust their expectations. In a full season, with his usage, Johnson can be a 20-goal, 50-point guy. Expecting him to return anywhere near where he was in 2014-15, however, seems misguided. This is another player I’d be looking to deal in cap leagues.

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This isn’t really fantasy relevant, but the Stars extending Radek Faksa for three years with an AAV of $2.2 million is a good deal for the team. He has shown himself a very capable third-line centre, and helps give Dallas a bit of added punch in the bottom-half of the roster. This continues a very good off-season for the franchise as they hope to push for a Stanley Cup.

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Throughout the summer, I’m going team-by-team in alphabetical order to review some of the players’ seasons from a fantasy perspective. Next on the list is the New Jersey Devils.

Two Devils skaters cracked the 50-point mark, none had more than 53, and one had more than 20 goals. Offensively speaking, it was an abysmal season New Jersey as a whole, and it became sort of a wasteland for fantasy akin to Arizona. Nonetheless, there were still a few fantasy-relevant performances, so let’s hop to it.

Taylor Hall

Acquired via trade for Adam Larsson to help bolster a very meager offence, Hall did exactly that. One non-generational player can only do so much, but he did help team scoring; the team climbed from 1.67 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five in 2015-16 to 1.76 in 16-17. Again, one player can only help so much, and other factors were obviously at play but, baby steps!

His 53 points probably weren’t what fantasy owners were hoping for, but given the quality of the roster (particularly the blue line) it wasn’t so bad. In fact, his 0.74 points per game were right in line with what he achieved over his final two seasons in Edmonton (0.76).

One issue is that Hall scored just eight goals at five-on-five, the lowest mark for him of any season in which he’s played at least 850 five-on-five minutes. A shooting percentage of 4.65 percent will do that to a player. To be fair here, he has not consistently been a high-percentage shooter for his career, as out of 223 forwards with 5000 or more minutes at five-on-five over the six seasons from 2010-2016, Hall was 98th in shooting percentage with 8.44 percent.

Below are three charts for Hall: his shooting density plot at five-on-five from this past season, and one from each of 2013-14 and 2014-15 back in Edmonton. Note that over those two seasons with the Oilers, he shot 8.52 percent on aggregate:

Despite a high rate of shots from the low-slot directly in front, his shot percentage cratered this past year. Yes, some shots leaked out to be sort of slot-adjacent, but that’s why I included previous seasons where he’s done the same thing, and shot at a much higher percentage. That shooting percentage should rebound.

A full 82-game season might be hard for Hall to pull off, considering he’s played more than 75 games once in six 82-game seasons. When doing projections, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll probably have to live without him for about 10 games. However, a rebound to shooting norms should be able to push him close to 60 points again next year. He has the ability to give close to 20 power-play points with a bevy of shots, and should come at a discount at the draft table compared to last year.

Kyle Palmieri

A breakout 2015-16 saw Palmieri post 30 goals after never having managed more than 14 before, and 57 points after never having managed more than 31 before. Those who remained skeptical (I was) that he could come close to a repeat in 2016-17, he managed 26 goals and 53 points. The skepticism has likely stopped now.

Palmieri’s shots per game took a hit from one season to the next, going from 2.71 to 2.40. Not a huge decrease, but noticeable enough. The thing is, he landed more shots on goal per 60 minutes at five-on-five than he did the year before (and that included more shot attempts as well). A big reason for he drop in shots is that he saw over a minute less per game in ice time compared to 2015-16. Assuming he doesn’t continue to lose ice time – he shouldn’t – getting close to 200 shots seems a reasonable expectation for an 82-game season.

That drop in ice time was kind of a fantasy killer. Had Palmieri been given the ice time he probably deserves, he may have pushed 60 points last year. On a roster that was largely devoid of talent, he should have had more. If they had acquired more winger talent in the off-season, it would be a concern for 2017-18, but they didn’t, so it’s not. This is assuming Marcus Johansson starts the year on the second line, of course.

Posting similar back-to-back seasons gives us a pretty good idea of what Palmieri should be in the near-term. An uptick in ice time (fingers crossed) could see him closer to 60 points than 50. On a team that still has a lot of work to do, especially in building the blue line, that’s about the best fantasy owners can hope for.

Damon Severson

While he remains a restricted free agent, Severson should be returning to the fold.

All told, a three-goal, 31-point season isn’t something that usually requires extensive digging from a fantasy perspective. Outside of roto leagues deeper than 12 teams (or 12-team leagues with large rosters), there wasn’t a whole lot of relevance for Severson. However, there are some interesting notes from his past year:

  • After a decline in shot attempts per minute from his rookie 2014-15 campaign to 2015-16, he rebounded last year to be about middle of the road among regular blue liners.
  • His points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (0.80) was the same as Ryan McDonagh, and higher than names like Justin Faulk, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Ryan Suter.
  • He led New Jersey rearguards in power-play ice time per game, and with Yohann Auvitu gone, he should continue to do so.

Back to the note on his points/60 minutes, his rate over the last two years compares pretty favourably to other notable defencemen:

Yes, Ian Cole is on there, but that was a load of secondary assists on the highest-scoring team in the league over the last two years at five-on-five. Just shows how productive Severson was. 

This is crucial to note given that New Jersey is last in the NHL in goals per minute in that span. He’s been productive in his minutes despite the awful offensive environment.

A lot of Severson’s fantasy value will be tied to his usage. The same could be said for a lot of players, but unless Nico Hischier emerges as a true offensive force in his rookie year, this could still largely be a one-line offensive team. Heavy usage on the top power-play unit, though, will go a long way to mitigate the issues he could have with five-on-five point totals. With more ice time, Severson has 40-point potential in 2017-18, and you absolutely will not have to pay for it at the draft table. Just be wary of roto leagues, particularly those with blocked shots/hits as categories, as his value will be lower in such formats. 

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency MTL Players
20.8% MAX DOMI BRENDAN GALLAGHER CHARLES HUDON
20.8% ARTTURI LEHKONEN NICK SUZUKI JORDAN WEAL
19.5% JOEL ARMIA PAUL BYRON PHILLIP DANAULT

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