Ramblings: Zibanejad Signing, Players Who May Have Jumped the Shark (July 26)

Ian Gooding

2017-07-26

Zibanejad signing, players who may have jumped the shark

On Tuesday the New York Rangers signed Mika Zibanejad to a five-year contract worth $5.35 million per season. RFA Zibanejad and the Rangers avoided arbitration with the signing.

Because of the Derek Stepan trade to Arizona, Zibanejad has the opportunity to fill the role as the number one center for the Rangers. According to NHL.com, the Rangers’ top three centers are projected to be Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, and David Desharnais. There’s also a possibility that J.T. Miller moves over to center as well.

Because of a broken fibula, Zibanejad was limited to 56 games last season, scoring 37 points. Over a full 82 games, that would have projected to his second consecutive 50-point season. With Stepan’s departure, Zibanejad could easily push 60 points. But it’s also worth mentioning that even though the Rangers finished fourth in goals last season, they did not have a 60-point scorer. Just four 50-point scorers (Mats Zuccarello, Miller, Stepan, Chris Kreider). So the advantage of playing on the first line isn’t as pronounced on the Rangers as it is on other teams.

As expected, the cap hit was a sizable jump from the $2.6 million that he made the last two seasons. Still, $5.35 million per seasons is a reasonable amount for what a player of his abilities should earn. The concern might be that Zibanejad has only one 50-point season under his belt. But at age 24, he possesses both the size and skill to be an effective NHLer for years to come. To use Rick’s current Cage Match theme, I don’t think we’ve seen Zibanejad’s career high yet.

The player that was traded for Zibanejad last summer will be mentioned a bit later. But so far the Zibanejad trade appears to be a big win for the Rangers.

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The other major NHL news story of the day had Mark Streit rejoining the Canadiens on a one-year, $700,000 contract. Neil had you covered for the Fantasy Take, so I won’t elaborate much further, aside from saying that the Habs seem to be closing the door further on a potential Andrei Markov return. But if Markov is in fact looking for a two-year deal worth $12 million, is it really worth it for the Habs to invest that in a 39-year-old defenseman? Streit is not at Markov’s level, but $700k is a lot less risky.

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Have you ever wanted to know where the expression “jump the shark” came from? It originated from the show “Happy Days”, when in one episode Fonzie jumped over a shark while on water skis. The expression does not refer to the episode itself, but rather the concept of the point in time that a TV show (or anything else) has officially run out of effective ideas. Hence the shark jumping gimmick.

(No, I’m not old enough to remember when this episode first aired, although I watched my share of Happy Days as a kid.)

In fantasy hockey, we can obviously relate jumping the shark to a player that is officially past his prime. From this point forward, it’s all downhill. This isn’t the complete list, but rather a handful of players that I am considering purging from my keeper league auction team for various reasons (I cannot trade most of them for contract reasons). So although most of these players had top-100 appeal in the past, I am going to try to promote them in a way that their fantasy hockey brand could be relevant again. Just like what was attempted with Happy Days.

Derick Brassard

Brassard’s troubles in his first season in Ottawa were significant. A drop from 22 power-play points in 2015-16 to just seven in 2016-17 was the main cause of Brassard’s 19-point overall decrease.

Some of those who weighed in on the Brassard/Zibanejad trade Fantasy Take last summer hypothesized that Brassard was being brought in to center Bobby Ryan. One commenter in particular mentioned that this trade would be evaluated from the Sens’ standpoint on the success of Bobby Ryan.

We know that Ryan had an amazing playoff run, but the regular season was a different story. Ryan was 9th among Sens’ forwards in points/60 (1.39), while Brassard was 7th (1.51). So Brassard and Ryan didn’t click, right? Well, Brassard was used with Mark Stone a lot more than with Ryan. This happened even though Brassard was more productive with Ryan (combined 3.54 G/60) than with Stone (combined 2.80 G/60).

But we may be delayed in finding out how Brassard is handled next season. Because of shoulder surgery in June, Brassard has a 4-5 month rehab, which makes him questionable to start the season on time. Maybe for that reason, Brassard has fallen out of NHL.com’s top 250 fantasy players. So Brassard could represent a potential bargain as a waiver-wire pickup at some point during the season.

Patrick Sharp

If the league I play in didn’t have stringent rules about dropping players, I would have dropped Sharp at the earliest opportunity. His 18 points (in 48 games) and minus-22 ranking basically meant that he was the lowest-performing forward on my team last season (and of this group). And I had 17 forwards who played in the NHL last season.

Will recovery from hip surgery combined with a return to the Windy City result in a bounce-back? If he can’t make it in Chicago at this point, then he probably won’t make it anywhere else. We know how much better Sharp was in Chicago, but he’s now 35 and attempting one last kick at glory.

There are simply a ton of unknowns here, both with Sharp’s health and the Blackhawks’ situation. If Sharp can slot onto the second line and receive first-unit power-play minutes, then there might be something there. Anything less than that and I’m not biting.

Mikkel Boedker

Did you know that Happy Days aired for seven more years following the shark-jumping episode? So if Boedker plays for seven more years, he’ll only be 34 at the end of that span. Yes, I aim to provide you with a wealth of useful knowledge.

It’s fair to say that Boedker didn’t look like a good fit with the Sharks in his first season. His 26 points was his lowest total since the 2011-12 season. That included a grand total of one power-play point. One! Arizona and Colorado actually appeared to be better places for him to be than San Jose!

But the departure of Patrick Marleau might not help anyone more than Boedker, which I mentioned in the Marleau signing Fantasy Take. There’s real opportunity here, particularly if Boedker can get in on that first-unit power play spot that Marleau leaves. That would be a big jump from last season. But it could also be Tomas Hertl or Joonas Donskoi claiming that spot, which would make them legit sleepers as well.

There were the obvious shark jokes that I could have inserted here, but I tried to be more creative than that.

Jussi Jokinen

The remainder of the players listed here have either switched teams or could switch teams. We’ll start with Jokinen, who the Oilers signed after the Panthers bought him out. Jokinen is likely more of a middle-six option for the high-scoring Oilers, but there’s always the chance that he’ll be a must-own if he somehow makes his way onto the Connor McDavid line for a stretch.

Jokinen seems more likely to be a fringe fantasy option for the coming season. Don’t expect him to be drafted in a ton of leagues. I’d expect something between 35-40 points, which isn’t bad and is an improvement on the 28 points he scored last season. There could also be sneaky power-play value in there, as Jokinen has reached double-digit power-play points three of the last four seasons.

Scott Hartnell

After being pushed down the depth chart of the John Tortorella-led Blue Jackets, Hartnell returns to the Predators on a one-year deal. It’s actually a wonder that Hartnell got to 37 points last season, considering how little he was used (12:03 TOI/GP) by Torts.

Hartnell has always seemed to fall in fantasy drafts, in spite of his ability to put up reasonable points and triple-digit penalty minute totals (for leagues that count PIM). Where he fits in with the Predators will be interesting, as he will probably leapfrog over one or more young forwards that aren’t quite ready.

But it is worth mentioning that Hartnell did not score a single goal over his last 33 games (37 if you count playoffs), which dated all the way back to January 21. Should those goal-scoring hiccups continue, Hartnell could be providing his veteran presence on the fourth line in short order. For that reason, I’m not biting, and I’m actually willing to conclude that he’s the most likely player of the group to have jumped the shark.

Thomas Vanek

Vanek is in the same in-between phase as a TV show that is waiting to be picked up by another network after not being renewed. Will he land somewhere, or is he on the cusp of disappearing forever?

In spite of currently being without a home, Vanek should sign somewhere. He saved my team last season after my left wingers (all beginning with Jonathan Huberdeau) started dropping like flies or not scoring (see some of the names above). A total of 38 points in 48 games with Detroit last season is nothing to sneeze at, although he may not be the right fit with Florida after scoring just two goals in 20 games there. There’s still some offense left in the tank, although he’s swimming in deeper pool territory now.

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For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.

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