This week's Capped takes a look at some playoff value picks, where the salary cap doesn’t matter.
The playoffs are the one time of year when the salary cap gets unceremoniously left behind, and we are gifted with the best hockey of the year. For this week only, we are not going to focus on cap aspects, but instead just have them in the background of the article. The Capped article is usually all about working within the salary cap, and finding value, but with the cap limit shackles taken off, we are left with just finding value. Further to that statement, what is really important at the moment, is beating all of your office colleagues at your annual hockey pool. Let’s see if we can help you out with just that.
One player will be listed from each NHL team. Depending on the pool, it may be more strategic to go for a lesser player on a better team, or a better player on a lesser team. It’s all about finding value and sticking to a strategy. Teams listed in order of their position in the standings entering play as of April 3rd.
Kevin Fiala (LW) – Nashville Predators
Fiala has been one of the Predators’ most dynamic forwards since the trade for Kyle Turris in the fall. A staple on the second line, he has flown under the radar in many fantasy circles due to the potency of the top line. In playoffs drafts, Filip Forsberg will be one of the first off the board, and the rest of the top line will soon follow. After suffering a broken femur in the second round last season, Fiala’s playoff run was cut short, but not before he made his mark with a few key goals. He looks primed for another impactful post-season.
Cap note: Fiala still has another year on his entry level deal, which will provide great value next season. Don’t be waiting around for a big fourth year breakout, it could be as soon as next season.
David Krejci (C) – Boston Bruins
As the second-line centre behind all-star Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci doesn’t get much recognition. His tendency to miss time each season with an injury also hinders the perception of his value. However, he is healthy now, and looks more dangerous offensively with added depth supporting him from the wings this season. With opposing teams focusing on the stacked top line, it could open things up for Krejci’s second unit.
Cap note: If this were a cap league, Krejci would not be recommended. His $7.25 million cap hit is much too high to stomach for what he produces over the course of a regular season. Especially with three full years left on that deal.
J.T. Miller (C/LW) – Tampa Bay Lightning
Since joining the Lightning at the trade deadline, J.T. Miller is proving more than just an additional piece in the Ryan McDonagh deal. Miller has seamlessly fit in with superstars Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. In playoff drafts, those two will without a doubt be early selections, however Miller could likely be grabbed much later. With the possibility of piggy-backing on some top line production, Miller offers some great upside for an under-heralded name come playoff time.
Cap note: Miller is due up for a new contract at season’s end, however his rights are still owned by Tampa Bay. GM Steve Yzerman seems to be doing well at getting players to take a little less money in order to field a more competitive team. Miller shouldn’t prove too different.
Paul Stastny (C) – Winnipeg Jets
It is a little tougher to find some great value on a team with the top lines and top defensemen so clearly defined. Paul Stastny fits the bill as the member of the top-six most likely to be the last remaining in playoff drafts. As with Miller, he should be able to piggy-back off of some of the more dynamic wingers, providing more offence than we have come to expect from his previous few seasons in St. Louis.
Cap note: As an unrestricted free-agent this summer, Stastny could become a little more palatable for cap-league owners. However, he isn’t getting any younger, so with a reduced contract in future seasons, we could see a reduced role as well.
Alex Tuch (RW) – Vegas Golden Knights
With Reilly Smith out of the lineup, Tuch has stepped up to the top line, and he is hot! Tuch has shown flashes of success this season and should be leaned upon to provide some offence in the post-season, regardless of what line he finds himself on. Additionally, he hasn’t been in the top-six for most of the season, so his name doesn’t carry as much weight, and may get passed over even until those later rounds of your playoff drafts.
Cap note: On an entry level deal until July 2019, Tuch has shown that he can use his size and skill to create mis-matches against opposing defence pairs. His continued ascent will be needed if Vegas is to replicate their success next year, so he will get every opportunity to succeed.
Andre Burakovsky (RW) – Washington Capitals
Burakovsky disappointed many fantasy owners this season as they were expecting a breakout campaign from the young winger. He is now back to full health, and has been playing in the top six of late. Burakovsky has all of the offensive tools to put together a solid playoff run, especially if he keeps getting prime minutes. Let others reach for Ovie, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie, and you can sit on Burakovsky for some real playoff value.
Cap note: Next year he will be looked upon to break out as was expected this year before injuries struck. Even with some modest progression, his $3 million cap hit will be a bargain.
Zach Hyman (LW) – Toronto Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman is not a flashy player. That being said, style points are not awarded in the playoffs. Hyman plays the right style to pot a few timely playoff goals, and is going to be stuck to Auston Matthews and William Nylander through thick and thin. Coach Mike Babcock seems to be set on this line, and as a result, Hyman should still be up on your draft board way longer than most of the other sexy names on the Leafs.
Cap note: Three more seasons earning $2.25 million could be a bargain or could prove to be an anchor. His value will be completely tied to who his line mates are. If he gets moved off of the Matthews line, he may not be worth owning in most leagues.
Zach Parise (LW) – Minnesota Wild
Our next Zach is a little older, a bit more of a pure scorer, and is on the opposite side of the perspective spectrum. Parise in his prime was a point-per-game player, but has fallen on tough times recently. His name still carries more weight than his stats, but he has almost swung so far down in the public eye, that he may be undervalued going into playoff drafts. This season he is on a 30-goal pace in the games he has played and appears fully healthy for the first time in a while.
Cap note: Parise will be overpaid (as a regular season fantasy own) until the end of time. That is all.
Evander Kane (LW) – San Jose Sharks
Kane seems to have a knack for picking up his socks when he has a contract on the line. Having never been in the NHL playoffs, we don’t know exactly what to expect, but I have a hunch that he will turn it up now that there is something much bigger on the line. Kane has also performed well in San Jose and seems rejuvenated after he tailed off mid-season on a struggling Sabres squad. Playing top minutes, and bringing a physical presence, Kane should be a solid source for goals on a Sharks team that is looking at one of their last chances before their window closes.
Cap note: As an unrestricted free agent this year, his playoff success (or failures) will go a long way in determining his cap hit for next year.
Jake Guentzel (LW) – Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh always seems to be a good bet to go deep in the playoffs, so missing on all of their top players could be a tough start to your playoff draft. Picking up Jake Guentzel would soften the blow, as he showed last season he is capable of excelling in the playoffs. He is also lining up regularly alongside Sidney Crosby, who leads the league in post-season scoring every two years or so.
Cap note: You have to love those rookie deals. Pittsburgh, with their core tied up to large contracts, may look to keep Guentzel’s cap hit lower in the short term with a bargain bridge contract.
Jeff Carter (C) – Los Angeles Kings
With some of the lower ranked teams, we can look at some slightly more talented players. Carter may fall down draft lists due to missing most of the season after an unfortunate laceration from an opponent’s skate cut him down early in the year. Carter is a proven playoff performer, who hasn’t showed much rust after returning a few weeks ago. He is likely the King to own, even over Kopitar.
Cap note: A reliable player when healthy, he is worth his $5.2 million salary in the regular season, even when you factor in that he is only eligible at the centre position.
Brandon Montour (D) – Anaheim Ducks
Counterpart Cam Fowler has gone down with a shoulder injury and will miss the first few days of the playoffs, if not longer. Even before Fowler went down, Montour was carrying a large portion of the load on the powerplay. On a deep Ducks team that can never be taken lightly come playoff time, Montour provides great value as an offensive defenceman receiving those key power play minutes.
Cap note: An RFA this summer, Montour is has continued to impress as the season has gone on. He won’t come in as a bargain next year, whether it be a bridge deal, or a long-term contract.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (C/LW) – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are finding their offensive groove at the perfect time. This is largely due to the emergence of Dubois, who has been very hot of late. Dubois has also been carrying a large load on a power play that’s struggled this season and will be key to any playoff success. Dubois likely won’t be the first Blue Jacket off the board in your playoff drafts, but he should be.
Cap note: Two more years on his entry-level deal. Great bargain in every league, and only getting better.
Nolan Patrick (C) – Philadelphia Flyers
When much of the offence runs through a handful of players, it’s tough to find a bargain on these teams. Philadelphia could be a popular pick for upsets due to their strong defence core, and as a result, Claude Giroux may go earlier in drafts than other top players on lower ranked teams. If you too want to get in on the Flyers bandwagon, Nolan Patrick would be a good place to start. He started very slowly but has picked it up big-time since the calendar turned to 2018. Patrick also showed very well in the playoffs in juniors and seems like the type of player that has another gear for big games.
Cap note: See Dubois above.
Kyle Palmieri (LW) – New Jersey Devils
After Taylor Hall, most New Jersey skaters should stay on the board late into drafts. Kyle Palmieri should be the second player off the board from the Devils. Playing on the opposite wing from Hall, he has been an excellent producer when healthy this season. Quietly, he is putting together his best season in his career for both goals/game and points/game.
Cap note: A great value player in cap leagues, especially those counting more than just points.
The Final Playoff Spot (STL or COL)
Nathan MacKinnon (C) – Colorado Avalanche
Vladimir Tarasenko (RW) – St. Louis Blues
Sometimes you hit the point in the draft when you can either pick a third line player on your predicted cup team, or a top tier player on a team that may get swept in the first round. MacKinnon and Tarasenko have the ability to outscore more third-line players on a Cup finalist, in a single first round series. If they make it two rounds, your gamble can pay off big-time.
Cap note: Both players on very friendly deals for the amount of points they can put up. In fact, some of the best deals in the league.
That caps off another Thursday, and thanks for reading. Best of luck to everyone with their playoff drafts!
If you have any playoff draft questions, feel free to comment here, or you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean