Ramblings: Dobber reviews, team-by-team, an eventful Free Agent Frenzy (July 2)
What a fantastic Free Agent Frenzy this year, highlighted by John Tavares taking a discount and the Sabres – Blues ending things with a blockbuster. Truly enjoyable, though I wish the latter trade was done three or four hours earlier, but that’s nitpicking.
We have the fantasy analysis of all the key deals with fantasy impact listed right here.
Here are my quick one-off thoughts on how each team did overall yesterday…
Anaheim – I had always liked Anton Rodin as a prospect, but his bad luck with injuries derailed his development and the Ducks are too deep for him to crack the lineup, barring a couple of key injuries to top sixers and disappointing camps from top prospects. They also signed a good depth defenseman in Luke Schenn, and a No.4 goalie in Jared Coreau (I think Kevin Boyle is a promising prospect goalie who is probably a better option than Ryan Miller if he ever gets a chance to show it).
Arizona – Michael Grabner brings nice speed into the lineup as long as it’s used on the third line. The Coyotes already did their tweaking, so the main thing they did was officially sign Oliver Ekman-Larsson to his eight-year deal – not to mention keep him happy by signing his brother Kevin to an AHL contract.
Boston – Jaroslav Halak is a great backup, and as good as Anton Khudobin was last yer I think Halak is even better. I think their depth signings were solid (Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner) and adding John Moore gives them five enviable defensemen plus two more good bottom pairing guys. The Bruins didn’t have to do much because their rookies did so well last year and now they have added Ryan Donato.
Buffalo – Well what can I say? The Sabres are no longer going to employ a bunch of AHLers to fill out the roster. Casey Mittelstadt has allowed them to trade Ryan O’Reilly, which injects three players into the roster in place of one. If you add in the Conor Sheary acquisition and the Rasmus Dahlin draft pick and I’d say the Sabres get the Gold Medal for most improved team over the past month. I’m not sure Carter Hutton is an upgrade to Robin Lehner, but at least he stays healthy – and I really like Linus Ullmark so I think the team will be covered in net. And yes, I’ll be handing out Silver and Bronze today too, read on.
Calgary – The Flames did a pretty good trade last week that re-jigged the roles of a few of their roster spots, and yesterday’s signing of Derek Ryan was supplemental to that. As you may have read in my “dark horse” breakdown, I thought that Austin Czarnik signing was a sneaky-good one and he could surprise. You know me – I’m always looking for the next Martin St. Louis or Cam Atkinson revelation.
Chicago – I feel like, in order for the Blackhawks to be serious contenders again, then they need to effectively replace the two rocks on defense in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. So I’m not sure why Chris Kunitz was signed. I get bringing in veteran Cam Ward to help stabilize the net, which was a big issue last year. And Brandon Manning is just their usual low-minute defenseman signing that they do every year. But there’s no magic savior on defense in the free agent market. Their stuck trading for a solution. It’s a good thing Henri Jokiharju is coming soon – he’ll be a stud worthy of the top pairing. As I write this, Chicago has the least cap room in the NHL at about $2 million.
Colorado – I like what the Avs have been doing. Although it has been nothing earth-shattering, they didn’t really need that. Adding Philipp Grubauer to transition into being their future starter was a nice move last week. And signing the hustling winger Matt Calvert to play half the season on their third line was a good addition. I say “half a season” because he’s hurt for the other half, guaranteed. Ian Cole was a good depth defenseman add – and that’s what this team needed badly rather than using guys like Mark Barberio.
Columbus – Lots of tweaking, but nothing of substance. The Riley Nash deal was a good add, but if this team didn’t go deep in the playoffs in the spring, Nash isn’t going to change that.
Dallas – The Stars added a really good backup in Anton Khudobin, one who is capable of doing a better job than Kari Lehtonen did when Ben Bishop gets hurt (which happens often). Lehtonen had a nice bounce-back year, but I think Khudobin can do better and that should mean at least an extra couple of wins. And that’s how close they were to a playoff spot. Blake Comeau is an underrated two-way guy for the third line who can replace Antoine Roussel minus the penalty minutes. Valeri Nichushkin is a free addition.
Detroit – The Red Wings refuse to go into full rebuild mode, opting instead to tread water. Re-signing Mike Green and bringing back Thomas Vanek strikes me as pointless, though Vanek can be traded at the deadline for some assets. But Green? As for Jonathan Bernier, I think he makes a sneaky-good add because I think he can become Detroit’s starter by next year. In 2018-19, however, it’s hard to have a good starter when the team doesn’t win many games. But keeper leaguers take note – I feel that Bernier found his starting job, he’ll just have to outplay Jimmy Howard and prove it.
Edmonton – Anton Slepyshev reportedly signed to play in the KHL, but adding Tobias Rieder is a bit of an upgrade. Just don’t overrate him, he’s a checker often miscast as a scorer. Kyle Brodziak brings character and was a great add. The Oilers addressed the easy needs to address – but were unable to address the difficult needs. Defensemen. They don’t grow on trees, though.
Florida – Did absolutely nothing. Well, they signed a No.3 goaltender in Michael Hutchinson who now sits behind two Band-Aid Boys and in the end just might end up seeing the most starts! No, this Panthers team will basically be the same team you saw last year, except upgrade Radim Vrbata to Mike Hoffman. This team badly underachieved last year, so perhaps doing nothing yesterday wasn’t so bad.
Los Angeles – The Kings added Ilya Kovalchuk and extended their main guy – Drew Doughty. This team still strikes me as not deep enough, and a couple of pieces short…but then again the Washington Capitals just won a Stanley Cup that way so I can’t really count out the Kings. They just injected 30 goals into their lineup so their offseason is among the Top 10 just from that.
Montreal – The Habs turned themselves into possible Cup contenders after I’m sorry I can’t keep going and keep a straight face. Habs fans: keep the faith. All big-league teams go through down times like this, just hang in there. Montreal brought back a fan favorite in Tomas Plekanec and added a decent depth winger in Joel Armia. I wouldn’t mind Kenny Agostino as a possible ‘next PA Parenteau’, except the Habs don’t have a John Tavares to turn Agostino into a Parenteau. So that AHL experiment doesn’t look promising. I do like Montreal’s draft selection of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and their focus should be on prospects and picks. They should use the Ryan O’Reilly deal as a blueprint for what they should try to get back for Max Pacioretty.
Nashville – The Preds didn’t do anything beyond adding two wingers who could be called up when injuries strike – Rocco Grimaldi and Connor Brickley. This team didn’t need to do anything though, as they have a great roster and should already be adding Eeli Tolvanen.
New Jersey – This one’s a head-scratcher and I think I’ll give the Devils my Bizarro-Gold Medal for worst offseason. This team added nobody of substance, and let a fine prospect goaltender in Ken Appleby walk, while re-signing a proven-to-be-weak goaltender in Eddie Lack. Maybe team brass doesn’t feel as we do. Maybe they feel that this team didn’t just play over their heads. Taylor Hall is a superstar, but he’ll never be Hart-Trophy good again. And while getting Marcus Johansson back from injury will be nice, Will Butcher’s second half tells me a sophomore slump is on the way. If they make a few small trades going forward, they can be forgiven because then they’d be taking a page out of my playbook (i.e. skipping free-agent frenzy and address major needs via trade).
NY Islanders – I don’t blame the Islanders one bit for pushing until the last minute to sign John Tavares. He is a generational talent and they needed to throw everything they had at him. Ottawa should do the same with Erik Karlsson. After they lost him, there wasn’t much the Isles could do. Signing Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov addressed needs, and Barry Trotz is a great coach. But they’ll never be able to fill the Tavares hole.
NY Rangers – The Rangers added Fredrik Claesson as a depth defenseman but did nothing else. As a team in rebuild mode, I don’t really mind this. It gives youngsters like Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, Libor Hajek and Tony DeAngelo a shot at making an impression.
Ottawa – A great draft pick in Brady Tkachuk was mitigated by the panic trade of Mike Hoffman, which was exasperated by their not signing anyone of consequence on July 1st. They needed to throw fans a bit of a lifeline, and if they’re making a play on extending Erik Karlsson this certainly didn’t help matters.
Philadelphia – The Flyers added proven and reliable 30-goal man James van Riemsdyk and then they dropped the mic. Boom. The only other need they could address is goaltending, and they have two of them already in place as a stopgap until their prospect studs are ready. This team is my Honourable Mention – not quite in the Top 3.
Pittsburgh – The team shed salary in Matt Hunwick and Conor Sheary last week so they could sign…Matt Hunwick II? To me that’s all Jack Johnson is: a fringe defenseman who was getting scratched in Columbus late last season. Then again, the Penguins turned Justin Schultz into a great Top 4 guy and Jamie Oleksiak looked damn good once he came over. So perhaps Johnson has a revival of sorts. Bringing back Matt Cullen was nice, and the Pens did well with bringing in depth pieces Jimmy Hayes and Stefan Elliott.
San Jose – Addition by subtraction by shedding Paul Martin’s contract. And Doug Wilson is, of course, a genius for how he handled the Mike Hoffman flip. But other than extending Logan Couture for eight years (no small feat there, though), the Sharks did nothing Sunday. They’re keeping Evander Kane and I think you should keep an eye on the free agent European they signed a few weeks ago named Antti Suomela, who I think is a better Joonas Donskoi.
St. Louis – The Blues were weak up the middle and they could have used another scoring winger as well as a backup goaltender. Check, check, check and…check! Chad Johnson is a career backup who is a decent, but won’t have any illusions about stealing Jake Allen’s job. So the Blues are all-in with Allen and are hoping that helps. The Blues also signed David Perron and Tyler Bozak, suddenly adding incredible depth to their forward corps. So then they took that depth and turned it into Ryan O’Reilly, shedding Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund to do it, but losing promising prospect Tage Thompson as well. However, this team now boasts Brayden Schenn – Ryan O’Reilly – Tyler Bozak up the middle. That takes them from one of the weakest teams down the middle to one of the strongest. My Bronze Medal winners, folks!
Tamp Bay – GM Steve Yzerman did nothing more than extend Ryan McDonagh for seven more years. The Lightning could use some help on depth lines, but those players can be signed at Yzerman’s leisure. This is Dobber’s playbook!
Toronto – I’m sure you figured out that the Leafs were getting my Silver Medal, and you’re right. They get that just for landing John Tavares. They also added depth players Josh Jooris and Adam Cracknell, plus an interesting project in Jordan Subban, PK’s brother. Jordan is small at 5-9, and he’s very weak in his own end. His offense has shown signs of coming around at times in the AHL, but he has yet to get over the hump. Back to Tavares. There are a lot of articles coming out right now about how the Leafs do not have to trade William Nylander because they can afford his projected $6.5 million salary next year and still have $3 million next year to play with. But those articles are wrong. Mitch Marner could very well top 80 points this season – do you think he’ll sign for $6.5 million after that while Auston Matthews signs for $11 million? You’re dreaming. If Matthews gets $11 million and Marner outscores him, then Marner is getting $11 million. Now re-jig your article with that small adjustment, Mr. Hockey Journalist. It makes more sense to just trade William Nylander next summer for a great return.
Vancouver – The Canucks made some fantastic additions for their Stanley Cup run. What’s that you say? … They aren’t expected to go on a run for the Stanley Cup? Oh. Well then why did they sign character guys Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle? By the time the Canucks are ready to truly need these types of players, their contracts will be up. They each signed for four years, so maybe during the fourth year they can help on a Cup run. Maybe Jim Benning was just thinking (way) ahead?
Vegas – The Golden Knights were deep on defense so it was easy to let Jason Garrison and Luca Sbisa go. Signing Nick Holden wasn’t even necessary, but it couldn’t hurt. Adding Paul Stastny was a big win but losing James Neal (who is reportedly still talking to them) and David Perron hurts. Solid depth minor-leaguers with NHL experience Daniel Carr and Curtis McKenzie were good adds.
Washington – The Cup Champs signed a bunch of depth guys (Nic Dowd, Jayson Megna, Michael Sgarbossa) and lost character guy Jay Beagle. They have just $8 million in cap space and still have so re-sign Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey, plus add another defenseman. And they can do that later.
Winnipeg – The Jets are being very careful about the salary cap and they also have, in my opinion, one of the three or four best rosters in the NHL. An amazing feat. This team has $27.5 million in cap space (leads the league) and just 29 contracts (an NHL-low). They’ll need to cough up $10 million I’m sure to re-sign Connor Hellebuyck, plus another $10-$12 to sign Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Adam Lowry. So their only move was to sign Laurent Brossoit to come over and be their backup goaltender. The Jets will be looking at small, short-term deals on the open market because after locking in the aforementioned key components, they have next summer to worry about (Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Tyler Myers).
This year, for the Fantasy Guide, I am taking user input as to which players I will dig deep and give my thoughts on for each team. Remember the feature “Dobber’s Lowdown on…”? It will be based on YOUR votes. Voting is taking place in the forum (right here), check in every day for a couple of new teams. And on Facebook we will take the first to players voted for each team – and have a final poll to determine the player I dig deep on. So like our Facebook page here to vote the second time. You don’t have to sign up for the forum in order to vote. So far it looks like Ondrej Kase and Brandon Montour will go to the Facebook polls for Anaheim, and Christian Dvorak and Alex Galchenyuk for Arizona…
See you Wednesday – I’ll be back for my old day this week as Ian is away on vacation.