Capped: Analyzing Bubble Keepers in Cap Leagues

Alexander MacLean




It’s Bubble Keeper Week here at Dobber Hockey! Hopefully you have been enjoying all of our bubbly personalities thus far.

For those of you stumbling here without knowing what bubble keeper week is all about, well we are ignoring approximately the top 150 skaters (based on the Dobber Hockey keeper rankings) and focusing on the best of the rest. The idea is to help fantasy owners evaluate talent right on the keeper bubble, making decisions easier come draft time, and possibly finding diamonds in the rough.

Today we’re going to dig in to a few bubble players in salary cap leagues, finding value outside of the big names and big contracts.



Kyle Palmieri – New Jersey Devils

Cap Hit: $4,650,000 – Expires in 2021

Discussing who we were all covering this week with the other Dobber Hockey writers, and there were at least three of us that wanted Palmieri. That’s a very good sign folks. Cameron Metz covered him here yesterday, but I’m jumping in as well because he is worth highlighting in salary cap leagues especially.

Palmieri had his best season last year on a line with new Devils teammate Taylor Hall. Palmeri rode shotgun to his best point-per game totals of his career, his best shot rate, and his highest power play point total. On top of the scoring stats Palmeri rounded out his production with three hits per game, 50 blocks, and 11 powerplay goals. Palmieri’s bump in power play production came in part from a bump in PPTOI as he crossed three minutes per game in the last quarter of the season. With no new personnel in New Jersey to take the time away from him, he may be in line for a similar number next season. Also as Cameron mentioned in his Tuesday article, add in some growth to Palmieri’s full-time centre, former first-overall pick Nico Hischer, and all the ingredients are there for a first 60+ point season by the Devil’s top right winger.

Palmieri is set to make less than six percent of the total salary cap over the next three seasons. The closest three comparable winger contracts belong to Gustav Nyquist (age 29 by October), Chris Kreider (27) and Tyler Toffoli (26). None of them provided a better points-per-game than Palmieri (27), none are signed past the summer of 2020 (Palmieri remains a bargain until 2021), and only Chris Kreider comes close in terms of cross-category production, though he also missed more games in 2017-2018. The games missed are what will allow you to pick up Palmeri for cheaper than he should be on the open market. Palmieri missed 20 games last season, most of them due to a broken foot. His two previous seasons were healthy, and a return to full form this year would be just what the doctor (and his fantasy owners) ordered. Get in on the value Palmieri’s while he is still in Hall’s shadow. He won’t be for long.



Jakob Chychrun – Arizona Coyotes

Cap Hit: $925,000 – Expires in 2019

Chychrun still has one year remaining on his entry-level deal, and as we have seen with many defencemen of his pedigree over the last few years, the second contract bridge-deal is still in vogue. With young and talented defencemen, what can be most important with them is their future contracts. Defence can lose value so quickly in salary cap leagues, as the scoring is only found in the elite, while the peripherals can be found in the cheap third-pairing players. As a result, many of the middle defencemen end up with their value at a bit of a low point for the position. What can we then expect from Chychrun?

Most recently as comparables, Ryan Pulock and Brandon Montour signed their respective second contracts. Both took two years, Pulock at $2 million and Montour at $3.3875 million. Meanwhile, also signed recently at the next stage of the equation, Matt Dumba’s new contract after his bridge deal is worth $6 million per season.

With Oliver Ekman-Larsson on board for nine more years in Arizona, there is no need to rush the contracts of the younger defenceman. A similar progression to those above should be expected from Chychrun, with a two-year bridge deal hovering around $3 million, and then his big-money contract down the line. He will remain very valuable in your cap leagues for the next three seasons, before the cap-vs-production debate really starts heating up for him on the long-term deal.



Charlie Coyle – Minnesota Wild

Cap Hit: $3,200,000 – Expires in 2020

Only four players have paced at 40+ points for each of the last three seasons, while being under contract for next season at less than $4 million. The names are Max Domi, Oliver Bjorkstrand (only 38 games combined in his first two season), Rickard Rakell, and of course, Charlie Coyle. William Nylander and Sam Reinhart could also make the cut if they take a contract worth less than $4 million (unlikely in Nylander’s case, possible but not certain for Reinhart). It seems that no one has had that kind of cheap scoring consistency with less fanfare than Coyle, but don’t expect him to keep flying under the radar.

Coyle also had wrist problems for the second half of last season, causing him to miss most of the last quarter of the season, and limiting his effectiveness when he did play. Coyle received surgery in May to correct the ailment in both wrists(!), and should be back to full health at some point this summer, with plenty of time to ramp up for training camp. With two years left on the deal, and a likely step forward coming, getting in on these last two years will pay off handsomely in the short term.



Robby Fabbri – St. Louis Blues

Cap Hit: $925,000 – Expires in 2019

Fabbri is in a very unique situation, having basically extended his rookie contract by a year as a result of missing all of last season rehabbing from knee surgery. Expecting him to jump right back in and be at full game speed in October is a bit unrealistic. However, that is my mindset at the moment.

Storytime! I was at a Guelph vs. London OHL game years ago, and as a fan of London, I wasn’t expecting to be paying too much attention to the Guelph players. However, by the end of the game I was smitten with Fabbri. He was skilled, no-doubt, but there are many good players that come through the OHL. He had a way about him that he just willed things to happen. No one worked harder than him, no one could get the puck off of him, and he was thinking the game way ahead of anyone else. Those are the kind of talents that can translate seamlessly to the NHL, and for that reason, I expect the young Blues winger to continue his upward trajectory.

In Fabbri’s previous season (2016-2017), he scored at a 47-point pace, while adding solid hit totals and producing on the power play. Looking at the beefed-up St. Louis lineup, there may not be a spot on the first power play unit for Fabbri, however in a full season he should still be able to pace at 40 even-strength points and find his 10 power play points from the second unit. Fingers crossed for a fully healthy season from the 22-year-old Band-Aid-boy.

Fabbri’s one-year contract really is a big wager on himself. If he is unable to stay healthy again, he could be looking at another reduced set of shorter contracts until he can sort out his physical issues. However, should Fabbri be able to play for the majority of the season, St. Louis may then look to lock him up at a reasonable price on a longer contract, perhaps even going as far as buying up a year of free-agency or two. Either way, for those of you in leagues with a decent IR system, Fabbri should continue to be a bargain in cap leagues for the foreseeable future.



Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars

Cap Hit: $2,950,000 – Expires in 2020

The 23-year-old seems like he has been around in fantasy circles for a very long time. Somehow, he is just now entering the prime of his career, with only two full NHL seasons (three and five years ago). In those two seasons, he managed to score between a 30-40 point pace, along with providing about 1.5 shots per game, and one hit per game. Worst-case scenario, he repeats these numbers in a depth role with Dallas. Best-case scenario, he has matured in Russia, and could double his point output to somewhere in the 60s, just like how fellow Russian Alex Radulov found his game last year. There is one slot left on the powerplay with Jaime Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg and Radulov. Odds are it is Nichushkin’s to lose at this point.

On a two-year contract at $2.95 million per year, the cost is close to what you would be paying for Nichushkin’s floor. Keeper players in salary cap leagues need to be those that provide positive value for money. With almost guaranteed value in this situation, and a possible double down on your investment, Nichushkin is a very viable keeper option in many cap leagues (dependent on the settings and league depth as always).



Recent Capped articles:

Players in the Last Year of Entry-Level Status

Looking Ahead to Significant Contract Extensions



That caps off another Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter @alexdmaclean



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