Our third ever Capped “Buy/Sell” series is back. This will be a multi-week feature, covering each NHL team, analyzing one player to buy and one to sell. These recommendations will be based on their performance versus cap hit. That means in non-cap leagues, some of these suggestions may not be as relevant, but that doesn’t mean the analysis isn’t relevant. Generally, these players will either be riding new contracts into the season or be expected to have a large shift in value, for one reason or another.
With last year’s set having covered the teams in alphabetical order, this year we’re going to start from the other end. This seems to be the more entertaining end of the spectrum anyways, with the upstart Golden Knights, the rising Jets, the reigning champion Capitals, and more!
Sit back and enjoy.
Buy: Dustin Byfuglien
Cap Hit: $7,600,000 with three years remaining
The big man on defence for the Jets turned 33 this past spring, and many would be expecting him to slow down. This past season, Byfuglien saw his minutes reduced from the season before (27 down to 24) and was just as effective with less ice time. Even cutting his ice time back from 24 minutes a game to somewhere in the 22-minute range to keep him fresh, there is no reason Big Buff can’t keep up his consistent cross-category production.
In each of the past six seasons, he has paced for at least a 53-point campaign. Buff has also recorded over 100 each of hits, blocks and PIMs for the last three seasons. His powerplay time is staying consistent, while the (unproductive) shorthanded ice-time is dropping. The underlying stats also show room for improvement after shooting a low 4.1% last season.
Lastly, as much as Byfuglien doesn’t look out of place dragging players along the ice, it will be a boon for him not to have to do so with ex-teammate Toby Enstrom next season. In 2016-2017, Byfuglien lined up with Josh Morrissey for over half of the season and was much more productive at 5v5. Expect something similar next season. While others are waiting for the big man to lose a step, try buying while his perceived value is dropping below his actual value.
Sell: Adam Lowry
Cap Hit: $2,916,666 with three years remaining
Now this may not affect the standard 12-team leagues with 15-20 players per-team, however, most salary cap leagues worth their salt seem to roster many more players than that. As a result, Lowry has come in as one of the better bargains in recent years. This was back when he was being paid just a shade over $1 million, while supplying good production in the hits, PIMs and faceoff categories, in addition to chipping in with some scoring and powerplay time.
With the internal growth of players like Jack Roslovic and Nic Petan, there is less of a need for Lowry to be anywhere close to a scoring role, and a much larger hole to fill on the defensive side of things. Lowry will see his role diminished, and as a result, the stats will decline.
Lowry’s name still carries value in fantasy cap league, so selling to someone in need of a depth player should be relatively easy before they realize that he is extremely unlikely to live up to his new $3 million contract. If you want to replace the stats at a lower price tag, target someone along the lines of Colton Sissons, Johan Larsson, Kyle Brodziak or Nate Thompson instead.
Buy: Brayden Holtby
Cap Hit: $6,100,000 with two years remaining
It’s not that Holtby put up a disappointing season last year, but when expectations are as high as they were, you’re almost set up for failure. If it wasn’t for a spectacular run to the Stanley cup last Spring, we may be sitting here questioning if Holtby could bounce back at all this season. Count on it.
Some may reference the Stanley Cup hangover, but goalies tend to rebound better than most (pun totally intended). If we discount Matt Murray’s injury plagued season last year, we have to go back to the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season to find a cup winning goalie that didn’t finish with the following minimum stats: top-10 in wins, a save percentage of 92%, and a goals-against-average of 2.5. Holtby can and should put up those kind of numbers, to go with more starts (as a result of only having Pheonix Copley backing him up), and a relaxed team in front of him.
Sell: John Carlson
Cap Hit: $8,000,000 with eight years remaining
Most owners of John Carlson in fantasy expected this raise and shouldn’t have been too surprised about the eight as the leading integer for his AAV. He was likely one of the most frequently traded defencemen in your league over the last year or so, leading up to this new contract. No one is shocked that Carlson is the “Sell” on the Capitals, but what we will go over here, is how to sell Carlson. The $8 million price tag is going to scare off quite a few people, but he can still have value at this price. Brent Burns has the same AAV, but no one should be getting scared off him. Burns didn’t even lead defencemen in scoring last season; that’s right, Carlson did.
Carlson gained an extra two minutes of playing time per-game this season over last. Almost all the extra time came on the powerplay. This led to a career high in power play points, and shots, which snowballed into demolishing his career high in points. Most of his underlying numbers were a little high, but they are very sustainable. Don’t get duped into selling him off as an overpaid 50-point defenceman.
Sell Carlson as a fairly priced 65-point defenceman who gets to set up a rejuvenated Alex Ovechkin all season. With the salary cap continuously going up, a 65-point defenceman is now making a minimum of $8 million. They aren’t making $6.5 million anymore. If you can’t get value when shopping Carlson around, be content with holding him and his solid production, and cut costs elsewhere.
Vegas Golden Knights
Buy: Alex Tuch
Cap Hit: $925,000 with one year remaining
Vegas lost wingers David Perron and James Neal to free agency this summer without replacing them. That will be done internally, likely by growth from Alex Tuch, and a full season from deadline acquisition Tomas Tatar. Tuch’s second half of the season saw increased production from the first half, and in watching him play (in the regular season and the playoffs) he looked much more comfortable all around the ice. The young winger also saw a boost in powerplay time as the season wore on and should make a good case to be the net-front man on the first powerplay this season.
Vegas has the added bonus of being in the lowest tax bracket in the NHL, and as a result should be able to re-sign some of their players below market value. If you like some of the recent contracts given out to the stars on Tampa Bay and Nashville, then you can expect something similar here in Vegas. Not too worry with Tuch’s next deal, it won’t break the bank.
Sell: Paul Stastny
Cap Hit: $6,500,000 with three years remaining.
*Note 2017-2018 stats split between St. Louis & Winnipeg.
Not everything the Knights touch can turn Golden, can it?
Coincidentally, Stastny seems to put up his best seasons right before hitting free-agency. He won’t be a free agent again for another three years, so you may as well get him off of your team until 2020-2021 (when we’re going to be locked out anyways). The $6.5 million was only paid out as he had a bidding war for his services, being the top UFA centre on the market behind John Tavares.
Additionally, Stastny put up quite the run after he joined the Jets. No offence to Tomas Tatar and Alex Tuch, but they aren’t quite up to par with the plethora of young wingers owned by the Jets. Add that to a likely reduction in offensive zone starts (going to the Karlsson line), and we start to see why it may be smarter to bet the under on 49.5 points for the new Vegas centre.
Buy: Bo Horvat
Cap Hit: $5,500,000 with five years remaining
Horvat was featured in this column last year. However, thanks to one last hurrah from the Sedin twins, an injury to linemate Brock Boeser, and missing 18 games himself, Horvat didn’t have a real chance to get his feet set. He is now ready to take on the first line centre mantle from Henrik Sedin. Here’s what was written in last year’s buy and sell, as it is mostly still relevant:
“Bo Horvat just signed his new contract, and you should be looking to get him on your team before he begins to outplay it. Horvat has the talent to easily outplay this contract in points leagues, the only question is when will he be given the opportunity to do so. Horvat’s point totals have increased in each of his first three seasons by respectable totals. Coming into his fourth season, he is primed to take over the team from the Sedin twins, and may continue to see more of the prime offensive minutes as a result of that. Horvat will also provide decent, but not exceptional totals in the faceoff wins, hits and blocks departments. Unfortunately, he needs to pull up his shots totals before he turns into a top centre option.”
Last year, Horvat saw a bump in powerplay ice time, while matching the previous season’s shot output in 17 fewer games. If that doesn’t scream out that there’s a jump in production coming, I don’t know what does. He is upping his shot output, which was a big stepping stone last season. Expect him and Boeser to make some magic this season with the big fourth year breakout being pushed back to year five.
Sell: Alexander Edler
Cap Hit: $5,000,000 with one year remaining.
Coming off a 34-point season, this may be the best time to try and sell Alex Edler. There aren’t many Vancouver Canucks to sell “high”, but a 32-year-old defenceman who just put up his best season in six years may be the best place to start. Edler was given a whopping 63% of the available power play time, however, that dropped as the season went on, and so did his production. In his last 29 games of the season, Edler notched only nine points. Should that trend continue, he may end up just being an anchor on the back-end of his $5 million contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Buy: Zach Hyman
Cap Hit: $2,250,000 with three years remaining
After Mitch Marner, Patrick Marleau, and William Nylander, Zach Hyman seems to be the favourite to line up with the Leafs’ top two centres, Auston Matthews and John Tavares. The 26-year-old winger put up 40 points for the first time in his career and did so with a very low offensive zone start percentage. Countering that, was a high PDO (luck metric) which is due to come down a little – otherwise, Hyman’s metrics were fairly close to normal. Balance it all out and add in a top flight centre for a full season, it looks like 40 points could become the norm for Hyman.
As a bonus, if you count his first 16 game season, Hyman is heading into his magical fourth NHL season (where the breakouts are plentiful). If you don’t believe the 16-game cameo in 2015-2016 should count, I’ll just say that it’s better to get in a year early than a year too late. Players who can hit 40 points while being paid less than $3 million are hard to find.
Sell: Nazem Kadri
Cap Hit: $4,500,000 with four years remaining
Kadri may be one of the best bargains in multi-category fantasy leagues, so why would he be a sell? Well, fantasy sports are like the stock market, you may have a great and valuable asset, but it does nothing for you if you hold onto it for too long and its value plummets.
Plummet may be a bit of a harsh word for Kadri’s fantasy stock, but we can’t be too cautious here. Last season, the Maple Leafs’ top three centres scored a combined 160 points in 223 games (a combined 176-point pace). This was on a team that scored 277 goals, tied for second-most in the league. There are a finite number of points to go around, and with Matthews and Tavares soaking up more than their fair share of the offence, who is the likely one to get stuck taking the lion share of the defensive zone draws? Kadri of course.
Kadri also sported a high shooting percentage last season, and his production fluctuated greatly by quarter, exactly in line with when he got powerplay time, and when he didn’t. With the glut of skilled forward Toronto boasts, there will only be so much PP time to go around, Kadri being one of the forwards likely seeing the short end of the stick. Now is the time to sell, but make sure you sell HIGH.
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Thanks for reading. I would be curious to hear if you have any buy/sell candidates on the above teams, and why.
As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.