Continuing our buy & sell series, we cover each NHL team, analyzing one player to buy, and one to sell (links to parts one, two, three, four, and five). 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. This week we feature Carolina through to Arizona.
Let’s start this off by saying that sometimes good things do come in threes. The news from Sunday night/Monday morning was good news for three different parties. Montreal received a solid package for a UFA winger who was not happy with the current situation, and who was leaving anyways. Vegas got a rebound 30+ goal scorer to stick on their second line. Meanwhile Pacioretty signed a four-year contract at market value, and sets himself up for one more good contract before he rides off into the sunset. If only fantasy hockey moves left everyone feeling happy like this.
Alas, the best we can hope to do is help our readers get that warm fuzzy feeling from acquiring a key player to start the season. Here’s the next set of buy/sell players for your shopping pleasure.
Additionally, get the DobberHockey 2018-2019 Fantasy guide so you can research anyone else you need to for all your offseason trade discussions and draft needs.
Buy: Valentin Zykov
Cap Hit: $675,000 with two years remaining
Immediately when Zykov signed this contract, my eyes lit up. This has nothing to do with the term or the salary; it has everything to do with the other contract details. His contract is a one-way deal, indicating that the Hurricanes brass see him playing the full year with the big club. While everyone else is jumping on the other youngsters Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov and even Lucas Wallmark, Zykov represents your best value buy, and maybe the most well-adjusted of the set, as of today.
In a 10-game audition last season, he put up seven points on 18 shots, in under 14 minutes of ice time per game. With Jeff Skinner gone, he is now likely the second-line winger to start the season, and there is no reason he won’t hold onto that spot for the season. Expect some solid growth over the next two bargain years of his contract.
Sell: Justin Faulk
Cap Hit: $4,833,333 with two years remaining
Some may see this contract as a possible bargain in the tail end of it, as Faulk has the upside to fill multiple categories. Unfortunately, he is trending in the wrong direction. Faulk’s scoring last season was extremely lop-sided, with two-thirds of his points coming with the man-advantage. Incoming trade acquisition Dougie Hamilton will eat into a solid chunk of that, and nothing else is looking up for the 26-year-old.
His hit and block numbers should remain solid as a depth piece, however, at nearly $5 million, you could do much better if you are just searching for peripherals.
Buy: Sean Monahan
Cap Hit: $6,375,000 with five years remaining
Last season we saw Johnny Gaudreau put up his fourth-year breakout right on cue. He did it while running-mate Sean Monahan was turning into Frankenstein, trying to keep himself together with duct tape and willpower. In the offseason, the Calgary centre underwent four (!) surgeries, and it sounds like he has recovered just fine (link).
Gaudreau’s new norm should be a point-per-game, and he will drag Monahan up with him. Add in a competent right-winger (Elias Lindholm or James Neal), and the flames will be creating a few fireworks this season.
Sell: Mark Giordano
Cap Hit: $6,250,000 with four years remaining
With the departure of Dougie Hamilton, expectations are higher for Giordano going into this season. On the flip side, father time doesn’t leave any man behind. The 34-year-old defenceman’s best days are also certainly behind him, and incoming acquisition Noah Hanifin is going to be groomed as his full-time successor. Don’t be surprised to see Hanifin taking over as the number one defenceman in Calgary even before the end of this season.
Hanifin was drafted ahead of Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov in 2015, and he is every bit as good as them. Giordano doesn’t stand a chance, and will likely be losing powerplay time as early as November. Without that, his value takes a real hit, and it’s a long, slow downhill from there.
Buy: Alex Nylander
Cap Hit: $863,333 with three years remaining (his entire ELC)
The hype train left the station a long time ago on this one, however Nylander has shown flashes in the rookie tournament of being able to dominate a shift. That is a step forward from what he has done in the two seasons since he was drafted. Like Dylan Strome, Nylander wasn’t going to be able to jump into the NHL with his style unchanged. He is having to learn how to play a proper game, with & without the puck, before letting his talent take over.
Buffalo has a little more depth at the centre position now, and with both Jeff Skinner and Jason Pomminville hitting unrestricted free-agency next summer, there may be a spot for him by then. As a result, this isn’t a rush buy, but keep tabs on him, and you should be able to add him to a deal at some point this winter, and watch his stock rise through the summer and fall of 2019.
Sell: Jeff Skinner
Cap Hit: $5,750,000 with one year remaining
*2017-2018 season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jeff Skinner’s last two seasons are a good example of the highs and lows of his career. Last season he cratered, and all of his percentages dropped below his norm, so you would be thinking he would be a great buy-low, right? Nope. The trade to Buffalo nixed that idea. Now everyone is thinking, “well if he can score 63 points without a centre, imagine him with Eichel”. Great in theory, but adding a stud centreman cancels out the five or 10 more points he had in 2016-2017 from some inflated underlying percentages. Factor in that it’s not even guaranteed he plays with Eichel at even strength, and people are valuing him at his ceiling right now. Buying someone whose perceived value is higher than their actual value isn’t going to get you very far, so instead, try shopping him around for an actual 60-point winger.
Buy: Danton Heinen
Cap Hit: $872,500 with one year remaining
Care to take a guess at which Bruin forward put up the most points outside of the top line trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak? Well based on the feature, yeah, of course it’s Heinen. Many wouldn’t have gotten it with the first guess however, I was surprised myself. He put up a pleasantly productive rookie campaign, and maintained a decent scoring and shooting rate throughout the season. He did cool off a little towards the end of the season, but that is expected during the rigors of a first NHL season.
Most of Boston’s players have their roles and expectations set to this point, with the popular sleeper pick being Jake DeBrusk. We’re going a different direction, and hopefully you can buy low on a scorer that is flying even more under the radar in Heinen.
Sell: John Moore
Cap Hit: $2,750,000 with five years remaining
*2017-2018 season with the New Jersey Devils.
Moore was a pretty solid player in deeper cap leagues last year, providing over 100 hits and blocks, along with 18 points and 141 shots on a $1.67 million contract. He will be earning about 40% more for the next five seasons, but that may be the only thing going up for him next season. Last year was the first of his career where Moore played over 80 games, and he averaged over 20-minutes of ice-time per night in those games. Coming into a deeper Bruins defence core, his counting stats will be dropping due to sheer volume of ice time lost.
On top of that, all four of the returning top defencemen for Boston had an offensive zone start percentage over 50%, with Krug the highest of the group at 65%. There isn’t room for offence from Moore either, as he will likely be asked to partially fill Adam McQuaid’s skates in the defensive zone.
On a cheaper contract, Moore may seem like a decent depth bargain, but we have seen his upside. Don’t pay for the drop-off.
Buy: Vinnie Hinostroza
*2017-2018 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Most players seem to have their big breakout in the fourth season. However, some break out much earlier or later, and typically those are due to a large change in linemates/opportunity. Hinostroza enters the season after experiencing a positive change on both fronts. With a move to the warmth of the desert, the hope is that Hinostroza’s scoring pace can heat up a little more too. Penciled into the top-six, his 41-point pace from last season should be about his floor going into this season, and depending on powerplay exposure, 50+ points could even be in the cards.
The underlying numbers are also generally positive. His ice time went up as the season went along, while his luck metrics were in a very normal range. On a very affordable $1.5 million AAV contract, he has the upside to have a similar breakout to what Yanni Gourde did last season (without the high plus-minus).
Sell: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Cap Hit: $5,500,000 with one year remaining before an eight-year, $8.25 million AAV extension kicks in
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (OEL), was actually our buy for Arizona last season, and he rebounded nicely in 2017-2018, putting up a modest point increase to go along with large bumps in shots and hits. However, two things work against OEL’s value keeping up entering the new season.
One, his new extension is very high for a defenceman who has topped 45-points, and runs through to his age 34 season. There are plenty of other multi-category, 40-point defencemen available on lesser contracts. OEL’s value is becoming over-inflated based on name value alone.
Two, the reins for the main powerplay time is starting to shift. Jacob Chychrun returned from injury partway through last season, and as soon as he did, OEL’s powerplay time started to slip. The lowest point was at the end of the season, and without much change, we could very well see the trend continue into this coming season. The powerplay is where OEL does a lot of his damage, and without time on a loaded first unit this year, he may be left struggling to fit the billing of his acquisition cost.
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.