Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for the new year, and that the things you want to change, change for the better.
On this end of things though, not much is changing. You can still get all of your fantasy need-to-know right here. Dobber’s mid-season guide is almost here! Arrives January 11th.
Closing in on the mid-way point of the season, here are some holiday shopping needs or new year’s resolutions for every NHL team.
If I can share a hope for all of you over the next week, it is that you continue to watch and enjoy the World Juniors even though some of the favourites in Canada and Sweden have been eliminated. There are still four excellent teams left.
Really the Bruins just need to be healthy. In more words though, they could use another depth forward, especially one with a scoring touch. Guess who played with the Bruins last season, is still a free-agent, and has three 40-goal seasons to his credit? Rick Nash. Should he come back from his time off dealing with his last concussion, he would fit at the top of the Bruins’ wish list.
Buffalo has turned a corner this year, but they need to learn from some breakouts in recent years by New Jersey, Colorado, and Edmonton. They need to keep their foot on the gas, and they do that best by re-signing Jeff Skinner. The former Carolina Hurricane has never been in a better situation, and the only way his value stays this high is if he re-signs in Buffalo. The Sabres are deploying him in more offensive situations, and he has grown into some real chemistry with Jack Eichel
Carolina has the lowest cap hit in the league this season, and my bold move prediction from two months ago was that the Hurricanes would acquire both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin in a big deadline swing. Carolina needs consistency and goal scorers for Christmas. However, they may have to weaponize that cap space in other ways, as their playoff hopes are slipping away. Keep an eye on the youngsters, because if this season keeps slipping away, they will be given room to grow, and score.
Columbus Blue Jackets
As mentioned right above, Columbus needs to figure out what they are doing with Panarin and Bobrovsky. They can’t afford to let both walk, and they probably can’t afford to keep both on new contracts, so they will have to pick one, and focus their efforts there. Panarin is set to discuss his future over the all-star break, so for now, Columbus should be focusing on Bobrovsky. In the meantime, backup Joonas Korpisalo may be in line to pick up a lot more starts after the trade deadline, or next year. Even if the Blue Jackets lose their two stars, they should be able to compete for a playoff spot in 2019-2020.
Detroit Red Wings
The best thing for Detroit would probably be to have a few extra compliance buyouts to reset their defence. Filip Hronek, Nick Jensen, Joe Hicketts, and especially Dennis Cholowski are ready to take on more responsibility, but there are too many aging vets in the way. Some of the forwards are showing what they can do with the added responsibility, and with another high draft pick, this team is looing ready to turn the corner soon.
With the youth they are stockpiling, Detroit could be priming up for another 20+ year playoff streak, and would likely be a cheap place to get some undervalued depth into your prospect cupboard.
The Panthers have all of their core players locked up on team-friendly deals, and a solid set of prospects coming up through the system. Their biggest hole on the depth chart is in net. Roberto Luongo and James Reimer are serviceable, however at their price tags, they don’t provide the quality the team needs right now. Unfortunately, both are signed to contracts taking them through at least to the summer of 2021. Management here is probably going to have to get creative to sort out an upgrade if they really want to contend. That, or Luongo needs to stay healthy for long enough for the Panthers to win something.
That Max Domi for Alex Galchenyuk swap looks like it’s working well for Montreal. It seems to have rejuvenated Jonathan Drouin as well. The trio is forming a top line with Philip Danault, and no one has been asking about a new first line centre for the Canadiens. With the return of Shea Weber, they’re looking a lot more solid on defence. It is in net where the question marks lie. Carey Price has been average this year, and with only Antti Niemi and Michael McNiven to back him up, there isn’t much support. Most concerning is that Price’s quality start percentage is the lowest it has ever been. However, since Weber’s return, there has been a bit of a rebound. In those 13 games, Price has been back to his all-star form, sporting a stellar 2.39 GAA and a solid 0.916 sv%.
His quality start percentage is still low, but the 8-4 record is a good sign. With some more support around him, Montreal fans, players, and fantasy owners alike have reasons to hope that the Canadiens’ netminder is on the rebound (at least once he returns from injury anyways). Maybe the media can make it their New Year’s resolution not to put future blame solely on him.
New Jersey Devils
A healthy set of key players would be a big boon to a struggling team. Taylor Hall is currently out, Kyle Palmieri has been a band-aid-boy through recent seasons, and Cory Schneider still isn’t himself after hip surgery. Elliott Friedman went over some good news for Schneider owners though, where he provided some hope for a rebound next year. Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne, and others, have gone through similar procedures, it has taken them at least a full season for them to get their mojo back. This season is Keith Kinkaid’s in the Devils’ net. With Schneider’s contract and improving health, expect a better showing next season.
New York Islanders
A new contract for Anders Lee. The Islanders have survived losing their captain from last year, but they would be in very rough shape if they had to deal with that again. Lee could command upwards of $7 million on the open market, so the Islanders are going to have to open their cheque-books.
New York Rangers
The Rangers need to make their resolution to stick to the building plan. It is well in place now, but some of their best pieces won’t arrive for another two or three years. As a result, despite being only two spots away from a playoff berth, selling off UFAs, Kevin Hayes, Adam McQuaid, and possibly even Mats Zuccarello should be the first priority. Hayes and Zuccarello on new teams would likely both see reduced roles, and a hit to their production.
After a hot start to the season, the Senators have fallen back to the spot in the standings that most expected entering the year – the bottom. Their Christmas wish has to be some lucky bounces with the lottery balls, so that the decision to draft Tkachuk last year doesn’t look so ludicrous. The following New Year’s resolution should include not making a mess of the Mark Stone and Matt Duchene contract negotiations. Pretty simple, but not necessarily straightforward. Expect both to get decent raises one way or another.
After spending big last summer, the Flyers might be best off filling some of their depth from the minor leagues, and bringing in a better mentor for Carter Hart. A veteran like Mike Smith could be a great addition in the offseason to timeshare with Hart for a year or two. In the meantime, between Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth, it seems they may be stuck with too many mediocre options, and no better trade partners available (Sergei Bobrovsky would be the closest, but I don’t see the Flyers bringing him back for just a few months).
The Penguins took care of some business last Thursday inking Jake Guentzel to a five-year extension with a $6-million AAV. The Penguins probably didn’t get the time on it that they were hoping for, as Guentzel will now hit UFA status before he turns 30. The AAV is also a little higher than my model would suggest, so kudos to Gentzel’s agent for the player friendly deal.
With the signing, it appears that the Penguins may not be able to retain the services of UFAs Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and Casey DeSmith. As usual, the depth spots will be filled with cheap contracts from later in free-agency, and through the farm system. Though at this point, there is not much room for future additions, or even a deadline push if Justin Schultz comes back before the end of the year.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Getting Brayden Point a contract has to be at the top of the Christmas wish list. Managing to keep the AAV a little lower in order to not have to sacrifice some talent on defence to fill the roster spots would be a bonus. My contract model now has him at an AAV just shy of $8 million, which would likely be too pricy for the Lightning to keep with all of their current obligations. Clearing out Ryan Callahan’s $5.8 million AAV for the next two years would go a long way to solving their cap problems. Maybe that should then be the real top-of-the-wish-list item.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Do not let them get to the point of being given an offer-sheet.
Let players like Justin Holl play.
With no largely pressing contract issues, minimal deadline cap space, and the title of “Defending Stanley Cup Champs”, life is pretty simple. Go out and win some games, make it to the playoffs, and do it all over again. These guys are going to be gunning for the back-to-back like Pittsburgh had. Make no mistake, one cup is not enough.
My New Year’s resolution will be to not forget this, and try not to bet against them too much come playoff time.
If you read the whole article, cheers! If you just skimmed some and skipped to your favourite team, that’s fine too. Let me know in the comments if you agree with what was said about them, or if you think there was something missed.
Previous Capped articles:
That caps off this week’s record article, thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.