We are into February, and the trade deadline is a mere two-and-a-half weeks away. That means the deadline for fantasy leagues isn’t far off either. Making the proper deals at the deadline can make or break your path through the last few weeks of the season. Defence especially can be a little tricky to manage, as there seems to be a large variance in perceptions towards their value. In general, I find the value of solid defencemen to be too low in most leagues, especially when it comes to the value of useful depth defencemen. In a 12-team league with six defencemen slots, with categories for scoring, as well as shots, hits, and blocks, personally I need an average sum of at least five per game. That way when your depth defencemen aren’t scoring, they are at least always contributing in another way.
Let’s get to this week’s targets.
(cap info from Cap Friendly)
Mikhail Sergachev – Tampa Bay Lightning
Cap Hit: $894,166 (With one year remaining after this summer on his rookie deal.)
Hit/Block/Shot Sum: 4.4
This year he hasn’t lived up to his draft billing, however the talent hasn’t just suddenly disappeared. I’m again going to reference some of Michael Clifford’s writing, as he seems to be touching on some of the same players that I want to cover.
“Sergachev is on pace for roughly the same amount of five-on-five points last year (22) as this year (23). His production drop, obviously, has come from the power play; he’s not even on pace to crack double-digit PPPs a year after producing 16. He doesn’t have a PP goal yet, his PPTOI per game has declined, as has the team’s shooting percentage with him on the ice for the man advantage. Without digging into the how this has happened, this is why his production has receded.” (Jan 31)
In the three games since that article, he has gone pointless in two games, while being scratched for the other. This really isn’t a buy for this season, it’s for the next three years. Long term, his talent will break through. Victor Hedman likely won’t be supplanted, but there is room for multiple 40+ point defencemen on the same team. Next season we should see another growth step, filling out the last season of his entry level deal. Based on his current growth curve, it seems as though he would be best suited with a bridge deal, just in time for his breakout fourth season. This is a building block to get on your roster now, and watch him flourish over the course of the next handful of years, while still on relatively team friendly deals. With a bump in ice time up from his current average of 17:40 per game, to a top-two pairing level closer to the 20-minute mark, the production will follow.
Ryan Pulock – New York Islanders
Cap Hit: $2,000,000 (With one year remaining after this summer.)
Hit/Block/Shot Sum: 5.6
The Islanders have one of the best schedules between March fourth and March 24th, the most common weeks for Yahoo H2H matchups. Additionally, after tonight, the Islanders and St. Louis are tied for the most games remaining to close out the season. Not only does Pulock have a lot of games left, but he manages to stuff the peripheral stats in those games. We have been waiting for a long time for Pulock and his offensive breakout, but some defencemen just take longer than most expect. Victor Hedman for example took four full seasons before he broke out for 50 in his fifth. Pulock seems like he should be close to approaching his fifth year, but really this is only his second full year in the NHL. Plenty of developmental time, and likely a long-term deal under a $5 million AAV before his real breakout.
Currently he is ranked as the 27th most valuable defenceman in standard Yahoo leagues based on per-game averages (minimum 15 games played). This setup doesn’t count blocks as a stat, but he certainly isn’t hurting there with 93 already. The next three behind him are Jake Muzzin, Justin Faulk, and Drew Doughty – all likely much pricier to acquire at the deadline and being paid between two to four times as much as Pulock.
Jakob Chychrun – Arizona Coyotes
Cap Hit: $925,000 (With a six year, $4.6 million AAV extension kicking in this summer.)
Hit/Block/Shot Sum: 5.2
From the 2016 NHL draft, most vividly remember the top two selections, as they have already gone on to play as NHL All-Stars. On defence, there were options such as Olli Juolevi (ouch), Jake Bean, Charlie McAvoy, and the aforementioned Sergachev that went ahead of Chychrun. However, this was a mighty fall for the now 20-year-old, as he was expected to be drafted within the top 10 by most, and even within the top five by some. On a relatively underappreciated team in the desert, the young defender is really starting to come into his own.
The problem is he hasn’t been able to play a full season yet. Chychrun has had a few injury issues, including a knee issue that has caused him to miss a combined 46 games and counting (assuming his current LBI is related). As a result, his development really hasn’t gone in a straight line. As of now, he hasn’t paced for 30-points, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t shown flashes. When the top defencemen in Arizona have been out with injuries, Chychrun has stepped up into larger minutes, and has looked good doing it. In most leagues, he is still being slept on because of all of the missed time. Take advantage of that, and in the future as he grows into that new contract.
I do want to touch on the Matthews deal, but I won’t dive into it yet, as the next few weeks are going to be covering deadline thoughts and analysis.
The bottom line on the contract is that it’s what we expected. My prediction model had him around $11 million as of last summer, and the insiders since then had been speculating that the dialog was headed the way of a five- or six-year deal at around this cap hit. It doesn’t make things easy on the Maple Leafs, but it makes keeping the core together manageable.
As for salary cap leagues, if John Tavares and McDavid have top tier value in your league this season, then Matthews will have that same value over the next number of years. You make room for the star players, and Matthews certainly is that.
For other good deadline buys, check out the Midseason Guide before it’s too late to get your season back on track!
That caps off this week’s record article, thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.
Previous Capped articles:
Future Building Blocks as Trade Targets – Forwards
Analyzing New Deals for Teravainen and Koskinen
All salary info from capfriendy, and all player stats from FrozenTools.