Ramblings: Thoughts on Cup Final, Skinner, Dubnyk (May 31)
Nice Game 1 win for the Raptors tonight. Pascal Siakam might be someone to target for your fantasy basketball team. I haven’t played fantasy basketball in several years, so I can’t say for sure.
Don’t worry… the rest of this will be about hockey.
If you like old time hockey like Eddie Shore and Toe Blake and all that, then Game 2 was for you. Maybe it’s even enough to get you more interested in the Stanley Cup Final than the NBA Finals! The Blues are one tough team, and they pushed back hard in Game 2 in making this into a series. So maybe I’ll make my prediction Boston in 6… or even 7? It’s a black and blue series, in more ways than one.
The deeper we go into the playoffs, the less that the elements that now make teams successful in the regular season seem to matter. In fact, the paradox is that the teams that build themselves to succeed in the playoffs with size and toughness risk missing the playoffs altogether because of the emphasis on speed and skill during the regular season. If the Blues were the league’s worst first-half team but turned it up as soon as the games became more important (new goalie and coach aside), then this all makes perfect sense.
The Bruins have the speed advantage, which showed in Game 1. They may miss Grzelcyk here because of his ability to use that speed game to move the puck out of the Bruins’ zone. Assuming Grzelcyk misses Game 3, either John Moore or Steven Kampfer would slot in.
Bob McKenzie dropped a couple of news items today. First, Jeff Skinner is getting close to signing an extension with the Sabres. McKenzie expects Skinner to sign an eight-year contract worth between $8.5 and $9.5 million per season.
Skinner staying in Buffalo would be great news for his fantasy owners, as he scored a career-high 40 goals while tying his career high of 63 points in his one season with the Sabres. Taking into account his numbers in both Carolina and Buffalo, Skinner is the kind of player who needs adequate icetime and superior linemates in order to succeed himself. Overall, his total icetime increased two minutes per game (including a PPTOI increase of one minute per game), while his most common linemates went from Derek Ryan and one of Justin Williams/Lee Stempniak in 2017-18 to Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in 2018-19. Those two factors would have a lot to do with his 16-goal increase.
Sure, there was the 12-goal second half after the 28-goal first half. Regression was going to catch up to Skinner’s absurd first-half shooting percentage. We told you to sell high at that point, though. Overall, that shouldn’t take away from what was a rebound season for Skinner.
It was Nikita Zaitsev who, for personal reasons, asked TOR today to try to facilitate a trade. He has five years remaining on a contract with an AAV of $4.5M. TOR will try to oblige Zaitsev but are not in a salary cap position to retain much, if any, salary.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2019
McKenzie followed up with a number of tweets on Zaitsev and the Leafs’ situation. This trade request (should it go through) could be a blessing for the Leafs long-term mainly for cap reasons, but in the short term, this simply compounds the problem they have on defense. As McKenzie said, they’ll probably lose Jake Gardiner to free agency, while Travis Dermott will miss the start of the season because of shoulder surgery. The defense may not even be the priority that it should because they’ve still got a massive Mitch Marner contract to figure out.
Zaitsev has seldom been used on the power play the past two seasons, while his offense has dried up (just 14 points in 2018-19). Yet he still averaged the fourth-highest icetime total among Leafs’ defensemen last season. Top-4 d-men don’t grow on trees, with all sorts of other teams also looking to improve in that area this offseason.
McKenzie also mentioned that he thought Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin wouldn’t be full-time NHL ready next season. Unless the Leafs can add a veteran blueliner or two on the cheap, both could very well see some NHL games next season.
While on the subject of prospects, just one more day until the Fantasy Prospects Report is ready! This is a must-own if you want to stay on top of prospects in your keeper pool. Draft-eligible prospects with mock drafts, plus team-owned prospects… it’s all in there.
According to Sportsnet, the Canucks and RFA Brock Boeser aren’t close on a contract. Many are predicting that at least one of the bumper crop of pending RFAs will sign the first offer sheet in ages, with Marner the odds-on favorite. However, I wonder if a team or two is looking into Boeser if he and the Canucks are far apart. I think with past mistakes like Loui Eriksson’s contract on the books, Jim Benning is taking a harder-line approach to negotiating contracts with the likes of Boeser and Alex Edler this offseason.
An under-the-radar signing… Juuso Riikola signed a one-year extension with the Penguins worth $850,000. Riikola scored just five points in 37 games, but he received some second-unit power-play time for the Pens in averaging just over a minute of power-play time per game. A potential Jack Johnson trade (remember, he was almost traded to Minnesota with Phil Kessel) could help Riikola’s value.
In my Ramblings last Sunday, Striker and MarkRM16 commented on Devan Dubnyk after I briefly mentioned him, so I thought I'd weigh in on him too. I agree that Minnesota’s offseason will be telling as to how to value Dubnyk. Given how the Wild fell in the standings, it’s a wonder that Dubnyk’s goals-against average didn’t change much from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
If you owned Dubnyk this past season, you may remember that he went through a couple of stretches in which it wasn’t safe to start him. From November 17 to December 27, Dubnyk earned just three wins in 14 games while posting an unsightly 3.08 GAA and .889 SV%. Then from February 1 to 19 he earned just one win in eight starts with a 3.24 GAA and .882 SV%. Goalies go through rough stretches, but during those stretches the Wild looked like they needed to sell assets and begin the rebuild right away. Dubnyk ended the season with four fewer wins, but had to play seven more games than the previous season to reach that number.
Wins might be somewhat difficult to predict, but barring injury Dubnyk should play in at least 60 games again in 2019-20. Alex Stalock is under contract for three more seasons and most likely won’t push Dubnyk out of the starter’s chair, given the size of their two contracts. If Minnesota can hang around the .500 mark, then Dubnyk should get to 30 wins for the sixth consecutive season. Only Braden Holtby and Pekka Rinne have earned more wins than Dubnyk over those past five seasons. After the past two seasons in which goalie values have been all over the map, Dubnyk’s season numbers have remained relatively consistent, even with the rough patches.
I’m going to have more on goalies in tomorrow’s Ramblings, by the way.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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