Well, that was an exciting July 1 weekend with a few trades, a few good signings, and the obligatory bad deals. We are now going to focus on our next group of potential bounce-back players for the 2019-2020 season.
Since Subban was traded to New Jersey, fantasy owners will be happy as he won’t have to share coveted power-play time with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis any longer. I have to think that New Jersey wouldn’t have traded for Subban if they believed that Damon Severson or Ty Smith were capable of being the top PP quarterback right now. However for those with plus/minus in their pools, this might have an adverse effect on Subban short-term in New Jersey.
Subban had a career low of 31 points last season, with only 10 PP points. He has been injured in three of the past four seasons, missing 14 to 19 games in each of those three. The PP is where Subban needs to get his point production back up, and he should see more than the 2:35 min/GP than he played last year. It would be nice for fantasy owners to see New Jersey make Subban the lone defenseman on the PP and give him more than four min/GP like he saw in Montreal for a few years. Subban should easily get back up to 45 points and could match his career high of 60 if he stays healthy for more than 75 games.
Schultz will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020. The last time he was on an expiring contract, he put up a 51-point season in 2016-2017. I don’t think he will match that this time, as he has struggled to remain healthy the past two seasons, only playing 92 regular season games over that span. He will never be used as an example of stellar defensive play, but he should put up good offensive numbers if he plays more than 70 games. Pittsburgh is not an improving team, but his plus/minus should be safe for this season and right now he is a PP lock to play 2 min/GP or more. He won’t give you hits or blocked shots, but he could be a very cheap addition for 35-45 points next year.
Ehlers has clearly been passed on the Winnipeg depth chart by Kyle Connor and it will be tough for him to get back above 60 points. He missed 20 games in 2018-2019 but should be motivated and healthy going into next season after struggling a little with 21 goals and 16 assists in 62 games. I think most fantasy owners had pegged Ehlers for a future 80-point player, but there should be some concern with that thought going forward as he would need first-line minutes combined with being on the first PP unit. That doesn’t look like it will happen in the short-term. Over the past three seasons, his shot metrics are above 2.49 shots/GP and his shooting percentage is very consistent, never dipping below 12.3. If he plays 75 games, I believe he is still good for 25 goals and 25 assists with a ceiling of 30 goals and 35 assists.
Laine is perhaps the most obvious choice to have on this list, but he doesn’t come without some reservations. After the first 41 games of 2018-2019, he had 24 goals (including an impressive 18 goals in 12 games in November), a pace of 48 goals for the season. If you cherry pick and discount those 12 games in November, Laine had only 12 goals in 70 games the rest of the season. Of his 30 goals for the year, they were scored over 19 games, leaving him scoreless in the other 63 games he played. Drilling deeper, only six of the 18 goals in November were PP goals, so of the 12 goals in the other 70 games, only three were even-strength, with the other nine on the PP. How did Laine generate 12 even-strength goals in one month, but only have three the rest of the season? That is a major concern.
I’ve mentioned before that you never wish injury on anyone, but I sure hope that Laine was playing hurt for most of the season and I do believe he was battling a back issue. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt (with a little dash of reality) and I think he will rebound to 35-40 goals and sort out his even-strength woes to at least prior years’ levels.
Here is Laine’s RAPM chart for 2016 to 2019 for reference. His goals have been exceeding his expected goals at even strength for the three year duration.
Laine has the skills to score 60 goals in this league, if healthy, but everything has to come together for him to ever do that. Unfortunately, he’s not trending there now.
Considering that he scored two goals last season, I won’t say that Wennberg will bounce back and get 20 goals, as that probably is never going to happen. I do see him getting back up to 16 or 17 minutes per game and approaching 10 goals and 30 assists with a healthy plus/minus. If you’re in a fantasy league that rewards goals, hits, shots or blocked shots, stop reading now and move on; Wennberg is not your player. If your fantasy league is deep and rewards for points and plus/minus, then you might want to add him or keep him. Perhaps he will build off his three goals and seven assists in six games for Sweden at the World Championships this year.
We will have one more bounce-back column next week. As always, please send any column suggestions to me on Twitter @gampbler15