Buried underneath all the Kawhi Leonard news and stories and tributes was the signing of Marcus Johansson by the Buffalo Sabres for two years for $9 million total. In case you missed it, here’s the Fantasy Take.
From a hockey perspective, this is a decent signing for the Sabres. If the 28-year-old Johansson can’t shake the injury bug or fails to meet expectations, then the term is only two years. As well, $4.5 million per season isn’t a reach for a forward who has reached the 40-point mark five times in his career.
Before the injuries of the past two seasons which limited him to 87 games over that span, Johansson posted his career high of 24 goals and 58 points in his final season with the Capitals. In spite of the injuries, Johansson averaged 0.60 points/game, which placed him the range of players like Mikael Backlund, Brendan Gallagher, and Tyler Bozak over that span. Johansson still has 50-point upside, but that assumes he will stay healthy over a full season. Something around 40-45 points might be a more reasonable assumption with his new team.
Friday was salary arbitration day, with 40 players filing for arbitration. Some of the notable players include Jordan Binnington, Pavel Buchnevich, Will Butcher, J.T. Compher, Danton Heinen, David Rittich, and Jacob Trouba.
I’m in the process of refining my Top 100 Roto Rankings, which will be updated again on July 15. Something I decided to work out in more detail is whether Ben Bishop should be my number 2 ranked goalie, behind only Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goalie won the Vezina Trophy last season largely due to his win total; however, wins are a fantasy category and need to be accounted for in rankings even if they’re not a true reflection of the goalie’s ability. So Vas is the top-ranked goalie on this list.
On to Bishop. In 2018-19 he was arguably the league’s top goalie, posting the league’s top save percentage (.934) and the league’s top goals-against average (1.98) among goalies that played in at least 35 games. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Bishop, who has dealt with his share of injuries throughout his career and hasn’t played more than 55 games over the past three seasons.
However, there is solid argument that Bishop has the numbers beyond last season to prove that he should be drafted among the elite. Since 2015-16 (four seasons), Bishop has the best goals-against average (2.25) and is tied for the top save percentage (.923) among the 48 goalies that have played at least 100 games. His win total is just outside of the top 10 (12th) over that span, which is a factor of his games played total (15th).
Bishop is one goalie that his team should continue to use a load management strategy on. Anton Khudobin was one of the league’s better backup goalies in 2018-19, as his .923 SV% was sixth among the 41 goalies that had played at least 40 games. So even if Bishop stays healthy for a full season, expect him to play under 60 games again this coming season. Should you draft Bishop, you could be justified in adding a goalie in the later rounds with a high win total and subpar ratios. That could be a scenario in which you could roll the dice on someone like Martin Jones.
Two players I’ve been debating whether to move down the Roto Rankings (at least at this time) are Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson. You may remember that these two formed an effective duo for the Jackets in 2018-19, as they spent over 70 percent of their even-strength minutes together. Will they be as productive now that they’ve been broken up as a result of Panarin’s signing with the Rangers?
We went through this with Panarin two seasons ago, when he was traded to Columbus. Panarin’s production was supposed to drop with his being separated from his American twin Patrick Kane. However, instead of falling out of the 70-point range, Panarin took a step forward into the 80-point range. Much of that success had to do with Atkinson, so the question might be whether he can find the same quality of linemates in NYC.
The Rangers didn’t have a whole lot of scoring last season (finishing 24th in goals for per game), but one scorer stood above the crowd. With a team-leading 74 points, Mika Zibanejad finished 22 points ahead of the next-highest scorer (Chris Kreider). Panarin will obviously help with that scoring, so expect David Quinn to deploy the newly signed Panarin with the team’s leading scorer as much as possible. Then there’s young scorers such as Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Vitali Kravtsov, and more that could surround Panarin. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Panarin off to a bit of a slow start as he adjusts to his new surroundings and scorers that might not be there yet. Long term, though, he’ll be fine.
As for Atkinson, it might be easy to assume that his production will suffer without Panarin. However, he’s perfectly capable of driving the play himself. Before Panarin arrived, Atkinson already had a 35-goal season under his belt. That was with Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner as his even-strength linemates over 50 percent of the time. If you thought those two would be a drain on his production (neither reached 45 points that season), note that Atkinson was helped by a career-high 21 power-play points that season. Atkinson hasn’t recorded more than 14 power-play points in any other season, so that number will have to improve for him not to regress.
Further to even-strength production, Atkinson recorded 51 even-strength points in 2018-19, compared to 38 in the aforementioned 2016-17 in which he scored 35 goals without Panarin. As I can’t help but think that a minor drop in production might happen, there’s something there to substantiate that. It’s fair to say that overall offense will decrease in Columbus with both Panarin and Matt Duchene gone and only Gustav Nyquist (so far) added.
Evgeni Malkin finished the 2018-19 season with 89 penalty minutes. If you think that’s unusual for Malkin, his three-year total of 253 PIM is 14th in the NHL. He has more points (242) than anyone above him on the penalty minute list. As well, he has averaged between 60-90 penalty minutes over each of his past six seasons. Make sure you give him a bump in multicategory leagues that count penalty minutes.
In case you were thinking Brad Marchand was above Malkin in terms of penalty minutes, he checked in at “just” 240 PIM. However, Marchand has 270 points compared to Malkin’s 242 over that span. Even with Malkin’s usual games missed, Marchand still holds a higher P/GP (1.19) compared to Malkin (1.16). So we now live in a universe where Marchand is a better scorer than Malkin, yet Marchand is also the less penalized player of the two. Huh.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.