21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles – formerly 20 Fantasy Thoughts – from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's ‘Daily Ramblings’.
Writers: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. We can knock one important RFA off the board as San Jose signed winger Kevin Labanc to a one-year contract with a $1M cap hit. The 23-year old is coming off a 56-point season while playing mostly third-line minutes; just his minutes with Joe Thornton and Marcus Sorensen alone ate up over 40 percent of his line combinations and he played with Thornton for about half his five-on-five minutes.
He was used with their stars more in 2017-18 but he still failed to crack 14:30 per game.
With Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi all gone from the roster, there should be more minutes for Labanc in 2019-20. That makes this a bit of a gamble from the Sharks because if he improves his point totals again, as he has every year, even if it’s just due to more minutes, he’ll be worth considerably more than what he’ll earn on this contract. (july9)
2. Kudos to the Hurricanes for not getting involved in the UFA silliness. Thumbs down for not really addressing their goaltending issue.
That being said, Coach Rod Brind’Amour’s style is helpful for goalie numbers, so you or I could be between the pipes and still post adequate numbers. A Petr Mrazek/James Reimer duo should do even better than last season, as this team continues to grow and improve. One key note – Alex Nedeljkovic signed a two-year contract and 2020-21 is one-way. Keeper League owners may want to tuck him away for a year.
Carolina GM Don Waddell also did well to use organizational strength to plug some holes. Adding Erik Haula was a nice haul(a). And I think Gustav Forsling has more to give as a bottom-pairing defenseman with a bit of upside. (july8)
3. Arizona was another team that showed restraint during NHL Free Agency. Trading is hard and it also takes a lot of guts. I feel like many GMs view free agency as an easy way out. If they just work the phone lines and keep at it they can actually better solve their problems via trade.
Phil Kessel is just what this team needs and Arizona no longer has to worry about injuries the way they did with Alex Galchenyuk. As far as free agency goes, GM John Chayka showed…wait for it… restraint.
Nick Schmaltz really shoots up in value here. I like the idea of him centering Clayton Keller and Kessel. Derek Stepan centering Christian Dvorak and Vinnie Hinostroza would be a real nice second line. Carl Soderberg gives this team a legit third line with Conor Garland and Christian Fischer and/or Barrett Hayton. If Antti Raanta can stay healthy, Arizona pushes for a playoff spot. If Raanta can’t play 40 games, they won’t. (july8)
4. There’s certainly lots of debate as to whether Jordan Binnington is the real thing or simply a flash-in-the-pan that went on a hot streak for half a season. There’s no guarantee that Binnington will continue this run, and in all likelihood he will cool off to some degree.
However, it would be hasty to assume that he will be another Andrew Hammond, as he had posted an impressive 2.06 GAA and .926 SV% over his past two AHL seasons (44 GP) leading up to his recent NHL success. I’m not ranking him as a top-tier goalie in drafts this fall (although I’m sure someone might) but I would consider him as a low G1/high G2 in 12-team standard-size roto leagues.
Binnington’s contract was finalized on Saturday, as the Blues signed him to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $4.4 million. (july14)
5. No Artemi Panarin? No Sergei Bobrovsky? Alright, then pack up and head to the cottage. Or…you could give a 32-year-old (in September) a five-year deal worth $30 million. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mats Zuccarello, but is the Wild going to win a Cup now? No? Then let another team spend this money. Just think – in 2023-24, the Wild will spend $21 million on 39-year-old Zach Parise, 39-year-old Ryan Suter, and 36-year-old Zuccarello. Just…wow.
6. Goal scorers are naturally a bit streaky, but the 2018-19 version of Patrik Laine was exceptionally so. He scored eight goals on an 11.6 conversion rate through the first 18 games, before sniping 16 goals in 23 games while clicking at 21.3 percent in the second quarter. He was on a 48-goal pace.
However, the back 41 games were ugly. Six goals, a 5.9 conversion rate, and he witnessed his shot volume dip to less than two shots per game in the final 20 contests. All the while he was still seeing over three minutes a night on the top power play, and consistent top-six, even-strength deployment. Clearly, this was a player struggling to find his confidence.
Fortunately, there are countless examples of pure finishers losing their confidence and going on prolonged slumps. There are also several examples of goal scorers witnessing a tangible decrease in production early in their careers, only to explode to new highs shortly thereafter. Teemu Selanne burst onto the scene as a 22-year-old for Winnipeg setting a rookie record-76 goals. He followed that up with three consecutive seasons at a 40-goal pace. After that, he produced three consecutive seasons at or above a 50-goal pace.
Laine is an exceptionally gifted goal scorer. Those are a rare breed. We've been fortunate enough to have had Alex Ovechkin put on a 14-year clinic – but even he had slump-like seasons. For the rest of the mortals out there, slumps will certainly happen. And they can last a little longer when you're talking about 20-year-olds searching for confidence. Finding an owner who is willing to accept below-market value in a deal for Laine is exactly what an astute GM would do. Those are the bets you feel good about making. Go on and do it, then. (july10)
7. During last year’s offseason, the debate was which new acquisition would line up with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan: James Neal or Elias Lindholm? Many fantasy owners thought it would be the more established Neal; however, Lindholm was picked and turned out to be the right choice. He turned out to be a near point-per-game player (0.96 PTS/GP), while the Flames already have to be regretting the Neal signing (19 points in 63 games).
Lindholm set a new career high in goals (27), which resulted from a career high in shots (182) and shooting percentage (14.8%). He also set a career high in assists (51), which resulted from him spending nearly three-quarters of his even-strength time with Gaudreau and Monahan. We can probably assume he’ll stay on this line, which means that his production shouldn’t dip back to what it was during his Carolina days (40-45 points), where he was used all over the place.
Overall, Lindholm should continue to slot in as an effective playmaker on the Flames’ top line and first power-play unit. However, that production should be fairly assist-heavy going forward, as I see him reaching about 20 goals and 50 assists in 2019-20. That doesn’t mean he won’t be an effective fantasy option, just that if you had to choose between two players with similar point totals, the advantage (everything else remaining equal) would be with the player with the higher goal total, since goals are harder to come by than assists. (july14)
8. The Blues have signed Robby Fabbri to a ‘prove-it’ one-year contract worth $900,000. Fabbri’s injuries are well known, as he played just 32 regular-season games in 2018-19 while missing all of 2017-18. With just six points in those 32 games, and just one point in 10 playoff games, Fabbri probably shouldn’t be on your immediate fantasy radar, as he’ll have to try to resurrect his career from the Blues’ bottom-six. Still, this is an important season for him to prove that he can put his injury troubles behind him and have a productive NHL career. (july13)
9. Ryan Dzingel had a career year in 2018-19 with 56 points (26g-30a) in 78 games. He has also reached 20 goals and 40 points in each of his last two seasons. Given the amount and term he received from Carolina this week – two-years, cap hit of $3.375 million per – this is another post-July 1 contract that seems reasonable. Mike Clifford provided the Fantasy Take on this one.
It sounds like Dzingel could be used anywhere in the Hurricanes’ top-nine (I know, that narrows it down). The lineup isn’t settled anyway, as Justin Williams still hasn’t decided whether he will return, though Canes’ GM Don Waddell believes that Williams is “leaning toward playing.” A Williams return could help Dzingel’s fantasy value, particularly if Dzingel does not find his way onto the top line. (july13)
10 Dylan Larkin’s fantasy hockey value could be higher on a team where he has more scoring options around him. However, he is clearly the guy in the Motor City when it comes to scoring. His 21:51 of overall icetime was only seven seconds behind team leader Danny DeKeyser. It’s rare that a forward receives this much icetime relative to a team’s top four defensemen. Expect his 2019-20 production to be relatively consistent when compared to what he generated in 2018-19. (july14)
Note: Fantasy Guide lowdown votes are back again this year! Dobber will write an expanded profile on one player from each team that receives the most votes. You can vote in the Forum on the following teams (note that these polls are time sensitive).
11. From Igor Eronko’s Twitter account: Both Sven Andrighetto and Ty Rattie have signed in the KHL. Rattie signed for one year with Lokomotiv (where his coach will be Craig MacTavish), while Andrighetto has signed for two years with Avangard. With all that discussion about Rattie as a possible sleeper because of his potential to slip onto a line with Connor McDavid, his NHL season career high has been a meager 11 points. Much ado about nothing. (july14)
12. Vincent Trocheck, that's is a pretty interesting name heading into 2019-20. He’s had one great year and three good years, for those playing in peripheral leagues. He lost a third of last season because of a broken ankle and with the influx of talent, he eventually his power-play role, as well. At least to the degree it had been.
Trocheck isn’t a player who needs 20 power play points to be relevant in the fantasy game. He does enough across the board that he’ll be valuable even if he has a season where he posts 40 points. What makes him a potentially elite option, though, is those peripherals in conjunction with a 70-point season like he had a couple years ago.
I have doubts he’ll reach those highs again but he should still flirt with 20 minutes a game, and doing so on a team with talented wingers should put him firmly in the crosshairs of fantasy owners.
Even though he lost over a minute per game of PPTOI and had to return mid-season following a horrific injury, he still played to a 50-point pace per 82 games. Again, with all the talent the Panthers have, there shouldn’t be much concern he can do that over a full year. Let’s hope there’s a discount at the draft table. (july12)
13. Add Artturi Lehkonen to that list of signed RFAs. Two more years at $2.4M. He’s a guy I had hopes for in the fantasy game but it looks like he’s kind of settling into more of a checking/grinding-type role. I still think he can pop 20 goals a season but the upside may not be there anymore. (july12)
14. The Canucks continued their offseason of acquisitions by adding Micheal Ferland to their roster. The terms disclosed are four years with an average annual value of $3.5M. You can read Cam Robinson’s take on the signing here.
Aside from whatever adjective people want to use to describe his intangibles, it’s important to know that Ferland is a passenger, not a driver. There are things he does well, particularly once the puck is in the offensive zone, but he’s not a guy to start a play, he’s not a guy to lead the transition, and he’s not a guy who can play lock-down defense.
And that’s fine! Not every good player in the NHL is a play-driver. Until recent seasons, Wayne Simmonds, for example, had been a very good NHLer without being that guy. But it also means Ferland absolutely needs to play in the top-six, preferably with Elias Pettersson, to have much fantasy value. There just isn’t enough talent in the bottom-six to support a productive fantasy season. (july11)
Canucks’ fans often griped about the lack of protection for Pettersson and the lack of pushback when something happened last season. A hard hitter such as Ferland might serve as a deterrent for teams to take cheap shots at the Canucks’ brightest young star, while at the same time not being an anchor on the line, so there’s a decent chance of that happening.
We’ll have to wait and see how Jim Benning adjusts the roster to fit the Ferland signing and a Brock Boeser contract. However, Ferland could turn into one of Benning’s better signings (not that the bar is very high, though). (july13)
15. The likelihood of pairing the team's most successful reclamation project, Dylan Strome, with Alex Nylander on a second line in the near future bodes well for the former OHL star. Or, perhaps the Blackhawks envision Nylander and the most recent third overall selection, Kirby Dach becoming close friends. Either way, Nylander has a ways to go but a fairly clear path to some fun minutes. He won't likely have much juice left on the fantasy market but could be a sneaky post-hype sleeper type sometime in the near-ish future. (july10)
16. Acquired by Buffalo in exchange of Nylander earlier this week, Henri Jokiharju is now behind Rasmus Ristolainen (at least for now), Colin Miller (another recent newcomer) and Brandon Montour for offensive minutes on the right side. And sprinkle in Rasmus Dahlin living on the top power play until 2040 and the potential for prime deployment isn't overly high. That's bad news bears for Jokiharju’s fantasy value. (july10)
17. There have been arguments that the Blackhawks have a bunch of good young blueliners coming, and they do have a few guys who look to be the future.
Here’s the thing: none of them have proven anything. Maybe guys like Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin pan out. Maybe they have other guys who prove they belong. Or, maybe only a couple of them. Or, maybe only one. The whole thing with prospects is that we don’t know with terrible certainty how the vast majority of them will fare in the NHL. That’s why it’s good to stockpile talent, to act as a safety net by way of volume.
Maybe Nylander finally clicks. Maybe Jokiharju falls off the map. Maybe other things happen that we can’t predict. A lesson for fantasy poolies out there: if you stick with it long enough, maybe you'll find someone who still believes in a player’s potential despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (july11)
18. Seriously pressed against the cap, the Hawks continue to surround their big-ticket players with cheap skill. Often from Europe. Using precious cap space on a third goaltender was a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s just for one year and if they can extend Robin Lehner later, they may have themselves a franchise goaltender – if he can put on another Vezina Trophy type of performance. Don’t forget that Lehner is still only 27 years old (28 in two weeks) and hitting his prime as a goaltender. (july8)
19. Boston’s Peter Cehlarik signed a one-year deal with the team. This is someone poolies were probably hoping to get more from in 2018-19 but he ended up spending most of the season in the AHL. There is a good offensive player here, I think, and the hope is that he can settle on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. If he can, there might be a worthwhile fantasy option here. (july9)
20. Bruins’ signing of Brett Ritchie brings more competition for the top-six as does the late-season addition of Charlie Coyle. The latter won’t factor in too much if they leave him at center but Ritchie very well could. He’s a shooter who has shown a scoring touch in the past, something that second line desperately needs.
I envision Danton Heinen pairing with Coyle on the third line to add some scoring punch and if that’s his role, along with reduced power play time like in 2018-19, it’s hard to see him having significant fantasy relevance in 2019-20. (july11)
21. The Red Wings have cap space, but they wasted a bit of it on Valtteri Filppula. He’s a good player for the third line and certainly worthy of $3 million per season, and paying him for only two years is actually a good contract. But the Wings aren’t a playoff team yet and they didn’t need to do this. In an age where cap space can often be more important than having a star player, especially on a rebuilding team – GM Steve Yzerman chose to use cap space.
I would rather keep the cap space, trade for someone’s salary dump (and adding a great pick or top prospect for my trouble), and remain flexible for next summer. I will add that bringing on Calvin Pickard at $750,000 was a great signing and he provides real nice insurance for a team with two goalies who have been known to get injured from time to time. (july8)
Note: Maybe you’ve seen the ads already, but Bubble Keeper Week is back! Like last season, Bubble Keeper Week will happen during the week of July 22 to 28, where bubble keepers will be featured in the Ramblings and our other regular columns.
If you don’t know what a bubble keeper is, it refers to any player on your roster who might be on the ‘bubble’ in terms of whether you will keep them. Say you play in a 12-team league, and you’re allowed to keep somewhere between 10-12 players every year. These are the players that would be among your final keepers or would just miss the cut.
These are important decisions that you don’t want to get wrong, so we would like to help you out with these. We’re all smart enough to keep players such as Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid (assuming it’s not a salary cap or auction format, when the focus shifts to relative value), but what about those last few guys? In my Ramblings that week, I’ll pick my own players that are currently on the bubble (and hope my competition isn’t reading… though I know a few leaguemates that probably will be). (july13)
Have a good week, folks!!
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