Getting into this point in July, most poolies don’t have their eyes on fantasy hockey. Luckily for us writers, there are still some of you crazy enough to be seeking something new in the middle of the offseason. In the spirit of keeping things interesting, we are now right in the middle of Bubble Keeper Week, and the first half has been an excellent run of articles from the DobberHockey staff. Hopefully some of you can find something useful in this article as well.
For this week’s Capped, since the typical top-150 keepers list wouldn’t necessarily be as accurate in our leagues, we are looking at a few players outside of that list, but that also fit the mold of players that may be on your decision bubble based on either a new contract, a new home, or a new role.
The New Contracts
Yanni Gourde (C/LW) – Tampa Bay Lightning
New Cap Hit: $5,166,666 for six seasons
Tom Collins mentioned in his Top-10 column about how undervalued Yanni Gourde was in fantasy hockey. With his new contract however, he goes from complete bargain, to possible fringe keeper, depending on the size of your league. However, a 50-60 point forwards making $5 million should make Gourde valuable in most cap leagues, and more valuable where more peripheral stats are counted. Even though it may be tough for some to find the cap space to keep his large increase, it will be worthwhile to do so. Additionally, Gourde’s most common linemates in the final quarter last season were Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Gourde is talented enough to be fantasy relevant on his own, however on a line with that kind of firepower, he could explode in year three (more likely as an older player than the typical fourth-year breakout).
Colton Sissons (C/LW) – Nashville Predators
New Cap Hit: $2,857,143 for seven seasons
The general consensus around the Twitter-verse and over on the forums seems to be that the AAV is about where people expected, but the term is too long. Based on the Evolving Wild contract predictions, Sissons had a lower likelihood of signing for seven years than 38-year old defenceman Niklas Kronwall. Contracts like these don’t come along that often, and the most recent comparable is actually Sissons’ teammate Calle Jarnkrok. In the summer of 2016, Jarnkrok signed a six-year deal with a $2 million AAV. Jarnkrok’s development hasn’t exactly blossomed, but that doesn’t mean his contract is a bad one. He remains a solid piece that can play up and down the lineup, and has more than made himself worthwhile to the Predators (though maybe not Fantasy owners). Sissons on the other hand has shown flashes of potential when handed first line minutes (due to injuries) or the occasional turn on the top power play. He also brings exceptional possession metrics for a player who hasn’t ever started more than a third of his shifts in the offensive zone in a full season.
For the Predators to be able to run him out until his age-32 season at a price tag under $3 million will be an absolute steal. That being said, it means he will at most be the third line centre for Nashville over the course of the contract, and may never fully break out offensively. As a result, though the AAV may be tempting, in purely offensive fantasy leagues, Sissons becomes a cut. Conversely, the more categories that are added (faceoff wins, short-handed points, hits, plus/minus, etc), the more valuable Sissons becomes.
In one of my cap leagues – 24-teams, roster size of 23, $82.5 million cap ceiling, and 11 skater categories counted where players must be bought out with a cap penalty if we want to drop them during the life of their contract – I am the Sissons owner, and I am ecstatic about the contract. Sissons will be an extremely valuable player in that league, showing that his value greatly fluctuates depending on the league settings.
The New Homes
Nazem Kadri (C) – Colorado Avalanche
Cap Hit: $4,500,000 with three seasons remaining
In his July 4th Ramblings, Michael Clifford reviewed the fallout from the Colorado/Toronto trade that saw Kadri end up in burgundy and navy blue. Kadri should be an excellent fit on a power play that was searching for a fifth piece for the entire 2018-2019 campaign. If Kadri plays a full season with that powerplay unit, it would not be unreasonable to see him hit 20 power-play points, and possibly reach the 60-point plateau for the first time since the 2016-2017 season. Add in 200 shots, 500 face-off wins, over 50 PIMs, 100 hits, and solid production in other categories as well, he provides a very rare blend of production. One that is nearly impossible to find on a better contract.
Kadri’s most recent production (and concurrent depressed shooting percentage) will mean that he gets pushed down many people’s keeper lists, but don’t let him slip off of yours.
J.T. Miller (C/RW) – Vancouver Canucks
Cap Hit: $5,250,000 with four seasons remaining
Since Miller was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for what could end up being an unprotected lottery pick in 2021, he is going to get every opportunity to succeed in his new home. Some may be viewing free agent signing Michael Ferland as the expected third wheel on the top line, but he won’t be given first chance there. Miller will have first crack at the golden spot in the lineup beside Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, due in part to his larger salary, and the acquisition cost. As a result, Miller won’t be buried like he was on a deep Tampa team last season, disappointing owners across various league settings. However, as we have seen with when Miller is put on a line with star players (for example the last quarter of 2017-2018) he can put up nearly a point per game. This move will be a boon to Miller’s value, and he becomes keeper worthy in almost all cap leagues now.
The New Roles
Robert Thomas (C/RW) – St. Louis Blues
Cap Hit: $894,166 with two seasons remaining
Thomas played 70 games in the regular season for the Blues, along with 21 in the playoffs. Over the course of the season, he saw his ice time and responsibility grow, finishing off his last 20 games on a 52-point pace, with 14 minutes of ice time per game, seeing time mainly on the third line. Next season, (assuming recovery from off-season wrist surgery doesn’t hinder him too much) Thomas figures to be promoted from line three to the second line with Ryan O’Reilly, meaning he should push for 50, possibly even 60 points. With two years left on his rookie deal, the value is there in cap leagues that Thomas should easily jump into the top-100 value plays for the 2019-2020 campaign.
Kevin Labanc (LW/RW) – San Jose Sharks
New Cap Hit: $1,000,000 for one year
Lost in some of the commotion of the Vegas/San Jose major penalty fiasco in game seven of their first-round series, was that of the four power-play goals scored only one player had a hand in all of them: Labanc. That should get you excited for next season. A young winger on the verge of a bump up the lineup, and the possibility of riding on PP1 in San jose for an entire season would already be tantalizing, but at the cap hit of $1 million, Labanc jumps into the top-10 for expected cap league value next year. His name and lack of exposure will keep him on the bubble in many leagues, but these kinds of plays are what separate the good fantasy teams from the dynasties.
Other quick hits:
-We have our first two arbitration rulings, with Andrew Copp getting a two-year, $2.28 AAV deal with the Jets, and Christian Djoos getting a one-year, $1.25 million AAV deal with the Capitals. The Caps are now over the cap, and will need to make a move or two. Those Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik signings are already getting them in trouble.
– The Leafs are masterfully dancing around the salary cap loopholes, and now look to be in a position to out-wait the Mitch Marner camp. Expect him to sign sometime in September for something in the $10.5 million range. In the meantime, the Leafs are filling the organization with quantity, throwing minimum contracts at the wall to see if something sticks.
– Zach Aston-Reese signed an excellent bargain $1 million AAV contract for those of you in leagues that count hits. It’s also two years long, so there’s double the joy to be taken advantage of.
You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
Previous Capped articles: