Frozen Tools Forensics: Deep league targets
There are many different formats for keeper pools, so I will focus this column on the format I know: a 26-team salary cap keeper pool with 27 players on each roster (20 active and seven in reserve). Currently, at 672 players, it is probably deeper than the majority of keeper pools, so many of these players won’t be an issue in most leagues.
Our pool has an average salary of $2.8 million with an average of 145 fantasy points (I won’t detail the point structure other than to say it doesn’t include hits or blocked shots) and 2.31 fantasy points per game for players. Broken down by position, the following is derived from information available from the pool’s host site, Fantrax :
Goalies: Average fantasy points are 181 with 4.62 fantasy points per game based on 71 goalies.
Defence: Average fantasy points are 125 with 1.80 fantasy points per game based on 204 players.
Forwards: Average fantasy points are 137 with 1.97 fantasy points per game based on 407 players.
Our league is capped at nine defencemen and three goalies with a minimum of five defence and two goalies.
We will look at some of the players that are on the bubble in our pool, but all we are really concerned about is whether each of these players going forward will be worth their salary and will meet or exceed the average or replacement value.
I did say our pool was deep….
Hainsey actually had 251 fantasy points last season, which puts him at the top of this list. At 38 years of age and with a new team in Ottawa that won’t be nearly as strong as Toronto, he is in for a regression. He won’t be paired with Morgan Rielly over 78 percent of the time anymore, and the biggest categorical hit should be his plus/minus. He signed a one-year deal with Ottawa for $3.5 million and this could be too expensive for most owners to carry for someone who will struggle to exceed the replacement value available next season.
Anderson is another 38-year-old with one year left on a deal that pays him $4 million. He had 218 fantasy points with the goalie average being 181 in 2018-2019. One of the tough questions owners have to ask themselves is whether to add a player like Anderson or carry a prospect like Cayden Primeau or Jake Oettinger if available? In our pool, unless I had a top-five team, I wouldn’t carry an older goalie like Anderson as the 150-200 fantasy points wouldn’t be worth what I could possibly pick up on waivers as a replacement with the potential to be a 400-fantasy-point goalie one day. There are three other goalies that fit this dilemma in our pool: Anton Khudobin, Curtis McElhinney and Keith Kinkaid. They are all older goalies who will be in and around the edge of being picked up for free, but you’d be better served to take a home run swing at a prospect and hold them even if the prospect is two or three years away.
Although Anisimov was recently dealt to Ottawa from Chicago for Zack Smith, don’t be fooled into thinking that he will move up the depth chart in Ottawa and produce more than his 150 fantasy points from his 15 goal and 37 point season last year. He is a consummate bubble player, always around 35-45 points, who doesn’t hit or block shots or ever win more than 50% of his face offs. With two years remaining on his contract at $4 million then $3 million, you should be able to find an equivalent player under $2 million in salary.
Merril has one more year on his contract at $1.375 million and could be a useful addition to a roster. He had 149 fantasy points in only 57 games with Vegas last season and is a sixth or seventh defenceman who averages 17-18 min/g. His CF percentage was 59.2 last year, elevated a little by his OZ starts of 65.53 percent. There is a case to be made that Merrill could be even better next year, but his career high is 66 games with New Jersey in 2014-2015. Without seeing him play that often, I might compare Merrill to Alex Biega in Vancouver who has good underlying numbers as well but is spotted in and out of the lineup on a regular basis. Unless you would need to drop a recent first-round prospect or a player who still holds value above the league average, adding a player like Merrill is very low risk and inexpensive.
Stepan had a down year in 2018-2019 with only 15 goals and 35 points in 72 games. Over the seven years prior, he had averaged more than 0.68 pts/g in each season and had exceeded 50 points (except for 44 points in 48 games in 2014-2015). He makes $5 million in each of the next two years and unless he rebounds back to the 50-point level (with the addition of Phil Kessel hopefully helping out), he is not a good addition for teams that don’t have much salary space. If you are carrying a player that makes $3 million or more who isn’t producing near the league average, consider picking up Stepan on the hope that he should be above where he was last year.
Ken Holland did get hired as the GM in Edmonton, right? He must have taken the six-year contract with Nielsen off his resume. Like Stepan and his salary, Nielsen should only be added to a roster if you feel that he can produce in your pool to justify his contract. Last season he had 140 fantasy points and was just above the league average of 137. Does he have the ability to get more points? For sure, but unlike Stepan, there is not the consistency over his career, and we need to focus on his three years in Detroit of producing between 33 and 40 points and his being 35 years old. It is unlikely he will make it worthwhile to add his $5 million salary to any roster.
The obvious comparison for Murphy is Erik Gudbranson. No fantasy team should have Gudbranson on the roster unless you are counting PIM, hits and blocked shots. Both Murphy and Gudbranson make similar money at around $4 million AAV and have posted similar production. The difference is that Murphy plays better without the puck and might chip in a few more points, making himself a possible bubble keeper player. It’s not good enough to just be league average when your salary is above league average, and Murphy will need to show well early in the year to get added to a roster.
After his four-goal game against the Canucks, Richardson was probably added in a few pools, and then subsequently dropped when owners discovered he had only scored three goals in 76 games the year before. He did end up scoring 19 goals in 66 games, blowing away his career high of 11. He only makes $1.4 million next season, but Arizona has added some much needed depth down the middle with Carl Soderberg and the return of Nick Schmaltz from injury. Richardson won’t likely be able to match or exceed his career high TOI or shots/g, so back he will go to around 10 goals and 20-odd points.
Shattenkirk had a challenging year and was a healthy scratch a few times last year. He is 30 years old and has two years remaining on his four-year $6.65 million AAV contract. He had 98 fantasy points last season, well below average, but he has only produced less than 0.50 pts/g twice in his nine years in the NHL and has had 43 points or more in six of those years. The big question with Shattenkirk is what the Rangers will do with him now that they have Jacob Trouba? If they trade him to another team, then Shattenkirk would be an attractive addition to a roster as there is a chance he can get back to 43 points or greater. It is certainly worth the risk if you can afford the salary. If the Rangers keep him, though, I’d be wary.
Pools can be won or lost on the waiver wire and adding free players is always a low-risk manoeuvre that can pay off in spades if the added player has the potential to provide value. If you have any bubble players of your own that you’d like me to profile or just want to ask about, please message or follow me @gampbler15.
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