This is the third time I have put together a buy and sell series. This year however, it is under slightly different conditions. I am getting married in August, and having a wedding to plan means these articles are getting done in whatever spare time is left around planning in June/July, so I can enjoy a honeymoon in peace (I love you Diliana!), while you fantasy junkies all still get your weekly reading material. If anything is out of date as of August, this would be why. Hopefully the recommendations are still relevant and insightful by the time you get to them.
In the buy and sell features, I profile one player per team to sell, and one to buy. These recommendations are based on salary cap leagues, and I try to cover various league sizes and categories. Last year we started alphabetically at the bottom, so this year we’re starting at the top – first up are the Ducks.
Buy: Ondrej Kase
Cap Hit: $2,600,000 with two years remaining
After missing more than half of the season due to injury, Kase is a bit of a forgotten name in Anaheim. A 55-point pace for under $3 million, with two years left, and it could be one of the better bargains in the league. He also was the fourth-most used Duck forward on the power play, which was typically a four-forward unit by the end of the season. Top power-play time would be a boon to Kase’s production over a full season, and could see him hit career highs across the board in what would be his fourth NHL season.
Sell: Jakob Silfverberg
Cap Hit: $5,250,000 with five years remaining
Silfverberg has a career high of 49 points yet managed only 43 in 73 games this season while shooting a career high of 15%. Had that been closer to his career average of 9.5%, it would have been a 16 goal, 35-point season for the veteran winger. Combine that with the fact that Anaheim is trending in the wrong direction, and their best player Ryan Getzlaf is now 34, there isn’t a lot of reason to hope for anything above status quo with Silfverberg.
Entering the season with a new contract, Silfverberg is also now the Ducks’ highest paid RW. There are plenty of better wingers you could swap him for in the $5 million range, especially when you consider how little Silfverberg contributes to peripheral categories. A minus player last year, he was barely over two shots per game, barely produces any hits, blocks, faceoffs, or penalty minutes, and only hit double digits in powerplay points at the end of March last season.
Buy: Lawson Crouse
Cap Hit: $1,533,333 with three years remaining
With everyone fawning over whoever will be playing with Phil Kessel, no one is paying attention to the amazing deal Lawson Crouse signed, as there is no way he will end up on the first line. However, we all know bigger players take longer to develop, and Crouse is already one of the better multi-category producers around (though he doesn’t get the proper coverage playing in Arizona). He paced for almost 300 hits last season, 130 shots, 65 penalty minutes, and added 25 points to boot. This was all done with less than 13 minutes of ice time per game, and an offensive zone start percentage of 45 percent. The ceiling still has not been hit for Crouse.
Sell: Darcy Kuemper
Cap Hit: $1,850,000 with one year remaining
Antti Raanta is going to be back and healthy this season. Regardless of who gets the lion’s share of the starts (it will likely be Raanta), Kuemper is not going to have the same value as last year. He has one year left on his current deal, and will likely be asking for closer to the $2-$2.5 million range that most veteran backups are now seeking. The upside isn’t there anymore, unless Raanta ends up with another season-ending injury. That’s not something worth betting on.
Buy: Jake DeBrusk
Cap Hit: $863,333 with one year remaining
It’s tough to find an underrated player on a team that just made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Everyone contributed for the Bruins throughout their run, especially the depth forwards. In the regular season however, they were carried by the perfection line. More and more frequently in the regular season though, coach Bruce Cassidy would break up the top line in order to try and spread out some scoring. If the Bruins are going to keep up with the Lightning and Maple Leafs, then they will likely try the same thing again. This alignment would likely see DeBrusk playing with one or two of the top three forwards and should be in a better spot to boost his offensive totals just by osmosis. Additionally, anyone who has watched him play knows he is better than the 40-point pace he hit the last two seasons. The breakout will be this year or next, and better to be a year early than a year late.
On top of that, Boston has done an excellent job of negotiating team-friendly contracts. Don’t expect that to change.
Sell: Tuukka Rask
Cap Hit: $7,000,000 with two years remaining
Anytime someone wins the Conn Smythe (or is at least in the discussion), they become an immediate sell candidate for the following season. It means that they peaked back in the spring and had a much shorter summer than usual. The reason that Rask attributes himself putting up such gaudy numbers in the playoffs is because of how rested he was coming in. As a typically slow starter, Rask outdid himself with an atrocious start to the season and ceding the net to Jaroslav Halak for a greater share of starts through the fall. With the shorter summer, expect more of the same early on next season, before Rask becomes a buy again around January.
Buy: Henry Jokiharju
Cap Hit: $925,000 with two years remaining
There really are no skaters guaranteed to make the Sabres opening day lineup that I would be buying stock in right now, so let’s look at one who is not guaranteed to make the team out of camp. Jokiharju was traded straight up for Alex Nylander, who has struggled to adjust to the pro game over the last few years. Meanwhile Jokiharju’s numbers can tell you various stories depending on what side someone is trying to show. Outside of the analytics however, we have a 20-year-old, right-handed defenceman, who is extremely talented at moving the puck. Add that to a depressed value after a strange trade, and now being stuck behind a logjam on the right side in Buffalo, and that looks like a recipe for a buy-low.
Sell: Rasmus Ristolainen
Cap Hit: $5,400,000 with three years remaining
Jeff Skinner is such an obvious sell on his new deal that we will focus on someone else. Ristolainen was the top defenceman in Buffalo a year ago, but now he may be as low as third. The additions of Rasmus Dahlin and Brandon Montour really took a lot away from Ristolainen’s production. Take a look at that quarterly production chart below and tell me you don’t think it had anything to do with Montour arriving with 20 games to go in the season, or Dahlin peaking at three minutes of powerplay time in quarter three. The younger two are going to continue to eat into Ristolainen’s offensive time, and he is miscast as a defensive defenceman. There was a reason he was a league-worst minus-41 last season. Best to get off the boat while perception of him is still high.
Buy: Rasmus Andresson / Jusso Valimaki
Cap Hit: $755,833 with one year remaining / $894,166 with two years remaining
Calgary is a very tough team to grab a buy-low from. There is the top line, a 35-year-old Norris contender, and a lot of appropriately or overpaid depth pieces. The best pieces for Calgary are their best pieces, until we look to the future. Soon the blueline won’t belong to Mark Giordano, it will be the young guns getting the time on the powerplay with the vaunted top line. The best two options are Rasmus Andersson and Jusso Valimaki. Both with high fantasy potential and coming along at the right time to use it. With a solid defence core and Calgary looking to move out a larger contract to make room, the young guns will get the sheltered, offensive minutes, and should be primed to bring more fantasy value very soon.
Sell: Noah Hanifin
Cap Hit: $4,950,000 with five years remaining
On the flip side of the young defencemen being sheltered into the offensive situations, someone has to pick up the defensive slack and responsibility. With Giordano still the alpha, and the kids coming along at the right time to take over for him, Hanifin will be passed over, retaining his position as a second pair defenceman, managing more defensive responsibilities (lowest offensive deployment on the team last year).
Hanifin’s shot rate plummeted last season, and in the second half he was cut out of the powerplay rotation almost entirely. At $5 million there are plenty of other defencemen with higher upside, more ideal deployment, and better peripheral production.