So I guess Pavel Zacha ‘coming to terms’ with Avangard Omsk was just that – coming to terms. Not signing on the dotted line. And despite Ray Shero’s entertaining and expletive-laced response to perceived pressure, the Devils re-signed the former sixth overall pick to a three-year deal worth 2.25 million per season on Tuesday morning.
The 22-year-old has stagnated offensively – minor as it has been, despite witnessing his deployment ramp-up. Last season, Zacha skated over 16 minutes a night with nearly two minutes on the man-advantage. That resulted in a career-high 13 goals (four coming on the power play). However, his inability to find chemistry on a line landed him as the rover – splitting time with a smorgasbord of bottom-six skaters.
With the Devils looking to roll out several new, offensively-capable players in Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and even youngster, Ty Smith, Zacha’s even-strength mates should be more impactful. It also means his potential to secure power-play time – even on the second unit, is drastically reduced.
This has never been a player who has generated many shots, and despite his size, he’s only good for a little more than a hit per game. With a likely role as the fourth line centre in Newark, perhaps we see an uptick in hits and blocks, but we’re at the point where Zacha appears destined for fantasy irrelevancy.
The infatuation by some over Zacha as a draft-eligible was mind-boggling to me. He flashed offensive ability but often due to physically dominating. That was never going to transfer to the bigs
His skillset screamed bottom 6
One of the biggest misses of the legendary 2015 crop https://t.co/pxnMj1oJv9
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) September 9, 2019
The one truly interesting portion of this RFA deal is that it falls in line with a trend that has been happening this summer – a spike in salary in the final year of the deal. Just like Timo Meier earlier in the summer, and Zach Werenski earlier this week, Zacha sees his salary leap on the third year of the contract. This will afford him an opportunity to simply accept the qualifying offer, play one more season, and walk as a free agent. This isn’t likely too concerning for New Jersey, but the remaining clubs with unsigned big-ticket RFAs won't love it.
All of these RFAs signing deals that will bring a player a season away from unrestricted free agency is great for their bank accounts but will force their teams into difficult situations down the line.
If I’m a GM, I’m going hard on term with these impact restricted guys. Even the ones who have yet to establish themselves as true stars. Take a player like Brock Boeser. The whispers have been similar to other RFAs – he’s looking for a three or four-year deal. That would walk him right near unrestricted free agency. It's also being reported that the two sides are not close.
As I have been saying on radio all week, the #Canucks and Brock Boeser are not close to a deal. No way Boeser will be at camp Friday with the gap so big. Agent and GM need to lock themselves in a room and get this done.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) September 10, 2019
Let's say he makes good on his potential beside Elias Pettersson. Now you’re paying a 26-year-old at the peak of his statistical prime and it’s not as if salaries are getting lower as time moves forward. That's going to cost you 10-plus million while likely running into the downside of his career-production on the backside of the deal. That's how you end up paying for past production.
Best case financially sees him spin his wheels and you can extend him through his 20s. But unless he really falls off, with inflation, you’re probably not getting him inked for much less than a long term deal would pay him today. As such, go ahead and give the man eight years and 7-7.5 million now. If he hits, it becomes a deal through his mid-late 20s and you re-assess when he's 30. If he misses, it’s probably only a medium overpay. I’d much rather risk an overpayment on a 22-year-old with pedigree and established metrics than some UFA on the downside of the career slope.
Finally, on the RFAs, Elliotte Freidman reported that 'It's tense and it's personal" between Mitch Marner and the Maple Leafs. Yeah, that's what you want.
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Word around the proverbial campfire is that Anaheim is pushing hard to obtain Justin Faulk from Carolina with Ondrej Kase rumoured to be moving the other direction. If this does indeed come to fruition – which is far from a lock as apparently Faulk has Anaheim on his soft No Trade list, this will be another coup for the Hurricanes.
Still ways away from any trade being imminent, and as I previously said Faulk would need to waive his NTC (understandably not a cake walk), but sources confirm that as the proposed deal currently stands, Ducks Ondrej Kase would be involved. Again, not done. @LukeDeCock was first.
— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) September 10, 2019
I and many others have discussed Kase’s potential on several occasions. His even-strength shot generation is supreme. He needs to stay healthy, but a 50 or even 60-point season appears to be on the precipice. Even more so if he’s playing in Carolina.
For the Ducks, their moves mimic that of a bored fantasy manager – making trades just for the hell of it. This a team that moved a young, club-controlled, right-shot defender in Brandon Montour to end last season. Now, they’re targetting an older, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defender in exchange for their best right-winger.
Doesn’t exactly scream competence.
For those who subscribe to TheAthletic, Rob Rossi published a terrific peek behind the (iron) curtain into Evgeni Malkin’s journey to rediscover his game after a career-worst campaign.
A few highlights:
Geno has improved his diet, focused on adding quickness and power to his stride.
He is expecting to produce close to 100 points next season.
The 33-year-old is a player that I refuse to sleep on. Despite looking slower, frustrated, and prone to untimely mistakes. Witnessing his goals drop from 42 to 21, and seeing his shot and conversion rates dip. He looked slower and frustrated yet still managed to produce over a point-per-game. Health will always be a concern – even more so as he ages, but this is a player who has failed to produce more than a ppg in just one of his 13 campaigns. He’s also shown a propensity for coming back with a vengeance after a ‘down’ year too.
I’ve put Malkin down for 33 goals, 77 points in 71 games next season.
And hey, while you’re at it, you might as well purchase all 350 player projections for the 2019-20 season AND help protect and preserve the Amazon rainforest while you’re at it.
Cam Robinson's 2019-20 Player Projections – Over 300 skater projections, 40 goaltenders, and some other interesting rookies
This year, 50% of the proceeds will go to non-profit organizations who help protect, maintain, and save the Amazon Rainforesthttps://t.co/eo1Klfthht
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) August 29, 2019
Speaking of Kessel, he may be content with two Cup rings, but I like his addition to the top of the lineup in the desert. If I’m running things, I’d pop Kessel next to the recently extended, Clayton Keller and former Blackhawk, Nick Schmaltz.
Yes, that makes the Coyotes a one-line team. But hey, they’ve been a no-line team for a loooong time. Don’t hang Kessel out to dry on Derek Stepan’s wing. Give him a chance and he could return to the volume-shooting, speed-demon he has proven to be in the past.
While in Pittsburgh, Kessel was often the second (or even third) option on his line. Whichever line he lands on, he’ll be the primary shooter. It’s nuts to me that he didn’t cusp the 35-goal mark in four seasons with the Penguins. I’m not counting him out from hitting that level in 2019-20 with the desert dogs – if they give him the right pieces to work with.
Sticking with the Coyotes, I also think we see Oliver Ekman-Larsson make something of a comeback this year. OEL has long been a favourite defensive pick in fantasy drafts but one that usually fell short of expectations. His 55-point season as a 24-year-old has yet to be sniffed again.
I’m not saying he’ll hit 55 this season, but 50 shouldn't be out of the question.