All of the big-name RFAs are now officially off the board, meaning that all fantasy owners can now rest easier tonight. No one will be going full-on William Nylander. You never had to worry, since you knew all along that they’d be signed in time for the start of the season anyway, didn’t you?
First, Mikko Rantanen and the Avalanche agree on a six-year contract with an average annual value of $9.25 million. It’s not cheap (unless you’re comparing it to Mitch Marner’s deal), as this contract takes up about 11 percent of the Avalanche’s salary cap. However, the Avs still have over $6 million in unused cap space, with Nathan MacKinnon providing tons of bang for the buck at $6.3 million for four more seasons. Add the two and the combined cost is $15.55 million, which seems like a great deal for two of the league’s top 20 scorers last season.
Rantanen has posted back-to-back 80+ point seasons, which gives him 171 points over the past two seasons. Only 15 players have accrued more points over that span. He should continue to line up with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, so there’s no reason to think that he’ll slow down in 2019-20.
Following the Rantanen signing, the agent for Kyle Connor decided to get in on the fun with a little math equation:
$7.143m x 7= 81
— Rich Evans (@Hockeyagent) September 29, 2019
Before anyone says it, yes, the math is incorrect. (Symbolism? Get it?) The contract works out to about $50 million total, which provides the Jets with both of their RFA forwards in the span of less than two days.
Connor is an important part of the Jets’ attack, as his 65 goals in his two full seasons is second on the Jets only to Patrik Laine (74 goals). With back-to-back 30+ goal seasons and 65 goals over the past two seasons, Connor is in a three-way tie for 19th in total goals over the past two seasons.
Things are looking more promising for the Jets, although the losses on the blueline can’t be understated. The good news is that should Dustin Byfuglien decide to return, his $7.6 million salary would fit within the cap.
Some injury quick hits from your more fantasy-relevant players:
Sidney Crosby left Saturday’s preseason game in the first period after blocking a shot. He was seen limping after the game but was not using a walking boot or crutches. The injury doesn’t sound too serious, but I assume we’ll know more once he is re-evaluated on Sunday.
Alex Ovechkin won’t play in the Capitals’ final preseason game on Sunday, as he is resting a lower-body injury for precautionary reasons. I’d have to guess that Ovie will still be ready for opening night.
Patrice Bergeron made his preseason debut on Saturday after a groin injury had sidelined him. It sounds like he’ll be ready for opening night.
Brock Boeser returned to Canucks’ practice on Saturday, wearing a non-contact jersey. He was placed in concussion protocol earlier in the week after receiving a hit from behind in a preseason game. His status for Wednesday’s season opener is still unknown.
With Alex Tuch week-to-week with a lower-body injury and Cody Eakin also battling an injury, Cody Glass could be in the Vegas lineup on opening night. He skated on the second line with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone.
John Gibson left Saturday's exhibition game with what new Ducks' coach Dallas Eakins described as a "precautionary" and a "mid body injury." Since Gibson has had his share of injuries, this is worth monitoring.
Real hockey is around the corner. By that I mean games that matter for your fantasy team. So I'll be returning to a more game-recap-style Ramblings starting next week. In the meantime, I’m happy to take a few of your questions about lineup decisions.
In case you missed it, here are my goalie groups from the September 15 Ramblings.
This might not be a popular choice, but it also matches up with the goalie in the highest group. The goalie happens to be Hutton, who I drafted myself as a third goalie in an expert’s league. If you believe in the Sabres, then this could turn out to provide solid value.
Right off the bat, I’ll just state that I don’t think Hutton is the best option when it comes to goals-against average and save percentage. Saros and maybe even Blackwood might be better options in those categories. However, I also believe that he’s the goalie who will start the most games out of this group, even if Linus Ullmark gives him more of a push. Shutouts might be a more difficult category to determine, but the more games you play, the more likely you are to earn a shutout. The same goes for wins.
If Hutton struggles right out of the gate, I wouldn’t hesitate to move on to one of the other options, if they happen to be available and seem to be factoring significantly in their team’s goaltending mix. But because he’s more likely than the others to play a string of games early, you’re more easily able to find out whether he’s worth keeping or if there’s something better that you should jump on right away.
I’m lucky that I have both of these players locked up in my keeper league, so I don’t have to choose between them.
But if I had to choose (like you do), I would go with Huberdeau. Both players recorded career highs last season, yet Huberdeau’s was a full 19 points ahead of Stone’s.
This is closer than it appears, though. Gone from the rebuild in Ottawa, Stone definitely has some room to grow with Vegas, as Gerard Gallant has been trying him on a line with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson (although on Saturday, Stone was used with Pacioretty and Glass, as mentioned above). In addition, Huberdeau’s 34 PPP from 2018-19 doesn’t seem sustainable, which could push his point total down by 10+ points if you consider his previous power-play point totals.
However, both of those scenarios would need to come true if Stone is to surpass Huberdeau in points. I’m just going to go with the simple explanation here and suggest Huberdeau.
(From comments) Why’s Taylor Hall not in group 2? Only for the injury risk? I think if he plays 75 games he can easily be a top 5 fantasy winger.
Here are my winger groups from yesterday.
I wrote about Hall back on August 16, which might explain why I’m not as high on him as many of you will be. To recap, yes, it is about the injury risk. When Hall did play 76 games in 2017-18, he was a top-5 fantasy winger. I would consider Hall to be at the top of Group 3 or the bottom of Group 2 now. If he can play 75+ games he is solidly in Group 2. I can certainly understand why many would believe that Hall belongs solidly in Group 2 right now, though.
Who quarterbacks the Oilers’ first unit power play is anyone’s guess. Klefbom did have 2:39 PPTOI last season compared to Nurse’s 1:51. So as much as it might make sense for the Oilers to use Nurse here, I have a feeling that the Oilers might try Klefbom there again to start the season, then return to Nurse if things don’t work out. Don’t let that deter you from drafting Nurse as a later-round sleeper, particularly in multicategory leagues. Ben Burnett explained why in a Geek of the Week earlier this month.
As for the Canucks, it’s a question of when and not if Hughes takes over the first-unit power play. The Canucks have already been testing Hughes on PP1 during training camp. However and for what it’s worth, Edler has received a higher percentage of power-play time (68.8%) during the preseason than Hughes (48.5%). So I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Travis Green opts for the familiar option with Edler to start the season. Yet in order to both take advantage of the tools that Hughes has to offer and not overwork Edler (he is a significant injury risk), Hughes should be given significant PP1 time this season.
Don’t forget that you can go to Frozen Tools to view preseason stats and line combinations.
Finally, I mentioned yesterday that I am currently drafting a team in the National Fantasy Hockey Championship. You can find out more about it here, where you can sign up for a team and win some big prizes! This is my first venture into it, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’ll keep you posted on what my finished team looks like, as I’ve drafted only three players so far (Nikita Kucherov, John Carlson, Marc-Andre Fleury).
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.