Fantasy Mailbag: How to Deal With Aging Stars, A Kucherov Rebound, & An Alex Tuch Breakout?

Rick Roos



After a delay due to the must-read Fantasy Top Ten of the Decade lists that were published the past two weeks, Roos Lets Loose is back, this week with another Mailbag. And although the number of questions I received paled in comparison to letters written to Santa, unlike with Kris Kringle there are no lumps of coal in stockings here – only thorough answers to your inquiries while also providing advice that should be useful to poolies even if they don’t own the specific players mentioned in the questions/answers.


As a reminder, if you want your question answered here be sure to check out the end of the column, where I explain the ways to get it to me. The earlier you send a question the more likely it is to be included, and the deeper dive I can provide with my reply.


Question #1 (from DR)

What are your thoughts on Alex Tuch? He’s nowhere close to the 400-game “Breakout Threshold,” plus he’s a big player, perhaps delaying his breakout even further. But he’s shown flashes of serious skill; and despite his size, he can play with finesse. What are your expectations for him in for the rest of this year and the next couple of seasons? What do you see as his ultimate trajectory and upside?


After posting 52 points at age 22 in his second full season, many poolies figured Tuch was on the verge of a true breakout. And truth be told – he might have that breakout in him; however, he’s on the wrong team for it to happen. That’s because Vegas seems content to deploy Tuch in a way that does not lend itself to him being able to put up lots of points, as there are six full time forwards who average 16:30+ per game, then everyone else – including Tuch – who average at or below 15:00 per contest. Moreover, of the six who skate north of 16:30 per game, all make more money than Tuch and five of the six are under contract through 2021-22, with the other, Paul Stastny – the only one of the six below 17:30 per game- inked through next season, and Stastny plays center, which is not Tuch’s position. So there are apparent roadblocks to Tuch landing in a spot that would be conducive to high scoring any time soon.


Is it possible that Tuch could force the team’s hand by playing so well as to push aside someone in the current top six? If it was another team I’d say maybe; however, Gerard Gallant seems pretty set in his ways in terms of how he deploys his players. Plus, Gallant and the team brass likely figure that if Tuch can produce well on a third line alongside fellow youngster Cody Glass, that makes the Golden Knights all the more difficult to match up against.


Given all this, what should be expected of Tuch shortly? If things remain status quo, which I expect to be the case barring a major injury, we’ll see Tuch continue to get around 15:00 of ice time per game, and second unit PP time. And although Vegas deploys its PP units fairly evenly, with Tuch having a per game overall average ice time that low it would be near impossible for him to crack the 60 point mark, as out of the 417 instances of 60+ point forward scorers from 2010-11 through last season, a mere one – future superstar Nikita Kucherov way back in 2014-15 – did so while averaging less than 15:53 per context. So 45-55 points are likely more realistic for Tuch on the immediate horizon.


As far as long term, there are positive signs, most notably his IPP rising in each of his seasons, showing he has an increasing nose for scoring. Yes, he’s still is getting sheltered starts, as his OZ% has also risen each season; and that likely won’t continue once he’s in the top six. Moreover, his SOG rate held steady from his rookie season to last year and is down for 2019-20 thus far. But of these metrics, IPP is the key, as it’s something players either have or don’t; if they do have it, that makes it easier to envision other aspects of their games rounding into form as they mature and get more experience.


If you can land Tuch in a keeper for ~45-50 point draft or trade value, grab him, as he should give you at least that level of production for the next two seasons. And then, when some of the team’s veterans will depart as UFAs, Tuch will be right near his breakout threshold and likely ready to explode, perhaps still paired with Glass, who has the pedigree to be a star. It would surprise me if Tuch didn’t rise to 70+ points by or in 2022-23. Or to put it in better context, if you want a parallel for what you might get from Tuch in a couple of years, think of what Anthony Mantha has done this season.


Question #2 (from Oxford Berry Farm)

I’ve won my 16 team points only keeper three years in a row on the backs of a good mix of youth and veterans – guys like Nikita Kucherov, Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho, David Pastrnak, as well as Blake Wheeler, Jakub Voracek, Nicklas Backstrom and Patrice Bergeron. As players age beyond their peak (in my case, Wheeler, Voracek, Backstrom, and Bergeron), they are useless as a trade tool in my league, as no one seems to want to touch an age 30+ player, no matter his credentials and even for just draft picks in return.


Given this, what would you do with some of these older guys? Should I ride them until my run ends, or try to reload on the fly? As noted, GMs in my league default to the “young shiny toys;” and offering anybody these veterans has proven to be a waste of time. Is dropping them for younger talent as they fall off the best (and only) option given their lack of trade value?


Although I understand that some leagues favor young players, your fellow GMs categorically not trading for any age 30+ players seems like putting form over substance; and by that I mean it’s an approach which insists upon adhering to an arbitrary, generalized rule without bothering to look at situations on a case by case basis. Bergeron, Wheeler and Backstrom have been and likely will continue to be very dependable fantasy forwards, and even Voracek has ignited recently.


Don’t get me wrong, youth is very beneficial because it can give you value for the present and future; but unconditionally ignoring benefits of players age 30+ is a recipe for fantasy failure. Need proof? From 2010-11 through last season there were 198 instances of 70+ point scoring among forwards. Of those, 52 (i.e., 26%) were by skaters who at the time were age 30+. If we raise the qualifying bar to 80+ points, we get 23 of 89 instances from those who were 30+, or again right at 26%. And if we increase the qualifier to 90+ points, the rate of those who did so at age 30+ climbs higher to 12 of 34, or 35%, which is the percentage it stays for 100+ points (5 of 14). So by discriminating against players based solely on their age, GMs in your league is essentially giving you a monopoly on what figures to be a big chunk of the top scorers in the entire NHL. No wonder you win every year!


Accordingly, I think you can guess that my answer is to ride these over 30 guys until they start to look like they’re faltering. To that end, perhaps you can shed one of them in favor of a younger player, as you have a lot of star power to compensate for getting rid of that player in favor of a younger perhaps less proven player who might take a little while to fully come into his own. But truth be told all four could be guys who, if I’m you, I’m keeping this season and planning to ride for 2020-21 and perhaps beyond. That is how you’ll win for a fourth year and probably fifth and sixth and so on until the rest of the GMs in your league finally get a wake-up call and realize their age-based limiting criteria are costing them championships.


Question #3 (from Chris)

I’m in my first year as part of a 12 team league, which just switched to a dynasty. Each team has 26 players (3C, 3LW, 3RW, 6D, 2G, 2 Utility, 7 Bench) plus ten minor league slots, which is increasing to 15 next season. Each team gets five draft picks per year to start, but you can accumulate unlimited picks via trade. It’s a bangers league with 14 mostly regular categories, except also including takeaways.


In previous leagues, I liked to make a lot of trades and that proved successful; so I decided to rebuild here immediately. As it stands I already have six first-round picks (two or three should be lottery) plus three second-round picks for next year, and four first-rounders plus three second-rounders for 2021.


But I still have some quality guys to trade or use for future, as my roster is: Artemi Panarin, Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Elias Lindholm, J.T. Miller, Jonathan Marchessault, Charlie McAvoy, Darnell Nurse, Tyler Myers, Jeff Skinner, Strome (note – not specified if Dylan or Ryan), Nick Schmaltz, Ondrej Kase, Nikita Gusev, Alex Tuch, Frederik Anderson, Sergei Bobrovsky, Mikko Koskinen. My minors-eligible players are Cale Makar, Elvis Merzlikins, Spencer Knight, Rasmus Sandin, Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Hague, Cal Foote, Adam Boqvist, Erik Brannstrom, Klim Kostin, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Vasili Podkolzin.

Is there anyone on the main roster you think I should look to trade? Or have I done enough tinkering? Also, are there any young players I should maybe target to have an impact in the next couple of years, other than the obvious blue-chip guys everyone talks about?


For a team that’s traded away assets to accumulate all those draft picks, I’m frankly shocked at how much talent you still have left on your current roster. Kudos to you for what must’ve been some great deals you were able to pull off! I think in a 12 team league you could be ready to compete if not next year than within a couple of seasons, so I wouldn’t do any more “rebuilding” trades.


In fact, as crazy as it sounds, you might want to think about trading some of the picks you’ve acquired, as there can be too much of a good thing. Plus, other teams who have bare cupboards in terms of draft picks likely will be grateful to get a chance to trade for early selections. Of the guys on your current roster who I might look to move, RNH, Skinner and Marchessault jump out, as each has name value and is seemingly amid his peak; but I view them as unlikely to do much better in future seasons as compared to now. Where you want help is on D and goal scoring. It’s difficult to recommend specific targets; however, I think Jakub Vrana, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Anthony Mantha might be good guys to try and grab in terms of forwards, and Thomas Chabot, Oscar Klefbom, and Ivan Provorov could be some not quite top tier d-men to perhaps seek to obtain.


Question #4 (from Dennis)

12 Team H2H Keep 6 League

2C, 2LW, 2RW, 4D, 1Ut, 3G, 6 Bench, 2IR


Forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Mark Scheifele, Patrick Kane, David Krejci, Matt Duchene, Boone Jenner, Jakub Vrana, Kyle Connor, Oskar Lindblom, Bryan Rust, Brett Connolly, Phil Kessel, William Nylander; Defensemen: Morgan Reilly, Matt Niskanen, Calvin de Haan, Tony DeAngelo; Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jordan Binnington, Jaroslav Halak, Thatcher Demko


Before the season, I traded Gabriel Landeskog, Rasmus Dahlin, and Ben Bishop for Patrick Kane, Morgan Reilly, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, keeping all three plus MacKinnon, Scheifele, and Binnington, and then drafted the rest of my squad.


As I write this, I’m 1-5-1, soon to be 1-6-1 and could be approaching double-digit losses by the time you answer this question. I’ve had discussions about Sidney Crosby involving Jordan Binnington and about Andrei Svechnikov involving Mark Scheifele. I feel that both would be huge deals for me, helping me this season and as keepers. If neither of those talks pans out, what should I be looking to do to make my team more competitive this year? Which players should I look to be moving and what type of players should I be targeting to add to my roster? Or given my record and roster do I call it for this season and start to look ahead for 2020-21?


In a league where only six players are kept, the good news is there’s no such thing as a full-on rebuild, so you can try to improve your keeper situation while not having to completely punt on the season. That way, if your team somehow catches fire you could still be competitive now.


The first question is which guys would you 100% want to keep. MacKinnon and Vasilevskiy are slam dunks. Rielly likely has been playing hurt and has had Tyson Barrie in the fold to syphon away points, but come 2020-21 he should be back to his usual self, so probably you want to plan to keep him as well. Kane is still a scoring machine, but at some point, he will slow down and he’s a drag in hits and blocks. Scheifele is still young enough to technically have it within him to take another step; but as I stated in previous columns his SOG and PPPts are likely too low for him to be much more than an 80-85 point player. As for Binnington, in a keep six, I’m not wild about the idea of retaining two goalies, so he’s a guy I’d be looking to move. Other than them, you probably do not have anyone whom you could convince another team to take in a keep six league, with perhaps the exception of Vrana or Connor.


As for the trades you mentioned, Crosby is basically like Kane except for a year older and with a bit better peripherals. I’m not sure I’d be so eager to get him, although perhaps now that he got hurt the price might be lower – low enough to be tough to refuse. Svechnikov is someone I’d trade Kane, Binnington or Scheifele to get, as he’s already showing he’s cut from a truly special cloth and could be as good as a MacKinnon in the not too distant future.


If you don’t get Crosby, whom might you target? What you want is a forward who is winger eligible but also gives you FOW, like perhaps Dylan Larkin, Brayden Schenn, or Tomas Hertl. That is a huge benefit in a league where FOW is one of just seven skater categories. Of course, your fellow GMs are likely wise enough to realize the value of these guys too; however, if you dangle a Scheifele and perhaps Vrana or Connor too (to help the other team this year), you could get a player who is eligible as a wing and fills your categories – including FOW – well, plus a draft pick to balance out the deal.


Question #5 (from Michael)

I’m in a 15-team league which, for skaters, is points only but includes a bonus for GWG and SHP, and for goalie is wins (1 point), Shutouts (4 points), Saves (fractional points). Rosters are 18 players and a team can keep up to five players year to year. I was offered a trade: another GM’s Jack Eichel, Carter Hart and 1st and 4th round pick in exchange for my John Tavares, Frederick Andersen and 5th and 7th round pick. The person who made the trade offer is a Leafs fan, in case that wasn’t already apparent.


As it stands, I am in 6th place, he’s in 5th. Another thing to account for is the top four finishers get payouts, whereas if you finish 5th overall, you get the 1st overall draft pick, which could be huge this year. I’ve done very well in previous seasons so it’s not the end of the world if I don’t finish in the top 4; however, I would like to have the chance for 1st overall pick, so having my first-round pick and he is very tempting. For what it’s worth, I am currently 50+ points off the pace from the top 2 teams in the standings but definitely within reach of 3rd, 4th and 5th place.


Do I pull the trigger on the deal?


So your primary interest in this deal is it puts you in better position to get the first overall pick in your league’s draft next season, as that would occur if either you or the GM with whom you’d do a deal end up finishing in 5th place overall, with you currently sitting in 6th and him in 5th? Why that first pick would not go to a lower finishing team I’m not sure, but your league’s rules are your league’s rules.


Here’s my take. In a 15 team league. it will be difficult to finish 5th or 6th even if you try to do so. Keep in mind the teams in 7th and 8th probably are eyeing that top pick as well and will try to land in the 5th spot to get it. Yes, if you were to do this deal you’d have two chances of getting that first overall pick rather than one; however, the deal has to make sense in the grand scheme of things to be a good one. In your league, Eichel is a step above Tavares whereas Andersen should have a good bit more value than Hart for at least a few seasons. The draft picks coming to you are better than the ones you’re giving up. So on paper, the deal passes the sniff test; although if this other GM is as much of a Toronto homer as you say he is, you might try to get even more in return – maybe a third draft pick or only giving up one draft pick instead of two? Or if you don’t intend to keep Hart, maybe get a better second player than him? The key is, when you have instances where a GM is infatuated with obtaining players from a certain team, you have to use that to your full advantage.


Long story short, while I believe what you’re doing might be overthinking things somewhat and could end up not working out, I also think it’s reasonable because the trade itself is reasonable. Add to that a slightly better chance of getting the coveted first overall pick, and I’d do the deal, albeit first by trying to make it skewed in more in your favor by taking advantage of the other GM’s adoration for Toronto.


Question #6 (from Steven)

I’ve been offered Nikita Kucherov for Jack Eichel in a keeper league. I’m torn. Although I think Eichel has finally arrived, I could see Kucherov rebounding in a big way. Thoughts?


Technically this wasn’t a mailbag question, but instead, a comment that was made in response to my most recent Forum Buzz column; but I figured I’d turn it into a Mailbag question. What’s also interesting is this hearkens back to Cage Match, and as it happened Jack Eichel was one of the two combatants in my final Cage Match column back in February of 2019.


What Steven didn’t mention were his league categories, although even if this is a multi-cat neither has a big edge in any area over the other, at least based on this season. And that’s the key – do we base our assessment on great things we’re seeing of Eichel now and the subpar (for him) stats that Kucherov has posted to date for the season? This is important not just for points, but also in areas like PPPts, where Kucherov had 48, 36, and 32 in the prior three seasons (versus 26, 20, and 24 for Eichel), and plus-minus, where Kucherov was a collective +52 over the past three seasons (versus a collective -49 for Eichel).


Looking at the basic numbers for Kucherov, although he’s managed to keep roughly the same SOG pace as he had last season, his overall ice time is down by well more than a minute; and whereas last season he took the ice for 75% of his team PP minutes, that percentage is down to only just over two-thirds for 2019-20. Why would Tampa Bay do this to its top star and a player who last season put up the most points of any NHLer in more than 20 years? Most likely it’s due to the team’s early exit from the playoffs last spring, resulting in the team trying to find a more balanced offense and keeping its best players fresh for the second season. While that might be music to the ears of Tampa Bay’s fans, it’s not what Kucherov’s fantasy owners want.


Meanwhile, after three seasons at or near the point per game mark, Eichel is on pace to surpass the century mark in points. For him, we’re seeing an ice time increase of 90 seconds and an uptick in his share of PP minutes to more than 75%. His SOG rate, which was already sky-high, is down a tad yet still very, very strong; but his personal shooting percentage is far above his norm, suggesting a slower goal-scoring pace over the remainder of the year. He’s also well above his PP scoring rate from past seasons; and although some of that can be attributed to his maturation as a player and Buffalo improving as a team, there to he’s likely to come back to earth somewhat. Even still, that might mean the difference in him scoring only 95-100 points instead of the 105+ which he’s on pace for as of now.


What about luck-based metrics? Kucherov’s team shooting percentage and IPP are both down, with the former being below any season other than his rookie campaign. Part of that is a function of the team not using him, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point together all the time as they did last season; however, the expectation is both numbers should go up, and, with that, his scoring pace as well. As for Eichel, the encouraging data is his IPP is virtually unchanged and his offensive zone starting percentage is actually down a good bit, meaning he’s becoming a more well-rounded scorer. Where concern arises though is in his team shooting percentage, which, although it had risen in each of his seasons, is on pace to be far above his mark from last season. As with his personal shooting percentage, that should come back to earth over time.


Given all the data, it’s safe to conclude to the extent there still is a gap between Kucherov and Eichel, that gap has shrunk considerably if not vanished entirely. The issue is we know how great Kucherov can be – the question is whether he’ll be given the chance to shine again as he did in 2018-19, or whether, instead, he’ll be deployed more conservatively as he has been thus far this season. In contrast, Buffalo seems to have no qualms about giving Eichel superstar deployment, so there’s no reason to expect his minutes to drop as they have with Kucherov.


Factoring in the unsustainable shooting percentage bump that Eichel has received, and Kucherov’s team shooting percentage being unsustainably low, I think they’re now quite close in terms of what I’d expect from them as far as scoring. There’s also the possibility that we haven’t seen the best yet from Eichel, as he’s still only 23, whereas, at age 26, Kucherov is not likely to improve much – if at all – versus what we saw from him last season, and that’s, of course, assuming he goes back to better deployment.


So should you accept the trade? If “real life” hockey didn’t intrude into fantasy, I’d say yes, as clearly Kucherov’s production is being purposefully throttled by a team which thinks that’s in their best interest to do so. And who knows – if Tampa Bay wins a Cup, they may let Kucherov be fully unleashed again in future seasons. But with Eichel’s breakout – even when accounting for some degree of unsustainable good luck – looking very real and Buffalo content to play him into the ground, and as crazy as it might sound after seeing what Kucherov did last season, I still probably would reject that trade.


Question #7 (from Scott)

I'm in an H2H Salary Cap dynasty league. As I write this, it’s almost Christmas and I’m in 10th place but only two points out of a playoff spot. Notable players on my roster include Robin Lehner, Mackenzie Blackwood, Petr Mrazek, Kyle Palmieri, Blake Wheeler, Andreas Athanasiou, Anders Lee, Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Brandon Montour, etc. Categories are G, A, +/-, SOG, STP, Hits, Blocks, Wins, SV%, SO.


Is it time for me to tear down the team and rebuild, or should I go for a playoff run, figuring anything can happen if I qualify?


I’ll be blunt – unless this is a 24 or more team league, even if you were to squeak into the playoffs I don’t think there’s a scenario where this team emerges as champion. So yes, I’d look into rebuilding, which, in dynasty leagues, is tougher because teams aren’t operating under a system where they lose a certain percentage of their roster every year. As such, you have to decide whether (and, if so, when) you might be able to contend in the future. Given that the average age of your team is roughly 26, by the time your ship gets righted they’ll likely be post-prime. To me, that means you should be looking at blowing things up and building your team essentially anew.


So who do you trade, and when? Guys like Wheeler, Lee, Kadri, Risto and Palmieri can be traded at any time, while most of the rest don’t have enough name value to be able to command a nice return unless you time it where you sell when they get hot. The exception is goalies, where although you don’t have any superstars those are a limited commodity so you should be able to net (pun intended) a very good return. To get the best price for the guys I singled out, you want to let the league know they’re available and then have folks come to you with offers. That should up the ante in terms of what they’re willing to give you, knowing that if they don’t land the player(s) they’ll lose out to a competitor.


What should you be looking to get in return? I tackled this issue in my last mailbag, noting that you want to go young; but just how young will depend on just how far off you see yourself in terms of being able to win. In your case, with this being a dynasty and given the state of your team, I think you will have a long rebuild ahead of you, so I’d mostly try to get guys no older than 23, with a couple perhaps even being teens or in their very early 20s. With the other non-name value, non-goalies, you need to take what you can get, preferably draft picks or less touted younger players. Good luck.


Question #8 (from Bartosz)

Hi, I've just promoted Mackenzie Blackwood from my fantasy farm to first squad, as for this season it looks like he has the Devils’ starting gig locked down. But what will happen next year? Will New Jersey sign another goalie, or do you see them sticking with Blackwood?


Blackwood’s numbers this season are worse than 2018-19, as he’s well below 50% in terms of quality starts (after being at 65% last season) while his GAA is up and save percentage down. The reality is he might not be cut from the cloth of a true #1 goalie – either that or he’s not there yet since let’s not forget he’s just 23 and he’s larger in stature than a lot of goalies, and bigger netminders – like bigger skaters – can sometimes take longer to round into top form.


Although the Devils have over $15M in UFA salaries set to come off the books, in addition to what they were paying Taylor Hall, I’m not sure they use that money to sign a big name UFA goalie, as we cannot forget that Cory Schneider is still owed just shy of $5M for the next two full seasons. And although his struggles have continued at the AHL level, it’s even possible we haven’t heard the last from Schneider at the NHL level – stranger things have happened.


What is unlikely, however, is a young player coming in and seizing the job, as the only netminder in the New Jersey system who could perhaps be in the NHL picture next season is Gilles Senn. But he’s already 23 years old and, after two seasons in a row where his GAA rose and SV% sunk in the Swiss league, has not exactly been lighting the AHL on fire and has looked outmatched in his limited NHL action thus far.


One thing is for sure – we’d know a lot more about Blackwood’s likely fate if the RFA deal he’ll sign this summer was already signed. That’s because, as noted by Dobber in a Ramblings early last week, if he breaks that $3M per year threshold, then the team, which, as noted above, already has nearly $5M tied up in Schneider for the next two seasons, would be unlikely to break the bank for a top name UFA goalie. So for sure keep your eye on the dollar amount of Blackwood’s upcoming contract, as it will be very telling.


If I had to guess, I’d venture that New Jersey lets Blackwood have at least another full season as “the guy” to try and figure out his game, which means them not signing a top UFA netminder like Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, or Jacob Markstrom, but perhaps instead someone the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, Corey Crawford or Mike Smith, who can help nurture Blackwood to hopefully see his skills evolve into that of a solid starter, but also be able to step in if he falters.




For those reading this now, it’s never too early to start providing me with mailbag questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with the words “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) by sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is “rizzeedizzee”. Or if you prefer to wait, the time to get me the question is right after each Poll, since the mailbag normally runs the following week.

When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you’re in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you’re thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you’re thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!



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