The Sabres recalled goaltender Jonas Johansson from the AHL, given the injury to Linus Ullmark. We found out that Ullmark will miss at least a few weeks with his lower-body injury, which with how it looked at the time is probably the best we could hope for. I was just crossing my fingers it wasn’t a shredded knee or ankle.
You can read Johansson’s Dobber profile here.
Ullmark had been enjoying a solid fantasy season, coming in as the number-24 goalie in standard Yahoo! leagues. In reality, he’s top-20 by goals saved above average per 60 minutes (how many goals he saves his team based on a league average save percentage), sandwiched between Joonas Korpisalo and Semyon Varlamov. Doing that, mind you, on a pretty bad Buffalo team.
I’m still not sure what to make of Ullmark. He turns 27 this summer and has just 96 NHL games under his belt. It seemed like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was the goalie of the future, but he’s just 20 years old and has played most of this season in the ECHL. I don’t think he’s ready for full-time status, and Carter Hutton has another year left on his deal anyway. Hopefully Ullmark can come back and have a strong final month to the season.
The Edmonton Oilers have signed winger Zack Kassian to a four-year extension worth $3.2M in AAV. He’s having by far the best year of his career, going into Wednesday night’s action one point off his career-high and we just got out of the All-Star break.
I’m extremely wary he’ll provide anywhere close to this value in real life, but as long as he’s attached to McDavid at 5-on-5, he’s very much worth it in any format that includes hits and/or PIMs. It’s just staying attached to McDavid that is the key here.
With no NMC/NTC, he's definitely expansion bait.
After leaving Monday’s game with an upper-body injury and missing Tuesday’s practice, Roope Hintz didn’t play on Wednesday night for Dallas.
Hintz has lost considerable ice time under new head coach Rick Bowness, dropping from 16 minutes a night earlier in the year to just over 13 minutes a night over the last six weeks. This injury is not going to help get him get out of the doghouse with his new coach.
It’s hard to complain with the results as the team is now 12-6-1 in 19 games under Bowness (please double-check my math). But what we’re seeing is a lot of ice time being spread around (only Tyler Seguin is playing over 17 minutes among forwards). Declining ice time for forwards is something we’re going to talk about later with Nashville.
Hintz is still having a very good breakout season but it’s hard to see what continuing if he’s playing 13-14 minutes a night. We’ll see where he stands when he returns from this injury.
Brendan Gallagher is expected to return to the Montreal lineup on Thursday night, skating in his usual spot on the top line. Ilya Kovalchuk will be pushed down to the second line with Nick Suzuki. Both Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen are considered game-time decisions with their illness.
Jonathan Drouin may return to the Habs lineup, but I wonder if that was the plan all along, or if the injuries/illnesses to other players played a factor. I say that because it was just a couple days ago he was in a non-contact jersey at practice, and when he finally got a regular practice sweater on Tuesday, he was on the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. That they may have two wingers out of the lineup and Drouin returning but dropping down a line doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this whole thing.
Jamie Benn is having a resurgent year, in a few ways.
Yes, it looks bad that he’s on pace for a little over 40 points, putting him on pace to tie a career-low in points. Believe me, I get it. That looks bad, but I don’t think it’s actually as bad as it seems.
Under the surface, Benn is shooting more than he has in years. At 5-on-5, his shot rate is his highest since the 2014-15 season (8.5 per 60 minutes) and his individual expected goal rate is also a five-year high (0.8 per 60 minutes). The reason he’s not scoring more is he’s shooting a career-low 7.7 percent at 5-on-5. His three-year rate heading into this season, as he was enduring what we assumed was his decline, was 12.2 percent. If he’s just shooting his three-year rate, we could add four goals to his total, and he’d be on pace for 30 tallies.
The biggest issue is the decline in ice time. From just last year alone, he lost a minute at 5-on-5 and 20 seconds on the power play per game. Just that drop, based off career rates, would cost him a couple points at 5-on-5 and two or three points with the man advantage. If just those ice time numbers were the same as last year, we could add maybe five more points to his total. When in conjunction with the shooting percentage crater, Benn is likely being shorted about six goals and three assists from his totals on the year. That would bring him to a 34-goal, 57-point pace.
That 34-goal, 57-point pace doesn’t include the fact that the team’s power play is mid-pack (Benn’s shot rate on the power play is a career-high, by the way), which means there’s even more to give beyond that. With the talent they have, there’s no reason for that power play to not be top-10. If Benn was scoring goals and getting ice time commensurate with where he had been the last few years, combined with the team having a successful power play, we can see how much upside is still left here.
Before the season, I said I was still a believer in Benn and that while he wouldn’t regain former glory, he wasn’t the 50-point guy he was last year. Given what he’s actually produced this year, I’m wrong. In that sense, maybe I’m looking at this with rose-coloured glasses. I do think there’s a mathematical basis to show that he’s been better than his raw production, but the issue going forward will be ice time. If he routinely plays 16 minutes a night as he has much of this year, it’ll be hard to be a consistently reliable fantasy asset in shallower leagues unless they count hits.
There should be significant concern around the Nashville Predators right now. Here is a tweet from Yahoo/ESPN writer Dimitri Filipovic:
The Predators were trailing pretty much the entire time and they wound up playing Filip Forsberg 16:22 and Matt Duchene 15:41. They've been doing stuff like this all year with their forwards.
NHL coach galaxy brain when it comes to ice time continues. Just play your best players
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 28, 2020
I went and did some digging and the numbers since John Hynes has been hired are, quite frankly, embarrassing for Hynes.
The Hynes era in Nashville is only seven games old (eight after Wednesday night), but we got some clear indications about how he’s going to use his forwards. In those games, Rocco Grimaldi and Nick Bonino both played over a minute more per game than Filip Forsberg at 5-on-5. They also played about 20 seconds more per game at 5-on-5 than Viktor Arvidsson. Ryan Johansen, meanwhile, is playing nearly the same minutes per game at 5-on-5 (11:31) as Colin Blackwell (11:30), a 26-year old career minor leaguer with 22 NHL games to his name. I’m sure everyone will be shocked to find out that they have a losing record in that span (3-4-0), and those games included some bad teams (Chicago, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Anaheim, and Buffalo).
It’s worth noting that everyone’s ice time is declining; the Nashville forward with the most minutes in Hynes’ seven games is Mikael Granlund, and he’s not even playing 17:30 per game. The entire roster is being treated as though they’re all second liners and I don’t know what’s going on. This team is in last place in their division and Hynes is treating every game as if it’s Game 1 of exhibitions in September. Does he know they’re in a playoff race?
Hynes typically didn’t play his horses to McDavid levels in New Jersey, but last year, he did have four different forwards over 18 minutes a night and two over 19 minutes. It was a bit different this year as Taylor Hall was the only forward over 19 minutes a night. In fact, he was the only forward over 17:30 per night. Again, Hynes wasn’t a guy to give his top forwards a plethora of minutes, but this is extreme even for him.
It’s weird this is happening. As mentioned, they’re last in their division and this is a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender. You can rest players in March when you have an 11-point cushion with nine games remaining. You can’t rest players in January when you’re six points out of a playoff spot with three teams to jump.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to do here, fantasy-wise. Guys like Forsberg and Arvidsson obviously aren’t droppable, and someone like Duchene is a bit more of a question mark. Then again, if Forsberg is going to play 16:30 a game on a team with a bad power play, is it worth holding on to him? Would it be worth going out to see what he can fetch on the trade market? If he can be traded for a comparable top-50 or top-75 winger, I would have a hard time saying no right now. It’s just really difficult to have significant fantasy value playing 16:30 a night. (I would also say this is more for one-year leagues than keepers.)
Whether that 16:30 a night lasts is another question, too. My inclination is that Hynes continues this because he doesn’t know what else to do; there’s no real history of giving his top-end forwards a lot of minutes. This could be a brutal two months for anyone with Nashville players on their fantasy rosters.