Capped: Step-by-step process when joining a new league

Alexander MacLean


Building on the feedback from last week's article where I introduced the topic about things to be aware of when joining a salary cap league, this week I am going to dive a little deeper into specifics, including some of my own thoughts/numbers from joining an existing salary cap league last month. I'm going to cover what I looked at when I joined the league, how I evaluated the roster that I took over, and what the planning looked like for how I would move forward.



League Details

The team I took over finished third last in a 24-team league last season, though it has a solid combination of currently productive players, a few blue-chip prospects (mostly on defence), and some depth players that I won't be sad to see moved out. The goaltending is weak, but almost all of the team's picks are still owned, so the stocked cupboard will provide a solid foundation. The league keeps 30 players every summer across the pro and minors league rosters of 40 total players, and holds separate five round drafts for prospects and veterans. The salary cap is currently at $100 million, and will start to rise relative to the NHL cap once the NHL cap surpasses $92 million.

The scoring settings cover the usual goals, assists, powerplay points, wins, and goals against, but also included are smaller values for every hit, block, save, faceoff win (centres only), and others. The total score of each team for each week decides the singular 'win' for the week. The top eight teams at the end of the fantasy regular season enter the championship bracket, while the other 16 enter two consolation brackets vying for a consolation title that awards a slight upgrade in draft pick positioning.

I carefully read through the league rules twice before moving on to any further thoughts about the team and the league. Based on the positional requirements, scoring settings, and other smaller details, I was able to start forming my own opinions on what I would value in this league, and where I might be able to find some hidden productive gems.



Initial Roster Evaluation

Taking over a team, before engaging in any trade talks evaluating your own squad is a must, and then from there you can work out where you want to go. Whenever I am looking at player values, I try to consider how I view the player versus how the rest of the league will view a player. The ones where I view a player higher than the average, I generally tend to have on my team longer, while the ones that I view as having inflated values compared to their expected production, I look to move as soon as possible. No one should be untouchable, but of course there are players that no one will be willing to pay your price for. It all sounds simple, but simplest approaches are often the best ones.

I also had to sort out how the league viewed player values. The key questions I focus on in the beginning are:

  • -Is an equivalent scoring goalie more valuable than a forward? How about a defenceman?
  • -How do picks and prospects compare to active players in trades?
  • -What kind of production vs cap hit is valuable, and what isn't (i.e. is Jonathan Toews overpaid or valuable)?
  • -Is there an age at which the value of players sharply declines in the eyes of the other managers?

The obvious next step was then to review the league trade history. One of the other GMs was kind enough to export the league trade history into a google doc for me, and from there I was able to put some values into the questions above. With that starting to take shape, it was time to start checking out what was available around the league. From there, I had to determine what players I was going to target, and for that I needed a plan.



The Plan

Since all of the stats are assigned value, it makes planning a lot easier (i.e. goals and assists are worth one point, while hits and shots are worth 0.05 points each). Knowing that the ideal spot to be is within the top eight teams (to vie for the championship trophy), I worked backward for how to get there by starting with last season's standings. The top eight scoring teams in the league each had 1250 points or more, however due to some matchup luck one of those teams missed the playoffs with another team making it in with only 1210 points. My team finished with 880 points on the year last season, so there was some work to do to get up to the minimum of 1210 points – with an aim at 1250+. I am realistic that it may not happen next year, but the plan is that my team will be there no later than the 2021-2022 season, as I know with a good group of GMs like in this league, moving up won't be a cake walk.

How then do I get my team's production to 1250 points? Well, simply I need to bring in players that I predict will score more than the ones I move out, and keep working until I can project for at least 1300 total points (as points will be left on the bench due to full schedules, etc.). I didn't want to estimate all of the players' stats out to find their exact scores, and an approximation would be enough for now. What I did was download a large sample of the player pool from last season's Fantrax numbers into Excel, and divided their number of points in our scoring format by the total goals and assists of each player. This gave me a ~1.5 value, which means that as an example, a 60-point player will score about 90 points (1.5 x 60) in our setup. I was comfortable enough ballparking players for their scoring production next season, and with a few extra formulas in excel, this was able to give me a point projection total for all of the players. Goalies I am less comfortable projecting, and so I used a conservative 50-point estimate for the two goalies I am planning to keep. I also had to account for the fact that this is all for the fantasy regular season, which is about 23 of the 26 weeks of the NHL season.

With a few moves being discussed and penciled in, my team could be up to about 1070 total points on the season without having to weaken my prospect team or my draft pick cupboard. At this stage I will also only be spending about $70 million of the $100 million salary cap, so there is plenty of room to take advantage of some teams looking to shed salary as the start of the season moves closer.



Making Trades

Knowing that my needs were skater depth and goaltending, I put some of my bigger names on the market first to see if I could bring back a similar player plus as added depth player in return. John Klingberg and Tomas Hertl were my two biggest names. I received a lot of interest in both off the bat, but the offers for Hertl just weren't quite where I needed them to be. My evaluation of him versus how the rest of the league was offering has thus far not been enough to get me to flinch. Klingberg on the other hand has a lot of value, and the offers I received for him were more to my taste. It seems likely that he will be traded soon after our league trading opens on July 1st, while Hertl may be on my team when the 2020-2021 season starts up. Being flexible with who gets moved out is going to allow me to keep the most value. Just because I don't like a player doesn't mean I need to move them out right away.

I am using a few different tools to find depth players to target, including my Top 200 Cap League Skaters ranking and the Frozen Tools Breakout Threshold report. From there, it just comes down to which players are put on the trade block in your league, and who you can acquire for similar pieces that you are willing to move.



If you have any article topics you are hoping to read about, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.

And stay safe!



Previous Capped articles:

What to Focus on When Joining a New Cap League

Pending Free Agents Needing to Re-Establish Value



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