Top 10 Interesting 2020 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents
Now that the NHL will soon be starting back up again, many fantasy leagues are also getting back underway.
I'm in a cap league with 23 other Dobber forum members. Each team has $100 million to spend on 25 players (plus 15 prospects that don't count against the cap while they are in the minors). The league just held its draft lottery on Friday night, and we are opening trading on July 1.
I've heard of other leagues doing the same. There's been some debate that the NHL may see a decrease in the salary cap next year. As some fantasy leagues are tied to the NHL cap, some fantasy squads may find it difficult to balance the cap next. That means fantasy general managers need to be aware of pending free agents as it should be affecting trade talks.
Here are the top 10 most interesting unrestricted free agents for this offseason.
10. Anton Khudobin
Khudobin's impact isn't so much on his own game, but on the top netminder where ever Khudobin winds up. Having a quality backup in Boston allows Tuukka Rask plenty of rest, for example. Rask has played 57 per cent of the team's games the past two years combined. Inadequate backups in Montreal has forced Carey Price to play 81 per cent of the Habs' games the last two seasons. That's the type of impact a great backup can have on a squad, and Khudobin should be in the conversation as best backup in the league. He's started at least 30 games for the past three years, and has seen his save percentage increase in each of the past four years.
Schultz has shown flashes of brilliance in Pittsburgh, posting 51 points, 20 power-play points and 116 blocked shots with the Penguins back in 2016-17, when Kris Letang was out 41 games with injuries. Since then, Schultz has still been getting the ice time, but has also battled injuries, missing 19, 53 and 23 games in each of the past three seasons. Will a general manager want to take a risk that Schultz could back to 50 points on a new team? Probably.
I've always believed that Dadonov was underrated in points-only pools, as he scored at a 70-point pace in back-to-back seasons. This year, he was underwhelming, notching only 47 points in 69 games (a 56-point pace). Dadonov has spent a copious amount of time with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in the last three years, so we know he can keep up with elite players. He has 47 power-play points over the last three seasons, the same as Kyle Connor and Bo Horvat, and more than Jonathan Marchessault, Matt Duchene, Sean Couturier and Jonathan Toews.
Maybe it's the Hab fan in me talking, but I wonder if Galchenyuk can be next season's Anthony Duclair. Considering how much he bounced around the lineup in Montreal, Galchenyuk was pretty productive, with a 30-goal season and two 50-point seasons (plus an injured campaign where he put up a 59-point pace). He struggled somewhat in Arizona, and a trade to Pittsburgh seemed to hamper him even more. However, he did find a little bit of his groove again in Minnesota, with seven points in his final 11 games. He's going to need to find a spot where he can get the perfect opportunity, but he could be a surprise for next season.
If Granlund had signed last summer, he would have made significantly more money, even after the disastrous trade to Nashville. After back-to-back almost 70-point seasons with Minnesota, he had 49 points in 63 games last year before the trade. He then had five points in 16 games with Nashville, but many were willing to overlook that downturn. His wife gave birth to their first child the day of the trade, and he was moving to a new city, so some struggles weren't uncommon. However, this season was also disastrous, as he racked up only 30 points in 63 games (a 39-point pace). He was ineffective on the power play and his shot rate was his lowest in four years.
5. Robin Lehner
With the potential hardships for the salary cap next season, Lehner could be forced into another one-year show-me contract. He's been above average for four of the past five seasons, but was stuck playing behind Buffalo for three years and Chicago for most of this season, so his excellence may be hidden somewhat behind bad defenses. There won't be a lot of teams looking for a starting goalie, but he would be an upgrade over current goalies in cities such as San Jose or Detroit.
Toffoli was a bit of a dud in L.A., reaching 50 points only once in six full seasons there. However, a trade to Vancouver rejuvenated his career, and even though the 10 games in a Canucks uniform is a small sample size, it may have been enough to score a much-larger payday this offseason. While playing on the top line and the top power-play unit, Toffoli had six goals and 10 points while seeing almost a two-minute-per-game increase in average ice time from his time with the Kings. Someone is going to look at those 10 games, and come to the conclusion that Toffoli was mismanaged in L.A.
Markstrom will be probably be re-signed by the Canucks, but there's always a chance he goes somewhere else. Truthfully, I think Markstrom is a little overrated. I know supporters like to point to his quality starts statistic that shows that in the last two seasons combined, he's ranked fifth in the number of games with a save percentage over .900. However, the last time I checked, quality starts isn't a fantasy category. The ones that do count (wins, losses, saves, shutouts), he's just not that proficient in compared to other number-one netminders.
Goalies are always going to be a tough sell. It's a pretty fickle position, with a different group of netminders seemingly challenging as the league's best each season. Last year, we saw Sergei Bobrovsky cash in on two Vezina trophies and little postseason success. This year, we'll see what one Vezina trophy and a Stanley Cup is worth. Holtby has been below average the past three years, averaging close to a 3.00 goals against average in that time and lost his starting job at one point. This year, his save percentage dipped below .900.
1. Taylor Hall
Earlier this year, there were rumours that Hall's upcoming contract could set a new bar for wingers, but that seems less likely now. Looking more closely at his numbers, Hall has really only strung together a year-and-a-half of elite hockey. The oft-injured forward broke 55 points twice in his first seven years. Then he had 93 points in 76 games, dragging the Devils to the playoffs and winning the Hart trophy in the meantime. He followed that up with 37 points in 33 games before missing the rest of the season with a knee injury. This year, he was back to a more pedestrian 52 points in 65 games. Someone will still overpay for him, but I'd be extremely worried that the 93-point season is a huge anomaly in his career.
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