Ramblings: Biggest July 1, 2019 Signings… One Year Later (July 5)
As you know, July 1 this year was much more understated for us than it has been in previous years. We had socially distant Canada Day celebrations with no Free Agent Frenzy broadcasts on TSN, Sportsnet, or the NHL Network. So maybe this is a good time to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the biggest signings of July 1 last year and how they've worked out for the various teams thus far. Teams are usually spending out of control that day, and the majority of signings don't provide great value. Yet some signings can work out for teams, no matter what the price.
Rather than focus on the dollar amount of the deal, I'll look at whether the player's fantasy value has increased or decreased with the move.
Artemi Panarin (Cap Hit: $11,642,857) – Increased
Panarin was the big fish on July 1, and he did not disappoint. In just 69 games, he racked up 95 points, which was good for fourth in league scoring. That would have put him on pace for 113 points over a full 82-game season. Only Connor McDavid has a higher cap hit at the moment, so there wasn't a whole lot of room for error for Panarin here. Still, 2019-20 turned out to his best season, and his point totals have only improved from Chicago to Columbus to New York.
Panarin will have a tough act to follow, given the kind of season that he had. Keep in mind that his 12.2 5-on-5 SH% and 1054 PDO are slightly higher than normal, so a bit of regression should be expected here. Yet on an up-and-coming Rangers squad, he is primed to do more damage. Could a big-ticket free agent actually be worth the money? So far, he's been a major hit on Broadway.
Sergei Bobrovsky (Cap Hit: $10,000,000) – Decreased
Dobber left the less-than-ideal July 1 signings for me to take care of, starting with this one. That's no problem, because it gives me something to write about today.
Using what looks like a cut-and-paste line today, I said that Bob would immediately upgrade the Panthers' goaltending. Ummm… Bob posted a mediocre 3.23 GAA and .900 SV% with just one shutout in 50 starts, meaning that he probably hurt your fantasy team more than he helped it. That's not exactly an upgrade. Among the 52 goalies who appeared in at least 25 games, only five goalies had a lower quality start percentage than Bobrovsky (42.0%). He appeared to be a product of the defensive-minded system in Columbus more than anything.
The good news is that there's only six years left on his contract. No wait, let me try that again. The good news is that there's always next season. That may seem cliched, but his two quality starts over his last three games (2.29 GAA, 0.926 SV%) could give him a sliver to build on for next season, as could strong play in the play-in tournament. In addition, he'll be super cheap in fantasy drafts next season. Keep in mind that his two Vezina Trophy-winning seasons both followed relatively subpar seasons, so a rebound wouldn't be unprecedented.
Matt Duchene (Cap Hit: $8,000,000) – Decreased
Duchene was the third Blue Jackets player to leave Columbus for the bigger payday on July 1. As much as Duchene might enjoy playing for Nashville and the local music scene, this move hasn't helped either the player or the team so far.
Duchene scored just 42 points in 66 games, which would have put him on pace for just over 52 points over a full season. If that's the cost for a free agent, $8 million sure doesn't buy what it used to. What's more, he fell from 31 goals split between Ottawa and Columbus in 2018-19 to just 13 in his first season with the Predators. That put Duchene at under 0.2 goals per game, which put him ninth among Nashville regulars this past season. We're not talking about a high-scoring team either, as no Predators forward finished with at least 50 points this season.
Duchene also has six more seasons left on his contract, which at this point doesn't look like it will age well. I'll pat myself on the back because I didn't believe that this signing would help Duchene's fantasy value. The decreased goal total did come as a result of a lower-than-normal overall shooting percentage (9.6 SH%), so a return to 20 goals is a possibility. Having said that, Duchene will need to improve on his shot total, which was just 136 this past season and has been under 200 for each of his past four seasons.
Joe Pavelski (Cap Hit: $7,000,000) – Decreased
Also writing on this one, I had an inkling that Pavelski wouldn't be as successful in Big D as he was in San Jose. I just didn't think he'd fall as much as he did. Some regression should have been expected after 2018-19, when Pavelski scored 38 goals while taking under 200 shots (20.2 SH%). His goal total was cut in half (14 goals in 67 games), while over 82 games he was on pace for under 40 points.
I described Dallas as a one-line team prior to the Pavelski signing. Yet instead of improving its scoring, Dallas regressed to a bottom-third offense with only one player (Tyler Seguin) reaching at least 40 points. This lack of scoring didn't seem to hurt the Stars that much, as a defense-first system has pushed them into a round-of-16 playoff spot.
Like Duchene, Pavelski might have had a bit of bad luck in his first season with a new team. His 1.6 PTS/60 and 50 IPP were slightly lower than expected, and some better line combinations might help him rebound a bit. However, Pavelski is now 35 years old and on a less offensive-minded team than the Sharks, so bet the under on 30 goals and 60 points going forward.
Below are the picks that have been made thus far from the playoff draft I'm participating in. You can follow along at this thread in the Forum. As I mentioned yesterday, max one player per team for a total of 24 picks. That works out to 10 players being picked per NHL team, so this should be fairly deep for a playoff draft.
- Nathan MacKinnon – Avalanche
- Nikita Kucherov – Lightning
- David Pastrnak – Bruins
- Connor McDavid – Oilers
- Leon Draisaitl – Oilers (my pick)
- Brad Marchand – Bruins
- Sidney Crosby – Penguins
- Patrice Bergeron – Bruins
- Brayden Point – Lightning
- Steven Stamkos – Lightning
- Alexander Ovechkin – Capitals
- Auston Matthews – Maple Leafs
- Evgeni Malkin – Penguins
- Mikko Rantanen – Avalanche
- Gabriel Landeskog – Avalanche
- Mark Stone – Golden Knights (my pick)
- Mitch Marner – Maple Leafs
- John Carlson – Capitals
- Nicklas Backstrom – Capitals
- Jake Guentzel – Penguins
- Victor Hedman – Lightning
- Bruins Goaltenders
- Ryan O’Reilly – Blues
- Lightning Goaltenders
- Artemi Panarin – Rangers (my pick)
- Claude Giroux – Flyers
- Blues Goaltenders
- Max Pacioretty – Golden Knights
- Brayden Schenn – Blues
- Cale Makar – Avalanche
- Torey Krug – Bruins
- Mark Scheifele – Jets
- Tyler Seguin – Stars
- Sebastian Aho – Hurricanes
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – Capitals
- Vladimir Tarasenko – Blues (my pick)
7-10 – TBA at time of writing
Here are the picks I made and my thought process for making the picks:
See yesterday's Ramblings.
I was very interested in Panarin at this point, but that would mean my first two players would be from play-in teams. I'm not 100% sure if Fantrax will count points from the round-robin tournament for bye teams, but it seems promising that they will accommodate. No Vegas players had been picked yet, and their leading regular-season scorers were Pacioretty and Stone. Both were similar in points this season, so the tiebreaker was playoff points. Stone has 25 points in 34 career playoff games, while Patches has 30 points in 45 career playoff games, which are very similar. I think I have just a bit more faith in Stone during the playoffs, so I went with him. Pacioretty was picked in the next round.
I'm not overly concerned about my first two picks playing in the same division. After all, the playoff setup will be by conference, not division, so the conference finalists could be from the same division. In the end, my final roster will have 12 players from each conference. This playoff pool has a little bit of NFL survivor pool to it.
Hey, Panarin is still there! I see that goalies are starting to come off the board, although at this point I'm still after top scorers. The Rangers might not be an Eastern Conference power (yet), but Panarin is too good a player to pass up on at this point in the event that the Rangers make a run. I wrote a bunch of stuff on Panarin above, so it's entirely possible that he was on my mind while I was making my selections.
At this point, the top goal scorer and arguably strongest offensive force on the defending Stanley Cup champions was too tempting to pass up on. Every player should be fresh for the play-in tournament, but none more so than Tarasenko, who was set to return from IR (shoulder) not long after the season was paused. At this point, the downside might be rust, as Tarasenko has not played in a game since October 24. He will have the benefit of round-robin games to get settled in, though.
Oh look, we have a mock draft! Even if it's only eight picks. Dave Hall provided it for you in the latest The Journey, where he considers both team needs and best player available for each team.
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