Playoff goalies, Denisenko signs, Puljujarvi news, who to take second overall in cap league draft (July 16)

Tom Collins

2020-07-16

Editor’s note: This week we have two pinch-hitters for the Ramblings. Rick Roos subbed in with a beauty on Monday (read it here). Today, Tom Collins steps up to the plate…

The last time I wrote a rambling, Alexander Ovechkin scored his 700th goal and emergency backup netminder David Ayres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, which helped make this Twitter feed a must-read:

Even though there aren't games at the moment, there is still plenty of hockey news, so let's get to it.

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The NHL announced on Tuesday that all 24 postseason teams will play an exhibition game from July 28-30 before the postseason begins. To get more into the action, the NHL tried to schedule as many rivalry games as possible (Pittsburgh plays Philadelphia, Toronto plays Montreal, Edmonton plays Calgary, the Islanders play the Rangers, etc.).

While the exhibition games won't count for stats, it will be a good chance for both the players and the fans to get used to games inside empty arenas.

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According to NHL.com, Marc-Andre Fleury missed his third straight day at training camp on Wednesday. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer wouldn't give a reason except to say it had nothing to do with a positive COVID-19 test.

Probably the bigger story was this quote from DeBoer in the same story: "We have two starting goalies (Fleury and Robin Lehner) and we’re going to play them both."

As Vegas has a three-game round robin before the playoffs start, this could be considered a tryout to see who will be the main guy once the playoffs begin. Fleury has struggled this year while Lehner was excellent in three games for Vegas.

The Golden Knights aren't the only team that still has to decide on a starting netminder for the postseason. At least six other teams (Calgary, Columbus, Colorado, Minnesota, the Rangers and the Islanders) don't have a clear-cut number one. Whoever can take the postseason job could carry that momentum into the 2020-21 regular season begins.

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The Florida Panthers signed Grigori Denisenko to a three-year entry-level contract on Wednesday. The former first-round pick from 2018 has the ability to step into a top-six role next year, especially if Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov aren't re-signed. Denisenko has all the tools to be a stud and should be drafted in keeper pools.

As well, Chicago Blackhawks prospect defenseman Ian Mitchell signed a three-year entry-level deal.

Both prospects are featured in DobberHockey's 2020 Fantasy Prospect Report. The report has more than 450 profiles on NHL-drafted prospects, plus another 100 profiles on potential 2020 draft picks. I keep the guide open on my laptop, and anytime there's news on a prospect or if I am sent a trade offer involving prospects in one of my keeper pools, it's the first place I turn to. The report is an excellent resource and can be ordered here.

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With the talk about a flat cap at $81.5 million for the next few seasons, I'm thinking we may see an influx of rookies and young players over the next couple of years as teams will be looking for cheap players to round out their roster. Instead of signing fourth-line grinders, it may make more sense to dress those young players instead.

Cam Robinson was sort of mentioning this theme in Wednesday's rambling, although he was specifically talking about the postseason. He wrote "The youth factor cannot be overstated in this bizarre world we're living in. The young kids maintain their fitness easier. They're less likely to pull groins, hamstrings, or abdominal walls. They're bouncy and full of unbridled enthusiasm. They haven't been burdened with all of life's bumps in the road."

I think that is going to apply to the next couple of regular seasons as well. There are numerous teams in salary cap purgatory right now. The Lightning, for example, have only $5.3 million in cap space for next season and have to resign Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and about three other forwards and three other defensemen. Even if the team could trade or buy out a couple of the bigger contracts, they would still need players to plug into the lineup.

Maybe Tampa would be better off next season to dress guys like Cal Foote, Alex Barre-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh and others instead of re-signing Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian to contracts under $1.5 million. Next season, which is expected to begin in December, may not have an All-Star break or designated bye weeks. So as Cam mentions, the fitness of the young players may be more of an advantage than in other years, plus the teams save a few dollars in cap space.

There would also be no concern over losing these guys to expansion as first- and second-year players are exempt.

I normally say that the key to winning fantasy leagues is to grab older players for a cheaper price while everyone is overpaying for youth, but I think the next few seasons might see the reverse of that.

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In other news from Tuesday, the NHL announced the nominees for two of its awards. With all respect to Alan Vigneault and Bruce Cassidy, there's no way John Tortorella doesn't win the Jack Adams award. Last summer, the team lost elite stud Artemi Panarin and two-time Vezina-trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. This season, the Blue Jackets battled numerous injuries, losing their best goal scorer (Oliver Bjorkstrand) for 21 games, their best defenseman (Seth Jones) for 14 games, their second-best defenseman (Zach Werenski) for seven games, former 40-goal scorer (Cam Atkinson) for 26 games, and their number one netminder (Joonas Korpisalo). Yet, they were still battling for a playoff spot. Simply amazing.

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The Calder race will be much closer, with Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Dominik Kubalik nominated. This is a much closer race than the Jack Adams, but I like Makar to take home the hardware.

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Mikhail Grigorenko has finally been signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets. This may sound like a repeat of news from April, but the NHL league office voided the contract at the time as Grigorenko wasn't eligible to be signed until free agency kicked off on July 1. The two sides waited until this week to make it official.

Dobber originally broke down the trade when it happened (read it here), but to summarize, this is a great opportunity for Grigorenko. After a couple of excellent campaigns in the KHL, the 26-year-old could get the chance to be a top-six forward in Columbus next season. I'd be looking to draft him in one-year leagues next year if he drops far enough. It's a low-risk option. If he struggles, it's an easy drop and no harm done. If he succeeds, then it's excellent value for a low draft pick.

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According to a report on Twitter, Jesse Puljujarvi has rejected an offer to play in the KHL next season. Instead, the report said he will only play in Finland or the NHL. The 2016 fourth-overall pick had 53 points in 56 games in Liiga play this year.

Puljujarvi is reminding me of the aforementioned Grigorenko. Drafted high, rushed to the NHL only to be put in a position that makes it difficult for a young player to succeed (less than 12 minutes a night with Milan Lucic and Jujhar Khaira). He needs a fresh start, even if it is some type of hatchet-burying with the Oilers. If not, he could spend another year or two overseas before he gets back to the NHL.

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On Monday, I ran a list of the top 10 worst players when it comes to giveaways vs takeaways. By assigning each giveaway a minus-one, and each takeaway a plus-one, we can look at a player’s net total to see if he's better at giving away the puck or getting it back.

Over the past three seasons, Ryan O'Reilly had the best net positive with 134 more takeaways than giveaways. Mark Stone was second with a net of 102 but led the league with 258 takeaways. The rest of the top 10 had a couple of surprises. Jacob Slavin is the top defenseman with 95 more takeaways than giveaways, while Nick Schmaltz had 90.

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One of the most interesting topics I've seen on the forums in quite some time is what to do with the second overall pick in a brand-new dynasty cap league. Forum user jtloveshack had the second overall pick in a brand-new dynasty (categories were goals, assists, shots, special teams points, hits, blocked shots, faceoff percentage and PIM where the team with the most PIM loses the category).

The 16-team league's cap hit matches the current NHL cap hit of $81.5 million.

Leon Draisaitl went first overall in the draft, and jtloveshack grabbed Nathan MacKinnon at number two.

The debate became whether Connor McDavid is worth a first- or second-overall pick in a dynasty cap league. I'm not sure how far down Connor McDavid fell, but I would have easily grabbed him at number one. While many argue that McDavid at $12.5 million isn't twice the player that MacKinnon is at $6.3 million, there's more to it than that.

To start, I love the certainty of McDavid's contract. It's $12.5 million for six more years. MacKinnon is signed for three more years, and at that point in an unrestricted free agent, so he could be making more than McDavid in a few years. However, some fantasy general managers don't want to look so far down the road, and I can understand that.

For me, I also love consistent McDavid is. Each year, there's a new face challenging McDavid for the scoring lead. Leon Draisaitl this year, Nikita Kucherov last year, Claude Giroux the year before, and Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane the year before that. Yet, McDavid is always there in the top two. You want that kind of reliability with your big-money players.

Finally, owning McDavid gives you huge trade value if needed. If the McDavid owner finds he does need to rebuild sooner than anticipated or does need to create cap space, he will be able to get more for McDavid than any other player.

For the curious, capped column writer Alex MacLean, disagrees with me and says he wouldn't draft McDavid first or second in a cap league.

Feel free to chime in on the forums here.

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Speaking of the forums, Dobberites have already completed one playoff hockey draft, and are working through a second. We're still in the early stages for the second one, but it's a good opportunity to get a sense of what people are thinking before you do your playoff draft.

Ian Gooding has talked about the first pool throughout his ramblings over the last little while. It was a little different as you could only choose one player from each team.

The second pool is still in the early rounds, but it's already reminded me how flexible one needs to be at the draft table. With the eighth overall pick in a 13-team draft, I planned to select players from St. Louis. However, Ryan O'Reilly was grabbed seventh overall, so I quickly switched targets and went with the Vegas Golden Knights.

My strategy for this pool was to stay away from play-in teams for the first few rounds. The top four teams in each conference play a round-robin before actually starting the playoffs, so it's almost like three bonus games for those teams.

There were five Penguins taken in the first four rounds, but if they are eliminated during the play-in, that is going to hurt those fantasy squads. You're guaranteed at least seven games from the round-robin teams (three in the round-robin and four in the next round), instead of only a guarantee of a minimum of three games for play-in teams.

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For those who are in playoff pools, it was revealed Wednesday that Lars Eller will play for the Capitals against the Tamps Bay Lightning in the play-in round, for a couple of games at least. According to TSN, Eller's wife is due with the couple's second child on Aug. 8. The plan is for him to leave to be with his wife for the birth of his child and then get back to Toronto for the series. However, he will then have to quarantine in his hotel room until he has four consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, or 14 days if he comes into contact with someone else who tests positive for the disease. So he could wind up missing a few games.

Eller is normally a sneaky good pick in postseason pools. He had 18 points in 24 games when the Caps won the Cup a couple of years back, and 13 points in 17 games for Montreal during their run to the semis in 2014.

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Thanks for reading.

Check out the Rick Roos Ramblings from Monday here.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
BRAYDEN POINT T.B 5 5 3 8
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 5 1 7 8
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 8 3 6 9
ONDREJ PALAT T.B 5 3 2 5
JOE PAVELSKI DAL 5 4 1 5
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 8 1 7 8
MIRO HEISKANEN DAL 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency PIT Players
23.6% PATRIC HORNQVIST EVGENI MALKIN JASON ZUCKER
16.3% ZACH ASTON-REESE TEDDY BLUEGER BRANDON TANEV
15.9% SIDNEY CROSBY JAKE GUENTZEL BRYAN RUST

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