Top 10 Players Who Need a Fresh Start
The postseason may have just begun, but NHL teams should already be looking ahead to next season to figure out what to do with their lineups.
This means trades and signing free agents. Of course, this impacts every fantasy owner in a keeper league. A player on the move affects the value of so many players. Think of how much more valuable Phil Kessel was once he was traded to Pittsburgh, and how much value was lost when he was dealt to Arizona.
There are plenty of players that need a new start and would see an immediate boost to their value.
Here are 10 players who will need a change of scenery for next season.
10. Morgan Rielly
This choice is more dependant on what happens this offseason. In the two seasons before this one, 47 per cent of Rielly's 124 points came on the man advantage. Then the team traded for Tyson Barrie. It took a while, but eventually, Rielly was no longer the team's power-play quarterback. From Dec. 3 until the season was cancelled, Rielly averaged 1:10 of power-play time per night. Although it was in only 19 games because of a fractured foot, it wasn't a good sign. In the same 19-game span, Barrie averaged 2:37 of power-play time per night. If Barrie re-signs with Toronto, the best thing for Rielly would be to go elsewhere as any PP TOI loss is a detriment to his value.
9. P.K. Subban
I think Subban needs to play in a city where there are plenty of media and fan pressure. Some players seem to thrive on that, and Subban may be one of them. After a couple of great seasons in Nashville (a trip to the finals and a Norris-trophy nomination), things have fallen off the rails for Subban the last two campaigns. This year, his first season with New Jersey, Subban had only 18 points in 68 games. He's not being used on the top power play and his shot rate is down. Maybe he's like a power forward where his play just drops around the age of 30, but I think he needs a place where he can be a media darling.
8. Sam Bennett
Remember when trading fourth overall pick Dylan Strome worked out pretty well for Chicago and fantasy GMs? I'm wondering if the same might happen for Bennett. I don't believe he will live up to his lofty draft status and become a 70-point guy, but in the right situation, 40-50 should be possible. Remember, Bennett was going first overall in some mock drafts in 2014 before slipping to fourth. Now, Bennett is a player who has seen his average ice time decrease each season, and he's seen his power-play time drop as well. It's no surprise that he only had 12 points in 52 games (a 19-point pace over 82 games).
Lundqvist has already lost his starter's job, and will get even less starts next season. Even though he carries a high cap hit, it may not be that tough to find a new home. As the contract was front-loaded, he's only owed $4.5 million next season (some web sites will say $5.5 million, but a $1-million signing bonus was already paid out on July 1). This is perfect for teams who use contracts like this to get to the cap floor. Maybe a team like Ottawa or Detroit would be willing to take a shot for a year of Lundqvist and hope he can regain his old form with a new squad. Some of his numbers might suffer, but he would have a better chance at starts, wins and saves playing 60-65 games on one of these poorer squads instead of 25 starts with the Rangers.
Johansen is one of those players that may be happy where he is, but from a selfish fantasy perspective, it would probably be better if he were elsewhere. Years ago, Johansen had a 70-point season for Columbus before he was dealt to Nashville, where offense goes to die (no one has reached 70 points with the Preds since 2007-08). He's hovered around 60 points for most of his tenure with the Preds, but this season had only 36 points in 68 games (a 43-point pace).
5. Josh Ho-Sang
It still amazes me that Ho-Sang can't get a steady gig in the NHL. He's asked to be moved to a new team, a request that was granted this season, but not how he envisioned. The Islanders sent Ho-Sang to the Blues' AHL affiliate in February to keep him away from New York's AHL team. I'm wondering if the level of interest in Ho-Sang from other teams might change in the offseason. With so many teams having potential cap issues next season, they may be looking for cheaper talent to round out their rosters. Someone like the 24-year-old Ho-Sang, an RFA this season, could be a good option. Regardless, it's clear that he won't make the Islanders roster and the only chance he has of playing in the NHL is in another city.
4. Ryan Donato
It looked promising heading into the season, but Donato fell into the Minnesota trap of playing veterans much more than youth. After a mid-season trade to Minny a season ago, Donato was averaging 15:33 of ice time plus power-play time, which helped him notch 16 points in 22 games. This year, his ice time dropped to 10:38 per night, and he wound up with 23 points in 62 games, a 30-point pace. In case you were wondering, switching to a new coach didn't change his ice time at all.
Remember when Columbus shocked everyone by drafting Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall instead of Puljujarvi in 2016? That's turned out exceptionally well for Columbus. Having Puljujarvi on a list such as this one is such a slam dunk, I almost feel bad including it. But if he were on almost any other team, he'd be in the NHL right now. At the start of his NHL career, he didn't get much ice time and mostly in a bottom-six role. He demanded a trade and went to play in Finland, where he had 53 points in 56 games this year.
I'd be shocked if he re-signs in Nashville, but we've seen players do stranger things before. For now, it's a good thing Granlund is an unrestricted free agent this summer, because his time in Nashville has been horrendous. After five points in 16 games following a mid-season trade a year ago, Granlund had only 30 points in 63 games for Nashville this year. That's 35 points in 79 games for the Preds. By comparison, he had 49 points in 63 games (a 64-point pace) with Minnesota before the trade, which was preceded by 67- and 69-point seasons. He just needs a fresh start somewhere, anywhere.
Ghost is a pure offensive talent that needs to play with elite players, have plenty of offensive zone starts and top power-play minutes. He is only getting offensive zone starts right now, and that's when he plays (he was a healthy scratch in the Flyers' playoff game on Sunday afternoon). The 27-year-old's ice time is down a minute-and-a-half per night from a season ago and three minutes per night from two seasons ago. His power-play ice time is down a minute per game and he's lost the top power-play role to Ivan Provorov. At five-on-five, the four players he was on the ice with the most were Robert Hagg, Kevin Hayes, Justin Braun and James Van Riemsdyk. That's a significant drop in quality from last year, when his top four were Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier. Gostisbehere needs to go to a squad where he can slot into a sheltered, but an offensive-based role.
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