Capped: Observations and notes on recent Draft and free agent news
We're back with the "first round" of the playoffs in August, and we have the 23rd and 24th overall regular season teams playing games. We saw the fourth-longest game in NHL history on Tuesday night, prompting morning hockey on Wednesday. And, most shockingly, the Edmonton Oilers didn't win a draft lottery. There's a lot that has happened of late that we didn't expect. Let's take a look at some of the happenings and see if there are any nuggets of information we can at least use moving forward.
The draft lottery continues to (obviously) be unpredictable, though it does seem to really dislike bad teams. For the New York Rangers being a rebuilding team on the upswing, Alex Lafreniere the first overall selection could step right into a lineup with a lot of firepower, but room in the top six. Ottawa, Detroit, and most of the other bottom teams don't have nearly that amount of offensive support, making the player taken first overall that much more valuable immediately in your fantasy leagues. The rest of the Rangers shouldn't see any notable decrease in opportunity except for maybe Kaapo Kakko getting a little less leash next year if he doesn't continue the progress he showed in the play-in matches.
The Free Agents
In my article a few weeks ago I touched on some free agents that had to show up in the playoffs to regain their value for contract negotiations. Three of those players are already out after disappointing showings. Craig Smith might be back with Nashville at a discount (or the same AAV as his last contract). Tyson Barrie won't receive the $8 million AAV he was looking for last summer, but being a right-handed defenceman he should have some bidders that keep his price tag from dropping too much. The third player that struggled is Mikael Granlund, and he is a real wildcard. Having played centre and wing, while pacing for 70-point seasons twice in his prime, the former Predators and Wild forward desperately needs a change of scenery.
The recent signings that I'll touch on later have generally been either right on the projected numbers I have, or low. I think we see a lot of that moving through the offseason. If you can pick up a few players that are middle-to-low-end free agents this summer, then you could come away with a few bargain contracts falling into your lap.
The Young Players
The time off between the pause in March and the beginning of the play-in round in August was the equivalent of a full offseason for a team that made it a few rounds into the playoffs. That means for some of these rookies or second-year players, this is a new season where we would expect to see development. I profiled last week that the sophomore slump isn't all that prevalent, so it makes sense that we have seen solid performances thus far from the youngsters.
Players including Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Kaapo Kakko, Quinn Hughes, Alex Texier, and others have all impressed, and we can look for them to carry that through to the start of the 20-21 season. It's uncertain as to how these players will be impacted by this playoff period almost acting like another season of development between the 20-21 and 21-22 seasons.
On the flip side, does this mean that there might be some stagnation in the development of youngsters on the non-playoff teams? Jack Hughes, Rasmus Dahlin, Troy Terry, and others could come out of the gate slowly after not stepping on NHL game ice for almost a year. They wouldn't be alone on their teams, but they also wouldn't have the same level of experience, and will have likely been bulking up in the offseason, perhaps to the level of slowing themselves down by adding too much weight without getting used to it in a real game. Something to watch for, and perhaps buy-low on later into the next NHL season.
Jacob Larsson (D) – Anaheim Ducks
New Cap Hit: $1,200,000 – Expires in 2022
Larsson may not move the needle in a lot of leagues, but in most larger cap leagues he is owned due to the fact that general managers like to fill out their defenceman slots with cheap players so they can pay up for some expensive stars. I know I own him in one league for that exact reason. This $1.2 million AAV is exactly what the doctor ordered for both Larsson and the Ducks. For Larsson it bridges the gap to when he can earn top-four defenceman money with a (slightly) rising cap, and for the Ducks it keeps their defensive depth in place while keeping the cap clear for the Ducks to take on another salary dump or two in their continued effort to re-tool.
Solid value bridge deal for the ducks. He’s worth a $2.3M AAV in my model.
However, if I tweaked a few of the numbers for him he would drop to $1.375M, so it’s not a huge underpay. https://t.co/DWCpTEQGPv
— Alex MacLean (@alexdmaclean) August 6, 2020
Anders Bjork (LW) – Boston Bruins
New Cap Hit: $1,600,000 – Expires in 2023
Raise your hand if you knew Anders Bjork had over 100 games of NHL experience. Until writing this article, you could count me among those who did not raise a hand. Bjork was a decently touted prospect for the Bruins, but he has yet to show much and quietly stagnated. This contract gives him some rope with a Bruins team that will need a few of their youngsters to grab spots in the lineup. Bjork has some offensive tools, and by 2022 could be on the verge of a breakout (that's around when he hits the 200-game threshold). If your league has a minor league system that you can use to stash Bjork for another 50 games or so, then you can reap the rewards of a second line scoring winger who is probably right now sitting on your league's waiver wire.
Sonny Milano (RW) – Anaheim Ducks
New Cap Hit: $1,700,000 – Expires in 2022
The Ducks also signed Milano to a two-year bridge deal, and with only five roster players of note signed beyond 2022, it appears that that may be the year they are targeting as their turnaround date. That means this is a two-year trial run for Milano, and likely his last shot to show he belongs on a scoring line in the NHL. As a late round flier in deeper leagues, he gives you some boom/bust potential that you won't have to wait on long before knowing what you have. He shouldn't be someone that you're paying more than pennies to acquire right now.
If you have any article topics for me to look into, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.
And stay safe!
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