Ramblings: Point Out For Game 3, Bjugstad Traded, Players Whose Value Increased During Postseason (Sept 12)
On Friday, the NHL formally announced the following schedule of offseason events:
Tue Oct 6, 7 p.m. ET: 2020 NHL Draft, Round 1
Wed Oct 7, 11:30 a.m. ET: 2020 NHL Draft, Rounds 2-7
Fri Oct 9, 12 p.m. ET: NHL free agency begins
The draft will be held virtually, of course.
These aren't the usual dates or even days of the week in which these events normally occur, so be sure to enter these into your calendar. If I can ask for one more change, I personally hope the signings are more spread out than normal over the weeks that follow as teams try to navigate their financial situations, but I don't think that's how it will play out. Be sure to check this website for the fantasy takes when the significant signings occur (which on July 1 has been literally every minute).
It's understandable if as a sports fan you chose to watch the Raptors/Celtics Game 7 instead of the Lightning/Islanders Game 3. (Sorry Raptors fans.) Here's a recap of the hockey game, if you need one.
Islanders 5, Lightning 3 (Tampa Bay leads series 2-1)
Brock Nelson scored the game-winning goal with 3:25 remaining in the third period to lead the Islanders to their first victory in the series. Here's the goal:
Nelson also chipped in an assist on linemate Anthony Beauvillier's goal. Linemates Nelson, Beauvillier, and Josh Bailey have raised their game to another level during the postseason. Each recorded two points in this game, as did Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Bailey is scoring at a point-per-game pace (19 points in 19 games), while Nelson and Beauvillier are not far behind. I wrote more about Nelson in last weekend's Ramblings, in particular his progression since John Tavares left Long Island.
Mikhail Sergachev led the Lightning in points in Game 3, scoring a first-period goal and adding an assist.
The big story for the Lightning was the absence of Brayden Point due to an undisclosed injury, which we would have to assume is day-to-day for now. Alex Killorn was also out of the lineup serving his one-game suspension for boarding Nelson in Game 2. Because of the absences of both Point and Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli received an opportunity that he won't receive often, which is centering Nikita Kucherov. Cirelli did not record a point and has just five points in 16 postseason games, but he did play nearly 21 minutes in Game 3.
The Lightning have proven that they possess the depth to withstand the absence of Steven Stamkos for the entire postseason so far. But if Point also misses Game 4, then the Islanders will have a real opportunity to tie this series against a Bolts team that appears to be the most talented of the teams remaining.
On Friday, a report surfaced that the Golden Knights and Robin Lehner had agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract extension back in June. Even though the report has not been confirmed by either party, it's becoming more apparent that Lehner is the preferred goalie over Marc-Andre Fleury not only for the playoffs, but also going forward. Even if Vegas doesn't win another playoff game in 2020, what a trade this has turned out to be. It will be interesting to see what happens with Flower in the offseason, as well as what will happen in the goalie market should Lehner sign with his current team.
One signing that was confirmed on Friday involved the Kings re-signing defenseman Sean Walker to a four-year extension worth $10.6 million total. Walker finished his first full NHL season with 24 points (5g-19a) in 70 games, trailing only Drew Doughty in points and shots (127) among Kings defensemen. Walker also showed strong possession numbers (54.8 CF%), so this contract could provide great value for Los Angeles even if you're not that familiar with Walker.
Late Friday, the Wild announced that they had acquired Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad from the Penguins for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. The 6-6 Bjugstad underwent back surgery during the season, which explains why he played just 13 games and was held to just two points. The Penguins are retaining half of Bjugstad's $4.1 million cap hit for 2020-21, which will be the final year of that contract. Expect Bjugstad to start on the third or fourth line with the Wild as he tries to get his career back on track. The Wild are effectively acquiring Bjugstad to replace Mikko Koivu, who will not be offered a new contract.
Examining the trade further, the Penguins basically handed Bjugstad away for nothing. On the surface, this might seem like strictly a salary cap dump. Yet because of COVID, saving actual dollars is more of the focus, as this article over at Pensburgh explains. They're not the only team that will be trying to do this, which is going to make for an offseason unlike what we've seen recently.
Just like previous years, Dobber is letting you vote on who he writes an in-depth piece on for each team in the Fantasy Guide. Right now you can vote on Carolina. Look for other teams by checking back in the Forum.
Nathan MacKinnon is the winner of the 2019-20 Lady Byng Trophy. MacKinnon is most known for his dominant play (93 points in just 69 games), yet he only received 12 penalty minutes all season. To give you another idea of the kind of player MacKinnon is, he was tied for third in net penalties at plus-18 (23 drawn, five taken). Auston Matthews and Ryan O'Reilly finished second and third, respectively. Jaccob Slavin, the defenseman who many thought should have won the award, finished fourth.
On a side note, is anyone missing the awards show this season? I'm okay with having a season without the subpar acting, awkward dialogue, and puzzling choices of entertainment.
Honestly, we shouldn't be putting an extremely high amount of stock into playoff performance when it comes to a player's future fantasy value. Especially this season in particular, where the bubble has been an experience different from what players are used to.
On the other hand, there was a long break before the return to play. Then after the Stanley Cup is awarded, there could be another long break before we see the NHL again. So I’ll take any opportunity to tweak rankings, even if playoff performances don’t always carry over to next season.
Here are three players whose postseason performance could be a sign of things to come for next season, whenever that might be. I'll list three more in tomorrow's Ramblings.
I've noticed multiple people on Twitter mention that it hardly seems possible that Point wasn't drafted until the third round. Here’s one such observation:
I mentioned that size was a major reason, but so was skating at the time. Well, Point's skating improved, and he's now playing the best hockey of his career. Point leads the Bolts with 23 points (8g-15a) in just 15 games, which translates to over a point and a half per game. Only MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (in four games each for the Oilers duo) have scored at a higher pace than Point. That scoring is going to stick in the minds of fantasy owners in next season's drafts (whenever they may be).
Over his two-year career, Heiskanen's real-life game has probably been better than his fantasy game. That is, until this postseason. As a defenseman, Heiskanen leads all Stars with 22 points (5g-17a) in just 19 games. That's a serious jump from the 33 points of his rookie season and the 42-point pace he was on this season. During the postseason, he's been averaging over 25 minutes per game, over a minute more than his regular-season icetime. Dallas finding another gear to its offense during the postseason has been a major reason for Heiskanen's increased production. Fantasy-wise, his value next season could depend somewhat on whether Dallas as a team continues to score at this postseason pace.
Many hockey fans have been paying attention to Vegas since Day 1, but I don't think many realized how talented Theodore is until this postseason. He is to Vegas what Heiskanen is to Dallas, Quinn Hughes is to Vancouver, and Cale Makar is to Colorado. If a 50+ point pace during the regular season wasn't enough to get your attention, then maybe a point-per-game pace during the postseason will be. Theodore was a late-round pick with upside in single-season drafts in 2019, but it looks like you're going to need a top-100 pick for him in 2020-21 drafts.
Finally, earlier this week I chatted about the Canucks with Steve Laidlaw on his podcast. Have a listen:
While you're there, have a listen to Steve's other episodes, where he goes through postmortems on various teams that have been eliminated from the postseason.
For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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