Ramblings: Day 2 of Free Agency: Burakovsky Extends, Kevin Goes to Labanc, and the Mike Smith Experience Is Back In Edmonton! (Oct 11)
Need a place to follow all of our fantasy takes from a crazy Day 1 of free agency? Check out our Free Agency Tracker page.
Day 2 wasn't quite as busy, but we also provided several Fantasy Takes on Saturday as well. Here's the list:
Because there's enough news to discuss beyond the obvious big signings, I'm again going to concentrate on the other news, such as the lesser signings and re-signings.
The Avalanche have signed Andre Burakovsky to a two-year extension with a cap hit of $4.9 million. In his first season in Colorado, Burakovsky earned this contract with a career-high 45 points (20g-25a) in 58 games. Even though the point total might not seem high, this was production that is similar to the likes of Victor Olofsson, Elias Lindholm, Bo Horvat, and Claude Giroux. Burakovsky followed that up with an outstanding postseason, scoring 17 points in 15 games.
I wrote a bit more about Burakovsky in the September 13 Ramblings. In that article, I also mentioned the high shooting percentage (19.4%). Yet even if his goal total drops as a result, he should supply enough assists to make him a possible value grab in single-season drafts.
Later in the day, the Avs re-signed another forward in Valeri Nichushkin. He signed a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.5 million. I discussed Nichushkin and his high plus-minus back in a late June edition of the Ramblings.
The Tampa Bay Lightning announced that Tyler Johnson has cleared waivers. The Lightning basically now have the option of burying him in the minors and saving just over $1 million of his $5 million cap hit.
As I was writing the Craig Smith to Boston Fantasy Take this morning, I noticed that Smith's production last season was very similar to Johnson's. Check this out, from the Frozen Tools Compare Players:
I bring this up because Smith signed for a $3.1 million cap hit on Saturday. Johnson's $5 million cap hit would be an overpayment even on the free agent market. Granted, Johnson is a center and has a higher upside than Smith, but teams (even those struggling to get to the cap floor) don't consider this contract to be good value. It's going to take a sweetener for the Lightning to trade TJ.
Also with the Lightning, Steven Stamkos recently underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury. (Yes, Dobber, I'm pretty sure the surgery was successful.) He is expected to full recover before the 2020-21 season begins. Although that may be true, I'm still a bit cautious in drafting Stamkos because of the recent injury history. Not to mention that he's no longer considered one of the Lightning's "untouchables", according to TSN.
Alex Pietrangelo didn't make his decision yet, but it sounds like he's very interested in signing with the Vegas Golden Knights.
I won't expand on this in great detail since the signing hasn't happened, but I'd be a bit concerned about what a Pietrangelo signing would do to the value of Shea Theodore. I don't think it would automatically mean that Theodore would lose his spot on the first-unit power play, but it's at least something to think about. Look for a Fantasy Take when Pietrangelo signs somewhere, which doesn't look like it will be St. Louis.
The Red Wings have signed Troy Stecher to a two-year contract with a $1.7 million cap hit. Stetcher is an affordable right-shot defenseman who could move as high as the middle pairing for Detroit. Red Wings fans should admire the hustle on the relatively undersized (5-10) Stetcher, who recorded 17 points in 69 games for the Canucks last season.
The Canucks now have some major holes on their defense, and this was a contract that they could easily afford in spite of their cap issues. Yet overpayments to bottom-6 forwards like Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, and Jay Beagle (among others) combined with failed attempts at Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Chris Tanev and of course Jacob Markstrom (their first offseason signing priority) put them in this spot.
The silver lining is there will be an opportunity to rebuild their already-struggling defense, either through remaining free agents or the trade route. At least two of Brogan Rafferty, Olli Juolevi, or Jack Rathbone appear to be solid bets to make the Canucks roster in 2020-21. For more on these prospects, see the Canucks Dobber Prospects page.
Mikko Koivu has found a new home. The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed the former Wild captain to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Although he was once a consistent option to score at a 55+ point pace (mainly assists), Koivu clearly fell off last season with just four goals and 21 points in 55 games. With Pierre-Luc Dubois and Max Domi projected to fill the center slots on the top two lines, the 37-year-old Koivu is merely a depth option at this point in his career.
Speaking of the Wild, they have re-signed winger Jordan Greenway to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.1 million. Greenway recorded a career high 28 points (8g-20a) in just 67 games, which would have put him on pace for 34 points. If I correctly understand the "Striker" model of when a breakout will occur, the 6-6, 225 lb. Greenway has at least two more seasons before we see his. With all the roster turnover that is happening in Minnesota this offseason, I wonder if Greenway will be set up for a bigger role. Although he didn't score any points during the four-game play-in series with Vancouver, he did see considerable time on a scoring line with Kevin Fiala and the now-departed Eric Staal.
The Oilers appeared to have the desire to upgrade in net (rumored interest in Jacob Markstrom), but they've circled back to where they've started. Mike Smith has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract to return to Edmonton. If I were the coach of the Oilers, I would lean more toward giving Mikko Koskinen the greater share of the goaltending (9.25 GSAA for Koskinen vs. -7.71 GSAA for Smith in 2019-20). However, coach Dave Tippett and the now-38-year-old-Smith have such a long history together that I know it's going to look more like a timeshare again. If you need to pick an Oilers goalie, go with Koskinen. Watching Smith is enough to give you a heart attack if you're an Oilers fan. Heaven forbid that he's on your fantasy team.
For our entertainment, maybe that means we get more of this:
Remember when Kevin Labanc bet on himself, signing that one-year contract for $1 million last summer? Based on last season's drop in points (56-point pace down to 39-point pace), that seemed like a bad idea. However, Labanc got paid anyway, signing a four-year contract with a $4.725 million AAV with the Sharks. You could probably call Labanc a sleeper-turned-bust if you were counting on him to come through last season. Keep in mind that the Sharks got hammered with injuries, which hurt the production of those who were left holding the bag. I think there's a rebound season in store for multiple Sharks, and that could include Labanc.
In a minor deal, the Senators acquired forward Austin Watson from the Predators for a 2021 fourth-round pick. Watson is a banger who will give the Senators some toughness. He led the Preds with 131 hits and 65 penalty minutes last season. The day before, the Predators signed Mark Borowiecki, recently of the Senators. So you could kind of look at it like an exchange of bangers.
The Sabres signed Brandon Montour to a one-year contract with an AAV of $3.85 million. In his first full season with the Sabres, Montour's production dipped from a 35-point pace to a 27-point pace (18 points in 54 games). Not surprisingly, his power-play time dipped over a minute per game from his time in Anaheim to Buffalo. He was sidelined with a thumb injury and played on his opposite side (right-handed shot), which also would have played a role in his reduced production.
Speaking of the Sabres, they've also signed Cody Eakin. After being acquired by the Jets at the trade deadline, Eakin is on the move again, signing a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.25 million.
Former Sabre Johan Larsson has signed with the Arizona Coyotes. He inked a two-year contract with a cap hit of $1.4 million.
The Hurricanes have signed Jesper Fast to a three-year contract with a $2 million AAV. Fast, who has played his entire career with the Rangers, finished the 2019-20 season with 29 points (12g-17a) in 69 games.
The Capitals have signed defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year contract worth $800,000. He scored eight points (1g-7a) in 49 games with the Hurricanes last season.
Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Lightning, Zach Bogosian has signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bogosian provides very little in the way of scoring, but he provides the Leafs with much-needed toughness, as well as experience on the blueline.
Finally… now that bubble hockey is finished, we can officially announce that Bubble Keeper Week is back! It will take place on November 8 to 15. At that point, we'll be in the dead of (almost) winter, so what better time will it be to make keeper decisions? In case you're not familiar, all of the Dobber articles that week will focus on "bubble keepers", those players that you just aren't quite sure about keeping. We'll try to identify those that might have a big season ahead. We won't be discussing McDavid or MacKinnon that week. Just the players that you're sitting on the fence with.
Hopefully by then we have a better idea of what the 2020-21 season will look like. Which reminds me… I haven't heard anything about that in a while.
Happy Thanksgiving, for those of you who reside north of the border! For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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