21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
Every Sunday, we’ll share 21 Fantasy Rambles from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s 'Daily Ramblings'.
Writers/Editors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Grant Campbell (subbing for Cam Robinson), and Dobber
1. I cannot wait to watch Jack Eichel/Taylor Hall play together. Eichel is in his prime as one of the top players in the league. Hall is still in his 20s and even in his ‘bad’ 2019-20 season, he paced for 21 goals and 66 points per 82 games while playing two of the bottom-10 teams in goal scoring last year. What is he going to do with an all-world center both at 5-on-5 and on the power play? It is an exciting prospect. (oct13)
2. I wrote a recent article about my top 20 unrestricted free agents and the only remaining free agents from that list are Mike Hoffman at #5, Mikael Granlund at #9, Alex Galchenyuk at #18, and Erik Haula at #20.
– Haula will probably need to sign a one-year deal and prove himself as a 20-goal scorer once again. He will have to stay healthy for 70+ games to do that, which is easier said than done when you’ve only played 63 games over the past two seasons. It’s a gamble worth taking for a team like Arizona or Ottawa that might need help scoring.
– Galchenyuk has very little bargaining power after an eight-goal season split between Pittsburgh and Minnesota, where he struggled mightily in both stops. As one of the few 26-year-old unrestricted free agents, he can either sign a one-year show-me deal with a team that he believes will allow him to re-find his career, or he can sign a two- or three-year contract at a lower dollar amount for more stability. I’m guessing he chooses the show-me option.
– Granlund is likely attracting a few teams’ interest still, even after five days of free agency. After years in Minnesota and Nashville, will Granlund want to be part of a rebuilding team in, say, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Jersey, or Ottawa? Or would he rather be in a more competitive market? He’s probably getting offers from both situations, so the choice should be his.
– Hoffman has 65 goals over the past two years and I can’t help but think of what Jeff Skinner signed for after scoring 64 goals in the two seasons prior to signing with Buffalo. Hoffman won’t get anywhere close to what Skinner got but there should be a four or five-year payday out there for him. (oct14)
3. It’s going to look weird after 15 consecutive years in teal. Joe Thornton has signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Leafs. Thornton is the NHL’s active leader in points (1,509), but at age 41 he might have to battle fellow aging veteran Jason Spezza (among others) for a spot in the lineup. The Leafs have made a point of adding experience to their lineup this offseason, also adding Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian. Imagine a Leafs fourth line with Thornton centering Spezza and Simmonds.
Thornton recorded 31 points (7g-24a) in 70 games last season, but 12 of those points came in his last 19 games mainly on a line with Timo Meier or Kevin Labanc, so there could still be something left in the tank. However, the Leafs are covered with Auston Matthews and John Tavares as their top two centers, so Jumbo Joe would likely only elevate to the top 6 in the event of an injury. Still, it will be great to see one of the league’s most interesting players lace ’em up for at least one more season. But if he wants to win a Stanley Cup, is Toronto really the right choice? (oct17)
4. In an interview with Las Vegas radio station KSHP, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley confirmed what was news earlier this week: that Marc-Andre Fleury is likely to remain with the Golden Knights in 2020-21. This isn’t necessarily all about the Golden Knights not being able to trade Fleury (although I can’t imagine there was heavy demand with many other goalies on the market), but instead much has to do with the clean-up shoulder surgery that Robin Lehner is undergoing this week. Lehner is expected to be ready for camp, though.
This is all related because Foley also thinks that the season will start on February 1 and will be a 48- or 56-game season. If the Stanley Cup is awarded before the Summer Olympics in July (remember, this is a priority because both are NBC properties), then the NHL is no doubt looking at a condensed schedule. Teams will need to have a strong second goalie (and maybe even a decent third goalie) with what will likely be a high volume of back-to-backs, even though there’s an obvious risk when it’s time for the Seattle expansion draft. (oct16)
6. The New York Rangers also took care of business on Thursday, signing two of their RFA. First, Alexandar Georgiev signed a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.425 million.
With Henrik Lundqvist bought out and moved to Washington, Georgiev will not need to worry about a full-time spot with the Rangers. In spite of the Rangers goalie logjam, Georgiev has played at least 30 games in each of the last two seasons. Expect him to take on a similar percentage of games in 2020-21 as he serves as the second goaltending option behind Igor Shesterkin.
Later on Thursday, Tony DeAngelo agreed to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $4.8 million. You may remember that DeAngelo broke out in a big way in 2019-20, scoring 53 points (15g-38a) in 68 games. Only John Carlson, Roman Josi, and Victor Hedman recorded more points than DeAngelo. As a top-notch offensive defenseman but a liability defensively, DeAngelo is trending more toward being a power-play specialist as opposed to a minute-munching blueliner like the aforementioned Norris Trophy finalists. (oct16)
7. I’ll be interested in the minutes Alex Pietrangelo gets in Vegas. He’s shown the ability for 40- and 50-point seasons even with 10-15 PPPs, so it’s not as if not getting top PP slotting kills his value. It won’t help, though, and he’s never been a guy to rack up hit totals (he hasn’t posted more than 70 in eight years). It’s also curious his shot blocks fell off the map last year, to 1.27 per game. The year before he was at nearly two per game, and he was over two per game the year before.
If it’s a conscious effort to keep him on the ice, that’s great for point production, but a defenseman that doesn’t get top PP minutes, that doesn’t hit much, and is seeing plummeting shot-block totals is concerning. Like Dobber, I think this is a downgrade for Petro, but not a big one. The real downgrade could come in peripherals if those keep falling. (oct15)
8. Montreal’s power play hasn’t been good in recent seasons, but with new faces and Nick Suzuki a year older, hopefully things are on the upswing. Tyler Toffoli got little power-play time in Los Angeles; he averaged two minutes a game, fifth among their forwards, over the last three years.
Toffoli won’t be a 25 PPP guy because Montreal splits their PP units and he’s not a playmaker himself, but even just regular PP time on a good unit puts his career-high in PPPs – just 12 – within reach. He won’t be the point-per-game guy he was at the end of last season for Vancouver, but he has a real chance to put up 25 goals and 50 points regularly now. (oct15)
9. Toffoli played left wing when he got to Los Angeles and is comfortable moving to that wing if his new team asks him to. We have seen rumours lately that the Habs were looking to move Brendan Gallagher as they had Gallagher, Toffoli, and Josh Anderson down the right side. Apparently, Montreal can’t have three good wingers at once or the team collapses on itself like a neutron star.
As if Bergevin was watching me while typing, the Habs re-upped Gallagher for six years at $6.5M per season. All is right in the world.
Anyway, for fantasy hockey, I thought it was interesting that Toffoli might be heading to the left wing (as rumours have suggested). It would give him dual eligibility and we saw in Vancouver how good he can be with a good center. No one in Montreal is in Elias Pettersson‘s tier, but there are a lot better than whatever tiers the Kings had outside of Anze Kopitar. Watching a line of Toffoli-Suzuki-Gallagher would be a lot of fun.
This is all overly simplistic but Toffoli getting a playmaking center for a full season should give us a much better idea of where his value lay than 10 games with Pettersson or 150 with Jeff Carter. (oct15)
10. Torey Krug, it sure seemed like that Blues signing came out of nowhere, right?
Anyway, the Blues’ power play was very good last year, coming in third in goals/60 minutes. The year before, they were 11th. Now, Boston should still have the better top PP unit, even with Vladimir Tarasenko back in the mix, but I don’t think this is a situation where Krug crashes down to like 15 PPPs. I still think 20-25 is reasonable, but that’s a far cry from the 34 PPPs/82 games Krug averaged over the last three years.
The real question is how much ice time they give him. Krug has never skated 22 minutes or more per game for a full season while Alex Pietrangelo has never skated fewer than 22 minutes per game for a full season (or, at least not since his nine-game stint in 2009-10). Do they just hand him 24-25 minutes a night, or do other players pick up the slack? My guess is it’s the latter, so if Krug averages 21 minutes a game for the Blues, a team that should be lower-scoring at all strengths than the Bruins, those routine 50-point seasons are not so routine anymore.
11. There was a time when I was very, very high on Brandon Saad in the fantasy game. His problem, outside of a lack of hits in banger leagues, was always his power-play production. He can post 20 goals like clockwork, but he has just one season of 10 PPPs in his career (it was exactly 10 and it was five years ago). He had eight PPPs in his second three-year stint with the Blackhawks. That is across all three seasons, to be clear.
In that sense, going to Colorado may not be some huge upgrade. He spent a lot of time with at least one of Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane last year. The on-ice goal rates for Nathan MacKinnon+Gabriel Landeskog at 5-on-5 weren’t far off those of Toews or Kane when playing with Saad. In that sense, it could be a lateral move as far as 5-on-5 production goes. It may even be worse if he doesn’t skate with MacKinnon because guys like Nazem Kadri and J.T. Compher are not in the Toews/Kane realm for playmaking. He won’t get to the top PP unit without injuries, so there may be an argument this is worse for Saad, fantasy-wise.
In real hockey terms, this was a win for the Avs. In fantasy terms, this should probably be seen as a lateral move for Saad, if not a small step back. (oct13)
12. Interesting quotes from Colorado general manager Joe Sakic about their blue line. He really made it seems like Conor Timmins will be in the lineup next year, which makes sense when looking at their depth. He can come slot on the third pair with a solid veteran like Ian Cole and get his feet wet while also not shouldering big responsibilities. Sakic also says that Bowen Byram will get a look, but with Timmins in the lineup, they have their top-6 set. It likely means another year of waiting for Byram until Cole’s contract runs out after 2020-21, though he’s likely the first-man-up should an injury hit. (oct13)
13. 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. (oct11)
14. 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. (oct11)
15. The Flames signed winger Andrew Mangiapane to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.425 million, avoiding arbitration. Mangiapane scored 32 points, including 17 goals, in 68 games last season while spending significant time on the Flames’ second line with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. He picked it up in the second half, scoring 17 points over his last 26 games. He is an exciting player to watch, and he seems like a solid bet to fit into the Flames’ top 6 again in 2020-21. (oct17)
16. 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. (oct11)
17. The Wild has 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-pound 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. (oct11)
18. 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 Stecher's 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. (oct11)
19. 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 fully 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. (oct11)
20. Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson cleared waivers. I bring this up because Craig Smith signed with Boston for a $3.1 million cap hit. 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. (oct11)
21. 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. (oct11)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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