Capped: How to deal with unproductive players

Alexander MacLean

2021-02-11

A few days ago, I received a message from a reader asking me about when it makes sense to cut bait on an unproductive rookie in a keeper league. I didn't have a quick answer and said that it would be something that would need a much deeper look, so that's what is going to get covered today.

Before we get started, I also wanted to add how excited I am to be joining the DobberHockey team as an Associate Editor. Cam Robinson leaves some big shoes to fill both as a person and as a writer, but I'm ready to take that on starting next week.

In the meantime, back to the hockey content.

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When to Hold'em

Rookies such as Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Jack Hughes offer up such tantalizing upside that even when they aren't producing they are valuable in cap leagues. Often a cap league team will have at least one cheap roster filler who puts up only hits on a league minimum contract, and allows the GM to roster an extra expensive player. These high picks and slumping stars are players that you know are going to turns things on at some point, and whether it's another month-and-a-half away, or a year-and-a-half away, the short-term pain is vastly outweighed by the long-term gain.

The output of a roster may not be optimized with a struggling rookie in your lineup, but you can't just let go of the guys that you know are going to be snapped up as soon as you drop them. Patience is key, and it's even tougher to find when your players aren't producing which snowballs into your team overall piling up a few extra losses. When that is happening, often there's a third option that isn't either holding or dropping, and that's trading.

Shopping those young guys around can be an option if you have a few of them and you want to rebalance your lineup. There are always teams who are ready to overpay for youth. In one of my cap leagues this offseason I moved Lafreniere for Elias Lindholm and a first that I flipped for Connor Garland. Giving up a talent like Lafreniere is tough, as he will likely have the best career of the three. However, Garland and Lindholm are two of the better value contracts in the league right now, and it balances some value for the next few years while giving my team an infusion of production this year.

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When to Fold'em

Those players who have value despite not producing are the ones you hold onto (or at least don't drop), but the guys like Vadim Shipachyov, Ty Rattie, and