Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: Keeper Dilemmas, Selling High, Kopitar & Hronek

Rick Roos

2021-03-03

Even with games having been postponed left and right, the season is progressing and a lot of players who started fast or slow have normalized. What hasn't changed is the need for a second opinion on one's fantasy team/players, which is where this mailbag comes in. For new readers, this is a column where I answer your fantasy hockey questions while also giving advice that should be useful to all poolies even if they don't own the specific players being discussed. As a reminder, if you want your fantasy hockey question answered in the next mailbag, check out the end of the column, where I explain the ways to get it to me and as well as the details you should provide. The earlier you send a question the more likely it is to be included, and the deeper dive I can provide with my reply.

Question #1 (from Michael)

How do you see Anze Kopitar's performing over the next 2-3 seasons? Will he be able to continue to play at a high level, or is a drop off inevitable given his age and/or the young prospects who'll become NHL ready during that time frame?

Kopitar is one of fewer than 15 NHLers who signed to a deal earning him $10M or more per season, and his contract runs through 2023-24. The Kings also spent a top five pick in each of the past two drafts on a center. As such, he might not have the kind of long leash other expensive players have, meaning that if in a season or two he shows signs of faltering, he could cede his #1 center spot.

Can we predict how well Kopitar will play over that time frame though? The best tool for that would be to look at past player comparables, which, while not predictive of the future, can provide a frame of reference to assess how Kopitar might perform through 2024.

Kopitar has been very consistent in his career, as nine times by age 32 he averaged at least 0.85 points per game. However, by the same token only once thus far in his 13 prior NHL seasons did he best the point per game mark. In other words, he was consistent but unspectacular. Have there been other players since 1990-91 who had similar metrics?

Yes, as Mats Sundin had a points-per-game pace between 0.85 and 1.0 seven times by age 32, with no one else doing so more than five times. How did Sundin perform as he aged? Quite well it turns out, as he posted 76-78 points in each of his age 34, 35, and 36 seasons, after not playing at all in his age 33 campaign due to the 2004-05 lockout. In other words, Sundin was able to perform at or near the same level as he'd performed throughout his career even as he reached his mid-30s.

Given this comparison, Kopitar's contract size, his game being the type that seemingly would age well (i.e., not based on speed or lots of SOG), and the likelihood that the Kings will only improve over the next few seasons, I think it's safe to predict Kopitar will continue to produce at a pace in the 70-80 point range through the end of his current contract. Although Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield will be chomping at the bit to make their mark within the next 2-3 seasons, Kopitar should allow the Kings to be patient with the youngsters, who'll be ready to step in once Kopitar either retires after his current deal is done, signs elsewhere, or takes on a lesser role.

Question #2 (from Fraser)

I'm in a 12 team keeper league (multi-cat, including +/- ). We have a salary ca