Everyone needs help in fantasy, and by this point in the season, you generally know where the holes are on your roster. I also find that this is usually the best time to start trading, as other teams have formed their opinions on who they want to keep, and who they are willing to sell. Who GMs are willing to sell is usually heavily correlated with who is performing above or below expectations. The best GMs will hold onto their underperforming players (or fire their coaches…), but many will be willing to give a discount at this point from their draft-day cost if they can fill another hole in return. Who might you be able to buy-low at a decent cap hit?
Well with the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock, the buy-low window on Tyson Barrie is closing quickly. The same goes for a few others such as Frederick Andersen, and Andreas Johnsson. Aside from the big moves like a coaching change which affects player value, the players below can be expected to rebound based solely on numbers, percentages, and opportunity.
Ryan Pulock (D) – New York Islanders
Cap Hit – $2,000,000 – RFA in 2020
Ryan Pulock was a beast last year for points and peripherals based on his cost, but this year he has slowed down on both counts. His hits, shots, and assist rates are down, which could partially be attributed to a small drop in powerplay time, and being set up with only 33% of his starts in the offensive zone. However, Pulock started last season slowly as well, but broke out heavily in the middle two quarters. His deployment has nowhere to go but up, and he has recently been playing with the top powerplay unit. He may only be a rental, as he is in line for a big raise this summer, but for $2 million per year, he could make a difference on any fantasy squad looking for a title this season.
Strange note, the Islanders’ hit numbers are either the same or increased across the entire lineup, except for Matthew Barzal (who basically doesn’t hit – he has four so far this season) and Pulock. No idea why.
Linus Ullmark (G) – Buffalo Sabres
Cap Hit – $1,325,000 – RFA in 2020
Linus Ullmark is another player in need of a new contract, but as an RFA goalie, even winning the Stanley Cup only gets you a two-year deal at $4.4 million per season, so his next contract won’t break your bank. In the meantime, the pendulum is swinging slowly towards Ullmark. In the Buffalo crease since their trip to Sweden earlier in November, not only has Ullmark put up much better numbers, and has split starts evenly with Carter Hutton. The Sabres may not be an Eastern Conference powerhouse like they tried to make us believe in October, but they can still be a playoff bubble team, and the starter on those teams have value.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi (C/LW) – Montreal Canadiens
Cap Hit – $925,000 – RFA in 2021
With the injury to teammate Jonathan Drouin, Kotkaniemi is in a spot to see a bit more offensive time for the next number of weeks. Drouin’s wrist surgery is expected to keep him out of the lineup for a minimum of eight weeks. That takes us to the all-star break, likely adding at least another recovery week before he returns.
The second-year forward has limped out of the gate, even getting scratched a few times due to all of the depth pieces brought in over the summer. Entering Wednesday night, his three points in 14 games are disappointing, but this makes for the best time to buy the third highest scoring eighteen-year-old from last season.
John Klingberg (D) – Dallas Stars
Cap Hit – $4,250,000 – UFA in 2022
John Klingberg this season has come out flat, scoring at a third of his usual rate, despite similar shot, time-on-ice, and offensive-zone start percentage. His shooting percentage is down, and his IPP percentage, the rate at which he garners points on Stars goals, is also much lower than usual. Every metric of Klingberg’s points to some bounce back, and 60-point defencemen don’t grow on trees, let alone those on bargain contracts. Klingberg is a rare breed in cap leagues that should be inquired on right now. The forwards on Dallas are starting to turn things around, and Klingberg won’t be very far behind, so this isn’t a window that will be open long.
**Buyer beware, Klingberg’s peripherals are never high, so those outside of pure points leagues, research what you would be buying.
Victor Arvidsson (RW) – Nashville Predators
Cap Hit – $4,250,000 – UFA in 2024
The funny thing about Arvidsson’s lack of production is that he is actually scoring on the powerplay, and is on pace to cruise past his career best marks in powerplay goals and points. He has lost almost two minutes per game at even strength, and his shot rate is down lower than it has been at any point in the last three years. It seems that with the Nashville lineup adjusting to newcomer Matt Duchene and 2019 Trade Deadline acquisition Mikael Granlund, Arvidsson has been a little out of his comfort zone (the whole lineup has for the last stretch of games).
For a player who has consistently paced for 65 points and 250 shots for the last three seasons, he will pick things back up, and his $4.25 million price tag isn’t cheaply acquired when he is on his game. Try to see if you can get in while his early-season value is leaving his owners unsure of exactly what they may have.
If you have questions, comments, or article requests, you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
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