Continuing our buy & sell series, we cover each NHL team, analyzing one player to buy, and one to sell (links to parts one, two, three, and four). These recommendations will be based on their performance versus cap hit. That means in non-cap leagues, some of these suggestions may not be as relevant, but that doesn’t mean the analysis isn’t relevant. Generally, these players will either be riding new contracts into the season, or be expected to have a large shift in value, for one reason or another. This week we feature Detroit through to Chicago.
First, on a personal note, I wanted to say a thank you to my dad. I got to spend his 59th birthday with him this weekend. We talked a little about hockey, cut down most of a tree in our backyard, and drank a little scotch. Happy and lucky to be able to still share these things with him. Sitting down to write this article today, I know I wouldn’t be where I am without him, in the hockey world or otherwise. With hockey season starting up, don’t forget all the dads (and moms!) behind the scenes that make everything possible. Cheers to all of you!
Detroit Red Wings
Buy: Gustav Nyquist
Cap Hit: $4,750,000 with one year remaining
Nyquist teased fantasy owners with his best season of 47 points in 57 games all that way back in 2013-2014. It feels like forever ago now, and that’s why this is the time to buy at his lowest. The youth are taking over in Detroit, and with the return of Henrik Zetterberg growing ever more unlikely the closer to the season we get, it seems as though a few players are going to have to pick up the slack. Nyquist’s two most common line mates last season were Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha. Mantha is still around, and the two could create a solid top line flanking young star Dylan Larkin. A rebound season back up above 50-points could be in the cards, especially if Nyquist comes out anywhere close to the six points in seven games he finished last season with. The contract year should help too.
Sell: The Goalies
This is especially relevant in larger leagues where all goalies hold value. If anyone is willing to pay for a second-tier timeshare goalie, let them. Incumbent Jimmy Howard and newcomer Jonathan Bernier have both had runs of carrying a workload, however neither has ever proven themselves able to successfully run with a starting gig. Already we see that they lose value just by sharing time, but Detroit may also be the worst team in the league next season, and collectively possibly also has the slowest defence core. Even though the duo in the Red Wings’ net may not get you much in return, they will do even less if they’re on your roster.
Buy: Stephen Johns
Cap Hit: $2,350,000 with three years remaining
One of my favourite multi-category depth defencemen owns, Stephen Johns signed an excellent new contract back in June. He is the number two right-handed defenceman behind John Klingberg and is technically starting his fourth season. He put up over 200 hits, over 150 blocks, in addition to 121 shots, 15 points, and a plus-10 rating last season. With a little more ice-time added, those point totals should continue to grow, producing one of the most under-valued multi-category players around.
Sell: Alex Radulov
Cap Hit: $6,250,000 with four years remaining
How long do we think it will be until Dallas is shuffling their forward lines around looking for a spark? Odds are, it won’t be too long, and there’s a good possibility that we see one or both of Devin Shore and Valeri Nichushkin rotated through the right-wing role alongside the duo of Tyler Seguin and Jaime Benn. Radulov is a good player, but an IPP in the low 60s from the last two seasons would indicate that if he was placed with the secondary help in Dallas, his point totals may suffer (think back to the 54 points as a Canadien as opposed to the 72 points last season). With four years left on his contract at the age of 32, there’s much less upside here per dollar than there used to be.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Cap Hit: $5,875,000 x seven years / $894,166 x two years
These two finished the season as a couple of the hottest players in the league not named Artemi Panarin. Funnily enough they formed one of the most dynamic lines and should be in a good spot to pick up where they left off.
The one snag is that Panarin may be traded by Columbus, however I don’t think it extremely likely. Columbus is a contending team, and if Panarin won’t generally sign an extension anywhere, then there are very few spots for him to go just as a rental. He is a UFA at the end of the season, and on a new contract may end up making 150% of his current $6 million cap hit.
Atkinson and Dubois on the other hand should both be steals over the next number of years, making magic together on a growing Columbus team. It may already be later than ideal to be buying on them, but the stock is still going up, so there’s time.
Sell: Alex Wennberg
Cap Hit: $4,900,000 with five years remaining
Wennberg was fairly consistent throughout last season and was not affected at all by the first line taking off in the second half. Considering he was centring Atkinson and Panarin for the first quarter, it makes you wonder if he was just pulling them down. By the end of the season, he was down with Boone Jenner and Thomas Vanek.
Aside from scoring, Wennberg is one of the worst category killers in leagues counting anything other than points. He disappoints in shots, faceoffs, hits, powerplay points, blocks, etc. His 59-point season from 2016-2017 still carries weight with his name, but it won’t for much longer.
Buy: Philipp Grubauer
Cap Hit: $3,333,333 with three years remaining
As we know here with the Capped columns, money talks, and the recency bias reigns supreme. Grubauer is the new goalie on the block and should be the starter by the beginning of February at the latest. The first half of the season will be a timeshare between Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov, but with the latter set to walk in free-agency next summer, the former is poised to take on the mantle of starter for the first time in his career.
Playing in a career high 35 games last season, Grubauer registered a save percentage of 0.920% or greater, making it four times in the last five years for him. The Avalanche as a team may not have as much depth as the Capitals, however they do look to be a team on the rise. Grubauer’s stock will only rise with them over the coming seasons.
Sell: Alexander Kerfoot
Cap Hit: $925,000 with one year remaining
The aforementioned lack of depth on the Avalanche begins with the second line. There is some talent here, however on many other teams, it would be a third line instead of a second. As a rookie last year, the second-line centre Kerfoot overachieved from the get-go. He then declined in each successive quarter of the season. By the fourth quarter, he was seeing only one minute of powerplay time per game and scored seven points in 21 games. Add in the 19 goals on a measly 81 shots (23.5% shooting!), and on the high end he will be in tough to repeat last season’s numbers.
Centre is also the weakest spot on the Colorado roster at the moment, so if Kerfoot isn’t cutting it, look for them to be aggressive in the trade market for a number two, pushing Kerfoot down to line three.
Buy: The Youngsters
This team needs a youth overhaul, and it is happening right before our eyes. Last season, Alex Debrincat came in and scored over 50 points in a rookie season – no easy feat. It would have been more talked about if it wasn’t for the star performances of Brock Boeser and Mat Barzal. Anyways, now it’s on to the next wave, and there is a trio coming up looking to make a mark. Between Nick Schmaltz, Dylan Sikura, and Victor Ejdsell, expect at least two of them to make a very positive impact on the team next year. These players are forced to step up and fill the voids left by contract cuts around an aging core. Work this backwards to the benefit of your fantasy team. Stock up on a few youngsters with volume upside and give yourself the flexibility to add an extra star or two.
Sell: Patrick Kane
Cap Hit: $10,500,000 with five years remaining
If you are still holding on to Patrick Kane, congratulations, you own the leading scorer in the NHL since 2015. You also own a large anchor contract attached to a 29-year old who isn’t getting any younger. A couple of years ago, Kane’s contract would have been untradeable. However, the amount of eight-figure AAVs on contracts is growing exponentially, and now is the perfect time to unload Kane’s contract for a slightly cheaper one. Kane can still score with some of the top players in the league, but his supporting cast isn’t the same as it was in his prime, and neither is he.
Send out a few lines on inquiry on players such as Jakub Voracek and Phil Kessel. They offer similar production, age range, and a larger contract. However, if you can save $2 million for the same production, you take it 10 times out of 10. Kane’s name value may be enough to get a deal done one-for-one.
This is also the mark of my two-year anniversary here with DobberHockey. Quick thanks to the DobberHockey team, the readers, and Darryl Dobbs himself for bringing me on initially. It has been a bit of a dream come true to be able to write about hockey and actually have people looking forward to reading it. Here’s to another great year!
Thanks for reading. I would be curious to hear if you have any buy/sell candidates on the above teams, and why.
As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.
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