Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: The Art of Selling High

by Rick Roos on October 30, 2019

 

Welcome to the first mailbag of the 2019-20 season. Big thanks to Dobber and his twitter followers, as they were the source for most questions being answered in this installment. Sorry I couldn’t answer them all, as I had to stop before the column grew too huge. Check out the end of the column where I explain the ways to get questions to me. The earlier you send them the more likely your question to be included and the deeper dive I can provide with my answer. Enough housekeeping – onto the Q&A!

 

Question #1 (from Steve)

I’m in a 12 team H2H keeper (keep 8, plus 10 minors) where we start 4C, 4LW, 4RW, 6D, 2G, and have 4 reserve spots. Categories G, A, P, PPP, SOG, FOW, +/-, Hits, Blks; W, SVs, SV%, GAA.

 

My main roster is:

C: Aleksander Barkov, Mika Zibanejad, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Jack Hughes

C/LW: Jamie Benn, Tomas Hert

LW: Alex Ovechkin, Filip Forsberg

RW: Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler, Kaapo Kakko

LW/RW: Andrei Svechnikov

D: Brent Burns, John Carlson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Erik Gustafsson, Dougie Hamilton, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Pulock, Matt Dumba

G: Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson, Devan Dubnyk, Mikko Koskinen


My minors roster (requirements are >83 games played for skaters, >51 for goalies) is:
Forwards: Martin Necas, Kirill Kaprizov, Nikita Gusev, Eeli Tolvanen, Jordan Kyrou, Sam Lafferty

Defensemen: Cale Makar, Evan Bouchard
Goalies: Ilya Samsonov, Ilya Sorokin

 

I’ve had a great start to the season and am leading in most categories, or, if not leading, then I’m in the top three. The exceptions are +/-, GAA and SV%, where I could stand to improve. I also could use some flexibility options for my RW slot, since as of right now I need to use Kakko daily as my fourth RW, which is not ideal given how inconsistent he’s playing. I like the fact that I can stream two minor leaguers each day into my lineup because I have Hughes, Gusev, Kakko, Necas, Lafferty, Makar and Samsonov that play regularly.

 

Right now my main goal is to maximize some returns by trading one or more of my hottest players, but I’m not certain whether (and, if so, how) to tinker with my lineup without risking my standing.

 

Would Carlson and Kopitar for Jack Eichel, Timo Meier and a 1st round pick make sense?

 

Do you see any prospects I should trade? Tolvanen maybe? He’s struggling in the AHL again but at least he’s getting 3 shots a game. Lafferty is just on my team while Forsberg and Barkov are on the IR.

 

Lastly, what is wrong with Jonathon Toews?

 

First off, your team is ridiculous – as ridiculous in a good way. And although I certainly advocate for not resting on your laurels and assuming things will continue to go as well as they have thus far, I’m also not in favor of making changes just for the sake of making changes. You have to strike a proper balance.

How do you ensure you strike that balance? With so many players performing well, the key is to assess two things – (1) the extent to which they can continue to do as well as they have, plus (2) what they will likely fetch for you in return. The ideal player to move is one who’ll get you a lot in return then won’t make you regret cutting the cord. The ones to hang onto are those who’ll keep humming along doing just as well through the season as they are now, especially if they won’t net you proper value in return.

So the thing to do is go through your roster and categorize all your well-performing players into three groups – definitely overperforming (group 1), sustainably performing well (group 2), and performing perhaps higher enough versus realistic expectations such that it’s worth at least looking into trading them (group 3). Then within those groups further categorize them into ones who’ll get you more or less than their true worth due to how others value them.

With all this in mind, I like your plan of trading Carlson, as he’s a proven performer but also a group 1 guy who others in your league might mistakenly envision being able to keep up his blistering pace. Packaging Kopitar with him is also likely safe, as Anze is unlikely to rise back to the level of two years ago and runs the risk of slumping to his 2018-19 output. And that seems like an okay return in Eichel, Meier and a 1st. Perhaps you try to add another player on each side, to help give you a slightly better return? That’s where you may want to look to prospects, as you have a surplus at forward and could use another defenseman, what with only two now and Makar not being minors eligible forever.

As for Toews, I think last season he prioritized scoring because he saw the need, and now he’s back to his usual less selfish ways. Don’t expect him to top 70 again until/unless the Hawks require him to do so.

 

Question #2 (from Alex)

I am being offered Aleksander Barkov and Devan Dubnyk for Brendan Gallagher, Semyon Varlamov, and James Neal. This is a points keeper league with PPPts assigned extra value. Given Barkov’s band-aid status do you think this is a good deal to make?

 

I hope you already made this deal because I think you win the trade pretty easily.

 

Barkov is by far the best player on either side, and that’s even if he misses 10-15 games a year. He’s a powerhouse in all leagues, but especially ones where PPPts are weighted heavily.

 

You’d be giving up Neal, who not only could cool off in the normal course by also is a band-aid boy in his own right. I happen to think Neal will keep his cushy PP1 spot but probably finish with, at best, 30G and 20A – and that’s at best. Also, a hot start notwithstanding, Gallagher most likely isn’t getting better at this point in his career. Yes, with his October stats he might hit the 60 point mark for the first time; however, anything more than that is banking on a mid-career player making a sudden leap in scoring, which is almost unheard of.

 

Varlamov likely is attractive to the other GM because Thomas Greiss is a UFA after this season and, if not re-signed, would seemingly leave Varly in more of a true #1 role on a team with Barry Trotz at the helm and Mitch Korn on staff, i.e., goalie heaven. But even if Greiss leaves, my sense is the Islanders will stick with what’s been working, namely no goalie getting even 50 starts. Long story short, I think Varlamov’s value won’t see a big increase next season, so he’s plenty safe to deal. And while Dubnyk is not going to give you the kind of stats he once did, he should play regularly and decently enough to justify the trade.

 

Question #3 (from Terry)

What are your thoughts on the following four players in a multicat league: Kevin Shattenkirk, Phil Kessel, Nicolaj Ehlers, and Jonathan Marchessault?

 

In terms of these four, the only one I’d value more in multicat than in points only is Marchessault. The rest are either no better in multicat or, in the case of Kessel, arguably worse. As for the players, here are my thoughts on each.

 

Count me among those who are bullish on Shattenkirk, as there couldn’t be a more perfect landing spot for him. Unlike in New York, the spotlight is off, leaving him to just play hockey. And putting aside his disastrous tenure with the Rangers, this is a guy who for three years from 2014 to 2017 was in the top seven in points per game among all rearguards and, at 30, should be far from washed up. Let’s also not forget – this is a team on which Ryan McDonagh scored 46 points last season with nearly no PP time and facing the toughest forwards on opposing teams. Mark Shattenkirk down for 50 points if he can stay healthy, which is enough to hang onto him despite what – for defensemen – will be subpar hits and blocks and lower than his usual PPPts.

 

Kessel is at best a multicat mixed blessing, with SOG and PPPt prowess in recent years that nearly offset his almost total lack of hits or blocks. Where I have concern is, for a guy who was eager to leave Pittsburgh, the type of game he plays had morphed into one that was almost uniquely positioned to succeed there. Yes, Kessel has occupied a “the guy” role before, back in his Toronto days; however, because his style has turned into more of a highly effective supporting player, rather than one around whom a team can build an offense, I’m not sure he’s likely to fulfill lofty expectations for him in the desert. I think for 2019-20 Kessel will be hard-pressed to break the 65 point mark, with solid SOG but a big drop in PPPts and still his trademark lack of hits or blocks.

 

When putting together last week’s poll I was surprised to see that Marchessault’s production thus far had been lagging behind that of most of the rest of the Vegas’ now stacked top six. Vegas skaters, in general, scare me, as no one on the team – other than Mark Stone – gets the kind of ice time needed to be more than a 70 point player. Last year they were one of four teams (with the Wild, Islanders, and Montreal being the other three) not to have a single forward average either 19 minutes per game or three minutes of PP time per contest. Not surprisingly, with the exception of Max Domi, no one on any of those teams topped the 62 point mark. This season is shaping up to be a repeat in that area for Vegas, so I’m not very optimistic about Marchessault scoring much more than 60-65 points, but with lots of SOG and decent hits.

 

Ehlers has been a frustrating player for poolies to own because Winnipeg seems to be opposed to doing what it would take for his true talent to be on full display. He’s never been a PP1 fixture; and every time he gets moved to the top line, he gets pushed aside within a matter of a few games even if he does well. This season thus far Ehlers has been able to do better despite these limitations; however, until he gets PP1 time or – no offense to Andrew Copp, Bryan Little or Jack Roslovic – Winnipeg lands a halfway decent second-line center, Ehlers likely has a 60-65 point ceiling. As far as multi-cat, his SOG is strong, and his hits/blocks not terrible; however, his PPPts will disappoint.

 

Question #4 (from Jgj)

Keep or drop Shayne Gostisbehere?

 

Although Ghost followed up his disappointing 2018-19 with an even worse start to 2019-20, he’s not a drop in most leagues. In a one-year league with fewer than 30 d-men-owned I think it’s reasonable to let him go, as you can likely do better. It’s probably the same if that league is a keeper unless it’s a dynasty where losing a player means you could lose him for good, and I think – for reasons I’ll cover below – it’s a bit early to give up on Ghost. Once you get to more than 30 d-men being owned, it depends if it’s straight points league or a multi-cat, since if it’s the latter chances are you can do better. I also think in keepers where fewer than five players are kept Ghost becomes more easily expendable, as he probably would not make the keeper list anyways. And let’s not forget – if you drop him you can always pick him back up if he turns things around, although of course so could any other team.

 

What do I think will happen with his career trajectory? He earns $4.5M per season through 2022-23, which is not nothing but also not so high as to force the team’s hand into bestowing upon him prime deployment. Plus, Alain Vigneault is the type of coach who is focused on winning first and foremost; and as we’ve already seen, he didn’t even give Ghost ten games on PP1 before at least toying with Ivan Provorov in that role. And the presence of Provorov, who now makes more than Ghost for what it’s worth, certainly isn’t doing Ghost any favors. Long story short, he won’t be gifted golden opportunities to start playing like the Ghost of old.

 

Is there a past precedent that could help us perhaps forecast what might be in store for Ghost? He put up 65 points by age 24, which is something only ten other defensemen have done since 1990-91. If we exclude Morgan Rielly, who did so last season, we can see what ended up happening to the other nine in subsequent campaigns. Two (Zarley Zalapski and Roman Hamrlik) never had another 50 point campaign, although Zalapski did post 47 in the season after hitting 65+ and Hamrlik had 40+ points five more times, including the season after he hit 65+.

 

Among the other seven, all had at least three more seasons where they hit 50+ points, except Mike Green, who likely would’ve done so had it not been for repeated injuries taking their toll. So that’s good news for Ghost, yes? Not necessarily, as other than Erik Karlsson the other five played in the high flying 90s when scoring was way up; so in their cases, a rising tide might have lifted their boats in ways that won’t occur in today’s NHL.

 

Even still, the totality of this data suggests it would be almost unheard of for Ghost – as a player who posted 65 points by the age of 24 – to never have another 50+ point season. But on the other hand, none of these nine other players saw their totals shrink by so much in the season after they posted their 65+ points, so perhaps Ghost will defy past precedent. Of course, there’s another tidbit that bears mentioning, which is that no defenseman on any Alain Vigneault coached team has ever scored more than 50 points. In fairness, none arguably had the offensive gifts of Ghost, but Vigneault might not be the coach to help Ghost rise back to past glory.

 

My prediction is Ghost has yet another disappointing season, but not quite as bad as 2018-19. He then carries momentum to 2020-21 to see him rebound to the 45-50 point range. The concern though is whether Ivan Provorov plays well enough to become a true #1 d-man, with the PP1 time to show for it. But due to the one-dimensionality of Ghost, I think he keeps the PP1 role, which he’ll need.

 

Question #5 (from JustPuckIt)

What does the future for Kevin Fiala? Top six? Bust? Trade?

 

When you’re a healthy scratch on a team putting up as few points as Minnesota, it’s not a good sign. But it also can send an important message, and Fiala wouldn’t be the first youngster – and remember, he’s still only 23 – to need some tough love to get his head screwed on straight.

 

While some might think he’s perhaps still smarting from being traded, I don’t buy that, as although his numbers weren’t great after arriving from Nashville he did average a similar number of SOG per game and put up more PPPts per game. Instead, my take is he embarked upon this season rather complacent, figuring his spot on Minnesota was secure since after all they gave up a lot to get him and their offense was likely to need all the help he can get. When he was slow out of the gate, with poor effort and much lower SOG, the team gave him a wakeup call.

 

Fast forward to now, and Fiala appeared in two games since being scratched before getting hurt. His ice times were low but he shot the puck more. It’s essentially a chicken and egg situation in that he has to play better to play more, but it’s difficult to play better without playing more.

 

What does past precedent suggest might happen? By age 21 Fiala had played in 140 NHL games while posting 65 points, of which 35 were goals but also fewer than 80 points and 50 goals. Since 2000-01, a total of four other forwards fit all those criteria: Joe Thornton, Bryan Little, Logan Couture, and Bobby Ryan. Thornton can be ruled out since he played a style nothing like that of Fiala. But the other three, particularly Ryan, seem analogous. And we know that Ryan had several very good seasons, Couture is a very successful player, and Little had good years before injuries seemed to derail his career. So as far as comparables, Fiala is in pretty good company.

 

What do I think will happen? Minnesota will continue to give tough love to Fiala until either they see enough from him to give him deployment that will more likely lead to his success or the team realizes they need all the help they can get and be forced to lean on Fiala for that reason. So I think it’s actually good for him that he’s on a bad team, as over time they’ll likely ill afford to not look for all the scoring help they can get. When the dust settles on 2019-20, I think Fiala will show signs of life and be poised to climb back into at least point per every other game territory for next season, with a chance at a major breakout if everything falls into place.

 

Could he be traded? Yes, but I believe Minnesota would not be looking to deal younger players who could help the team right its ship down the road. If he does get traded, then I think there’s a real risk he never lives up to his potential, much like what happened with the likes of former high draft picks turned journeymen along the lines of Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi, Michael Frolik, and Benoit Pouliot.

 

Question #6 (from danno)

What might the rest of the season hold for Victor Olofsson?

 

I really like that he’s played better at each level. First, it was a strong 2017-18 in the Swedish hockey league, then him hitting the ground running upon coming to the US, with 63 points in 66 AHL games in 2018-19, before arriving in Buffalo for a late-season cameo that produced four points in six games.

 

Like Fiala, he’s also on a team that needs him, as the Sabres were struggling to fill their top six as recently as last season. Plus, when you’re someone who shows instant chemistry with the team’s franchise player, that’s usually some pretty nice job security.

 

Will he slow down? Of course. But I think he’s already shown enough to retain his spot for at least a few weeks once he comes back to earth. And so long as he can keep up a 30 goal, 55 point pace over the rest of the season he’ll be pretty much joined at the hip with Eichel. It also helps that he’s an RFA after this season, meaning he’ll have incentive to play well and, just as important for his future, he’ll get enough of a raise to likely secure his spot if not next to Eichel then still in the top six.

 

So yeah, I like him. Not 50 goal, 80 points like him. But 30+ goal, 55+ point like him.

 

Question #7 (from Bartosz)

Does Corey Crawford still hold any fantasy value?

 

The short answer is probably no. Despite a subpar 2018-19 as a whole, Crawford ended the campaign on a high note, with 16 starts in the fourth quarter and a GAA of 2.43 and SV% of .919. And although Robin Lehner was signed to only a one-year deal, giving him every motivation to succeed, Crawford is on the last year of his contract and, at age 34, likely entered this season believing he was playing for his every NHL future. That’s the good news.

 

So far for 2019-20 Crawford has not impressed though, giving up 4+ goals in all but one start. Lehner, while not playing lights out hockey either, has clearly been the better of the two. Even still, the team seems content – at least for the time being – to give both fairly equal time to try and take the job and run with it, meaning Crawford’s fantasy goose isn’t completely cooked just yet. Nevertheless, from what he’s shown, at his age, and with his recent concussion woes, it’s likely safe to drop him in leagues where 36 or fewer goalies are owned, as there are better options available. Even if your league is shallower, you still might want to cut him loose or risk all the plum waiver wire options being snapped up. Could you regret cutting him loose? Maybe; but it’s the right thing to do on paper.

 

Question #8 (from Philippe)

I’d like your opinion on a trade in my dynasty league (roster 21, keep 8, categories: G, A, PTS, +/-, PPP, Hits, SOG, BS; W, SV, SV%, GAA.

 

GM A receives Carter Hutton and a 4th round pick.

GM B receives Sergey Bobrovsky and a 2nd round pick. 

 

Vetoable?

 

Early season brings with it some pretty crazy deals. If you’ve read the Ramblings you saw some of the prices that were being paid for James Neal, plus other seemingly short-sighted swaps. As for this trade, I agree that on paper it is not “fair.”. Heck, even if the draft picks were switched it’d do little to change the equation.

 

That having been said, in a keep 8 most teams will hold onto one goalie at most, and I don’t know what the Bobrovsky owner has as his or her other goalie(s). Plus, Bobrovsky has looked like a guy who, frankly, has a fat contract in his pocket and doesn’t need to show up every night and play his A-game anymore. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that Carter Hutton had a very poor 2018-19 and has never put together a full season as a #1 netminder.

 

Is the trade vetoable? It depends on the standard in your league. In my primary league, the standard is whether the trade is so patently unfair from an objective standpoint as to negatively impact the integrity of the league. So basically, it would have to be so lopsided that it could not logically be defended from an objective standpoint. How would this trade fit on such a scale? It’s close, but it most likely would be allowed to stand given how both have played this season and since it’s not a full dynasty where every player can be kept. Of course, your league might have a different standard in terms of whether deals are fair or not, so go with whatever your particular guidelines suggest.

 

Question #9 (from Steve)

In my keeper league (keep 10) I don’t see my team as a contender for my league title, so I’ve already started to trade a few guys that look like sell highs, including Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Ellis, plus some others I saw as expendable like Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Guys I’ve received in return include Miro Heiskanen, Jack Hughes, Quinn Hughes, and Cale Makar, plus plenty of good picks to help restock my team. Should I move guys like P.K. Subban and Claude Giroux for more picks and young players as well? Also have Nico Hischier, Mathew Barzal, Jonathan Huberdeau, Victor Arvidsson, Teuvo Teravainen, Cody Glass, and Clayton Keller.

 

I’ll trust that indeed you were out of contention and needed to embark upon a rebuild. While I do like what you received and who you traded, the one exception might be Hamilton, since he’s probably someone I don’t think might have netted you proper value in return plus he’s young enough to be a cornerstone for your team for years to come. But he’s gone, and the return you received overall was quite good. So job well done!

 

I worry Subban’s ego is getting in the way of his play and also that a former Norris winner who’s still only 30 years old has been traded not once but twice in the space of just four years. I think he’s maxed out at about 50 points these days but his name value remains high enough to fetch you more in return.

 

Giroux I also see as safe to move under your circumstances. We’ve already seen the Vigneault effect on him, as Giroux is down two minutes of ice time per game overall. Without his past deployment, I see him maxed out at 70-75 points, and again my guess is you can trade him to someone who values him more than that. In both cases you should either move quickly, to avoid their value dipping as more and more of the season unfolds, or you could wait and even if their value drops your fellow GMs will suffer injuries and try to play catch-up in categories, making these players valuable trade assets.

 

Of the other five, perhaps the only one I’d consider moving is Arvidsson. I covered him in my Forum Buzz column a couple of weeks ago and think that although if you look at the end of 2017-18 and the beginning of 2018-19 he played over 50 games of point per game hockey, that’s not really what we should expect from him. So I’d dangle him in trade but at the same time not give him away if you can’t get a decent return. The other guys strike me as keeps, as all should be doing as well if not better by the time your team rounds into form. Good luck!

 

Question #10 (from Chris)

What’s going on with Timo Meier? Could last season have been his ceiling?

 

Most thought Meier would thrive with increased ice time amid the departure of Joe Pavelski; however, clearly, the season hasn’t unfolded as expected, at least not yet. The good news is his ice time and PP time are indeed up, although that begs the question as to why that has failed to translate to more points, at least thus far. There are positive signs, like his SOG rate, still being very strong and his IPP over 70% yet again, showing that when goals are scored with him on the ice he’s involved in the scoring.

 

So how can we try to tell his future? By looking at the past. If we focus on those who, since 2000-01 and like Meier, had 545+ SOG and 54+ goals in fewer than 200 games in their first three seasons by age 22, three players meet the criteria: Taylor Hall, Gabriel Landeskog, Jeff Skinner. Of them, I think Hall is not analogous, as the only reason he’s in the group is due to missing a lot of games due to injury. Landeskog and Skinner, however, seem like comparables, which is not great news for those hoping for Meier to make big gains, as Skinner has never posted 65 points and Landy’s recent success likely can be credited as much if not more so to him being part of a great line as him being great himself.

 

So although past stats don’t dictate future results, it might be time to temper expectations for Meier, as he might just end up being a high volume shooter for whom points don’t match his SOG totals. I’d give him about a 50/50 chance of putting up 70 points in the next three seasons, with almost no shot at point per game numbers, but also being unlikely to dip below 60 points either.

 

Question #11 (from DR)

Jonathan Marchessault, Jaden Schwartz, Victor Arvidsson – drop one.

 

Without knowing league details I’d probably say, Schwartz. He either plays great but has his season cut short due to injuries or he plays a full season but then doesn’t perform up to expectations. That kind of inconsistency is more frustration than a fantasy owner needs. With the other two you essentially know what you’re getting, plus they help you a lot if your league has SOG.

 

Question #12 (from BeerBot)

When will Thatcher Demko be a #1 goalie?

 

I don’t have a crystal ball; however, with Jacob Markstrom a UFA this summer he’ll either move on or, if re-signed, the team will do with Demko what they did years ago with Cory Schneider, which is trade him while he still is young enough to have tantalizing value. And once Schneider was dealt, he was a full-on starter within two years. So my answer is either next season or, worst-case scenario, 2021-22.

 

Question #13 (from DadOfCats)

Trevor Zegras or Dylan Cozens – who do you think will be the better fantasy asset in four years?

 

Both were drafted by teams (Anaheim and Buffalo, respectively) who’ll be on the rise by that time. Most likely Cozens will be shifted to wing due to the logjam at center for Buffalo, whereas Zegras will be able to remain at his natural center spot. To me, that’s enough to tilt the scales to Zegras.

 

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For those reading this now, it’s never too early to start providing me with mailbag questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with the words “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) by sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is “rizzeedizzee”. Or if you prefer to wait, the time to get me question is right after each Poll, since the mailbag runs the following week.

When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you’re in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you’re thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you’re thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for the return of Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!