This week on DobberHockey is bubble keeper week, where all the writers focus on players who fantasy general managers may be having a tough time deciding who to keep.
It can be tough making those last few cuts, because making the wrong decision could mean the difference between winning or losing a championship. Imagine if a year ago you kept Milan Lucic and Jonathan Drouin instead of Jonathan Marchessault and Sean Couturier.
For this column, I decided to focus on the defensive position to make it simpler instead of bouncing back between positions. The 10 guys on this list all have question marks going into next season, which is why they are bubble keepers and not guarantees.
10. Shea Weber
This may seem like a homer pick since I am a Habs fan, but if your league has an injured reserve slot, then you definitely need to consider Weber as a keeper. He played only 26 games last year, but was the only player to average at least 2.2 hits and 1.5 blocks per game. He was on pace for an 82-game total of 19 goals, 50 points, 44 PIM, 16 power play points, 237 shots, 180 hits and 123 blocked shots. He’ll be back at the start of 2019 and will be a massive help for your playoff push and championship aspirations.
9. Jacob Trouba
Your final decision on whether to keep Trouba or not could depend on if you are competing for a championship or retooling. There are two things that keep Trouba from being a guaranteed keeper: His health and a 6-5 260-lb Dustin Byfuglien. According to Frozen Pool’s new report generator, the 33-year-old Byfuglien averages 5.3 hits and 3.6 blocked shots per 60 minutes of action, while the 24-year-old Trouba averages 4.2 hits and 5.0 blocked shots per 60 minutes. The reason you don’t see as gaudy overall numbers for Trouba is the fact he is frequently injured and doesn’t get as much ice time as Big Buff. If you’re keeping Trouba, you need to believe that he will take over for Byfuglien at some point or will be leaving the organization to have the chance to be a number one elsewhere.
Like Trouba, keeping Parayko mostly depends on what you are trying to accomplish in your league. If you are a contender, you probably have elite defenders and Parayko is an easy drop. If you are rebuilding or in the middle of the pack, Parayko looks more intriguing as a keeper. He could take over the main power play duties from Alex Pietrangelo in two years as Pietrangelo is a UFA in the summer of 2020. In the meantime, you’re getting a player who can net you a consistent 35 points, is getting more ice time and taking more shots each year, and contributes in hits and blocked shots.
7. Duncan Keith
I am fully willing to put Keith’s 2017-18 performance as an aberration, and not as the start of a decline. From 2013-14 to 2016-17, he averaged 0.66 points per game (54 points over an 82-game season). He struggled this past season, and it took him 57 games and 137 shots before he even scored a goal. His power play ice time was down, but no one else on Chicago was able to take over the number one spot.
You might figure out how the Egyptians built the pyramids before you figure out what Vegas is going to do with its defensive corps, but rest assured they have a lot of options in the desert. If you own just one of these two players, you’re stressing over whether or not he is worth keeping. Theodore played 21 fewer games and averaged a higher average power-play ice time, but Miller had a higher points-per-60 minutes and almost twice the amount of power play points. Both Theodore and Miller could man the power play for the full season, or they could pass it off between each other like a game of hot potato.
4. Nick Leddy
There are a lot of fantasy general managers that are high on Ryan Pulock being a sleeper pick this season, which would severely cut into Leddy’s production. However, Pulock needs to prove he can take the top job and run with it before you discount Leddy. It’s also important to note that Leddy is a borderline keeper because he doesn’t contribute much to fantasy leagues outside of goals and points. Last season, he had 10 goals and 42 points (along with 14 power play points), but only 20 PIM, 153 shots (which was a career high), 95 hits and 104 blocked shots. In leagues with peripherals, if you have plenty of offensive forwards, you may be better off going with someone like Brooks Orpik, who posted 68 PIM, 218 hits and 168 blocked shots, and worry about the offense from elsewhere. If you’re in a points-only pool, Leddy and his consistent point total is definitely worth a look.
3. Ryan Suter
Suter is very close to entering that stage where he is good every other year. If you believe this to be the case for Suter, he’s not a keeper this year. If you believe alternating good/not-so-good years has no basis for predicting future performances, you keep Suter (after all, his 51 points was tied for 17th in the league among dmen). When he’s on, he provides excellent value, notching 50-plus points, 40-plus assists, 20-plus power play points and 130-plus blocked shots. The biggest concern is his plummeting shot rate (2.29 to 2.00 to 1.91 the last three seasons) and his declining ice time (29:25 to 29:04 to 28:36 to 26:55 to 26:47 the last five years).
While there has been some scuttlebutt that 2018 10th overall draft pick Evan Bouchard might make the Oilers this season, even if he does, he’s not taking away Klefbom’s top power play spot immediately. Keep in mind Klefbom is coming off a bad campaign where he dealt with shoulder issues, so he’ll be eager to prove himself. However, he’s not the golden boy, making just over $4 million a year, so it wouldn’t take much to bump him out of the top power play spot.
There has been some debate about whether the drafting of Rasmus Dahlin leaves Ristolainen more open to being traded by Buffalo. I don’t believe it for a second. Ask Nashville if they hate having so many quality defensemen. It doesn’t make sense to trade a 23-year-old Ristolainen who has posted three straight 40-plus point seasons. Ristolainen is a stud defenseman. Look at last season: 73 games, 41 points, 48 PIM, 23 PPP, 182 shots, 206 hits and 111 blocked shots. He contributes in almost every category, but his plus/minus was a minus-25, bringing down his ranking quite significantly.
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