Fantasy general managers are, by nature, a very optimistic lot.
We have a tendency to believe the best in the players we own, and that those players can continue to have huge success even when things are conspiring against them. Nowhere is this truer than during free agency and trading. However, things are not always sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. For a player to jump into a top-six role on a new squad means another player needs to be bumped down to the third line.
Below are 10 players who have seen a value decrease thanks to trades and free-agent signings this offseason.
10. Ryan Johansen
I debated having Johansen on this list for a while, but I’m including him for now as it isn’t clear where newly-signed Matt Duchene is going to play in the lineup. The possibility exists that Johansen is bumped down to the second line and replaced with Duchene. If that happens, expect some struggles for Johansen unless he sees a significant bump in power-play production from potentially playing with Duchene. There’s also the chance Johansen starts the season on the top line and Duchene on the second line. If that happens, then Johansen’s value stays more-or-less status quo. Regardless of where he starts, Johansen has competition as the team’s top centre for the first time in a long time.
9. Spencer Knight
There are some fantasy leagues that do their drafts before free agency begins (I’ve heard of some that do a prospect draft before the NHL draft, as crazy as that sounds). It would be interesting to see how far Knight’s average draft position has fallen from those drafts compared to ones after Florida signed Sergei Bobrovsky. There’s no guarantee Knight will become a top goalie simply because he was drafted in the first round (for every Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tuukka Rask, there’s Brent Krahn, Riku Helenius, Chet Pickard and Marek Schwarz), but signing Bobrovsky definitely will decrease the chances of Knight becoming the team’s number one netminder any time soon.
8. Minnesota Wild prospects
I’ve said this in the past many times, but the Wild prospects won’t be fantasy relevant until Minnesota decides to move on from its veterans and start playing its young players in bigger roles. So of course, the Wild go out and sign Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello. Last year, the Wild were the oldest team in the NHL, and while every other team is embracing a youth movement, the Wild seem to want to get older. Regardless, these signings will make it harder for prospects and young players such as Kirill Kaprizov (in a year’s time), Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin to be given a serious shot at fantasy relevance.
7. Collin Delia
When the Hawks signed Robin Lehner, that was a clear-cut sign to Delia that the team doesn’t trust him. One might argue that Delia’s performance last year might have decreased his value more than the Lehner signing, but a couple of weeks ago, it was still looking like Delia might be the Hawks’ backup netminder form 2019-20. Of course, with Corey Crawford’s injury history the last few years, there would have been a good chance Delia could have started half the games. He’s now bound for the AHL, and he needs to wait for an injury or two before he has any chance of being fantasy relevant.
Jokiharju was given a shot at the top power-play unit in Chicago for a few games, but the rookie wasn’t able to stick there. Eventually, Erik Gustafsson took over that top spot and ran with it. Nevertheless, the 20-year-old Jokiharju looked to have a solid future in Chicago. Now he goes to Buffalo where he is much lower on the totem pole and will struggle to get top-four minutes.
5. Alex Nedeljkovic
I’ve been a believer in Nedeljkovic for a few years now, and this offseason has been a little frustrating for owners. The young netminder has shown improvement every year in the minors and just led the Hurricanes’ AHL team to the Calder Cup championship. This past season, he led the AHL in wins (39), GAA (2.26), was tied for third in shutouts (four) and was tied for ninth in save percentage (.916). He looked poised to be Carolina’s backup netminder this upcoming season. Instead, the Hurricanes re-signed Petr Mrazek and traded for James Reimer, and Nedeljkovic, barring an injury, is stuck in the minors for at least one more season.
Most of Shattenkirk’s fantasy success can be tied to the power play (123 of his 240 points over the last six seasons have been with the man advantage), so anything that eats into that is going to severely impact his value. Shattenkirk has struggled mightily since leaving St. Louis, but he has still remained on the Rangers’ top power play. Even this past season, when he finished with just 28 points and was a healthy scratch at times, Shattenkirk was still on the ice for just under 53 per cent of all of the Rangers power-play time (although he was seeing less time with the man advantage as the season wore on). Now with Jacob Trouba on the team, Shattenkirk has no chance of reclaiming that top spot anytime soon, and with it, almost no shot of having any kind of a bounce-back season.
3. Will Butcher
His name came up last week in the top 10 arbitration players as well. To recap, Butcher’s first two years in the league were dynamite for him on the power-play, as his 37 man-advantage points were the 16th highest among defensemen. He was also averaging 2:42 on the power play, 27th highest among defensemen. Then the Devils traded for P.K. Subban, and all of a sudden, Butcher’s value quickly dropped. He’s now relegated to the second unit, which isn’t great considering half of his career points have come on the power play.
2. Tyson Barrie
Barrie is moving from a team where he was the quarterback on a top-10 power play to a team that had a top-10 power play, but he won’t see a sniff of the top unit. This is going to impact his point production tremendously as 47 per cent of his points (55 points total) the last two seasons have come with the man advantage. Expect that number to be drastically cut.
1. Phil Kessel
This is the most obvious one. It seems interesting that Kessel was rumoured to have a beef with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, considering Kessel had his greatest success playing for Sullivan (286 points in 298 games plus two Stanley Cups). Despite all the alleged controversy, Kessel’s most frequent linemate in Pittsburgh was Evgeni Malkin, and Kessel was a fixture on the Penguins deadly top power-play unit. He now goes to a team that has some great young talent, but nothing near as elite as he was playing with in Pittsburgh.
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