Fantasy Take: Minnesota Signs Eric Staal

by Michael Clifford on July 1, 2016

The fantasy slant on Minnesota signing forward Eric Staal. 

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After seeing his production decline in recent years, it would make sense that Eric Staal was going to be getting significantly less than he thought he might even a year ago once free agency rolled around. This was the case when he signed with Minnesota:

The production took a sharp decline over the last few years, as noted above. In the lockout-shortened season, Staal was over a point per game. Since then: 61 points in 79 games, 54 in 77, and just 39 points in 83 games last year. Now, playing with the offensively inept Hurricanes over the last few years certainly hurt: his two lowest on-ice shooting percentage seasons were the last two seasons. I am not so sure that things get better in Minnesota, though.

In recent times, Staal has been playing both at centre and on the wing. For now, were he to play at centre, it seems likely he slots in behind at least Mikko Koivu, if not both Koivu and Mikael Granlund. So while Staal does get out of Carolina (and yes, the Rangers), I’m not sure this helps too much.

Who does this affect positively: Kreider, Niederreiter, Hayes

I have Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes helped here because Staal leaving opens up at least one more spot in the top-six, and I have to think this goes to Kreider. This should also mean that Hayes is locked up on the third line, but I’m much less confident in that.

Kreider actually set a career-high in five-on-five goals last year, which I think would surprise some after the deathly slow start Kreider was off to. He ended up playing about a quarter of the season on the third line, which really hinders offensive upside. With Staal gone, I would wager that Kreider is now locked into the second line left wing slot, and that’s good news for fantasy owners.

For now, Nino Niederreiter would get a boost from me, assuming he and Staal both play on the third line next year. That is a huge assumption for now because there’s no real telling how the top-nine will work out for the Wild beyond Zach Parise on the top line left wing spot.

The one thing that has hindered Niederreiter over the last couple of years are his assist totals. Despite averaging 22 goals a year the last two years, but has averaged only 18 assists. Despite Staal averaging just 2.4 shots a game last year, he was still around 7.64 shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five. That number was still in the top-50 among regular NHL forwards last year. If Staal can find some finish, that could help Niederreiter finally get to the 50-point mark in his career.

Who does this affect negatively: Granlund

This is, as I stated with Niederreiter, all dependent on how the lines shake out. However, if Granlund is supplanted by Staal on the second line, that would be a huge hit to Granlund’s fantasy output.

Last year, Granlund set a career-high in goals with 13 and points with 44. He also averaged nearly two shots a game for the first time in his career. Things have been trending up slightly for the 24-year old Finn, but we’ll see how things work out. Maybe he will be better suited for a scoring third line. If Staal takes his spot though, this is a ding to Granlund next year. We’ll see.

*Stats from Hockey Analysis and Hockey Reference. Cap information from CapFriendly