One of the NHL’s most consistent defensemen over the past nine seasons has been Alex Pietrangelo. Since his rookie year in 2010-11, he has missed a total of 22 games before this season, with the most being 9 in 2015-16. So far this season, he has missed 11 games with an injured right hand that required surgery. He returned to the lineup on December 29 and has played 14 games since and produced a goal and seven assists with 35 shots on net. It is always cause for concern when a player is injured on their primary shooting hand or arm/shoulder and how it affects them moving forward.
As fantasy owners, we need to decide on a path before a player’s stats start to decline to ensure we get the most value now and in the future. This is probably one of the most difficult decisions in a keeper pool, and I know I’ve made a mistake on both ends, either keeping a player too long or trading them and have them go on to five more productive seasons with someone else.
Dobber had him #33 on his last Keeper League ranking in January down from #19 at the beginning of the season. Pietrangelo just turned 29 and has one more year on his contract at $7.5 million in 2019-20. There are rumours that he is on the trading block and could be dealt before this year’s deadline. If dealt to a playoff contender, his minutes and power-play duties very possibly would decrease this year and next. If he remains with St. Louis, this is a team in trouble on defense that will need to dip heavily into the UFA pool next season to bolster their defense if they don’t re-sign Jay Bouwmeester or Carl Gunnarsson. Their defensive prospects pretty much start and end with Scott Perunovich now that Vince Dunn is no longer considered one.
Is it better for Pietrangelo to remain with St. Louis, or be dealt and perhaps be a second-pairing defenseman at even strength and on the power play? Are there signs that Pietrangelo is beginning on the road down the hill? Where does Pietrangelo fit in his career progression, and what should owners do with him?
There is not much on the surface that tells us that Pietrangelo is about to start diminishing his fantasy return in any meaningful way. This year perhaps can be attributed to his injury and the team regressing, and even then, he is still on a 41-point pace.
His points per game and shots per game are all in line with his prior years, albeit on the low side. He has been remarkably consistent with his PDO (shooting % plus save %) over the years between 99.2 and 101.7, but this season is at 97.4 and that perhaps reflects his career low IPP (at 5v5) of 31.25 when his career average is about 40.84.
His CF% at even strength is 53.12 and is right around where it has been throughout his career. A rare indicator of decline is that he has only generated two first assists at even strength in 38 games and is far below his one-per-6.38 game pace in his career (or 15.67 per 82 games). This alone is cause for concern, and I would really monitor this for the rest of the season.
The St. Louis power play is 17th overall this year at 19.4%, which is actually up from 15.4% last season. Other than goals, his pace is relatively the same as prior years on the power play. Pietrangelo is the rare player that it doesn’t matter who he plays with as he makes his partner better as he plays an equal amount of time with Vince Dunn, Carl Gunnarsson, Jay Bouwmeester or Joel Edmundson.
If you are in a league that counts plus/minus, this season has not been the kindest for Pietrangelo at minus-6 after being +18 last season. Once again, his PDO being low should revert this closer to even by season’s end. Moving forward into next season, it will be difficult for Pietrangelo to reward you with plus/minus as this team undoubtedly begins to struggle on defense unless they hit some trade or UFA home runs. If traded to a better team, you could benefit the most and more than make up for his goals and assists sliding a little as he shares more ice time.
My advice would be to hold him, unless you can get a player that will pass him on the keeper list in the next two seasons. In my pool keeper pool he was the 11th best fantasy point producer amongst defensemen in 2017-2018. Hr has never been below 32nd in five seasons up until now and currently ranks 81st in 2018-2019. There is a very good chance going forward for this season and next that he climbs back up into at least the top 40-50 in my pool, no matter where he is playing.
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