October 4 2015

by Ian Gooding on October 4, 2015

Pens release Gonchar, send Pouliot to AHL; Oilers waive Nikitin, Canes sign Lack, plus more…

Saturday was a busier day for news than Friday, so let’s get into the bigger stories of the day.

We have perhaps witnessed the last of Sergei Gonchar, who was released from his tryout with the Penguins. If there’s one place that he could have made it work at this stage of his career, it would have been Pittsburgh. So if he happens to sign elsewhere, I highly doubt he’d be worth adding in any fantasy leagues.

Fantasy owners might be more concerned about the fact that Derrick Pouliot will begin the season in the AHL. Pouliot, who was profiled in this week’s edition of The Journey, is currently listed as the second-highest ranked defenseman in Dobber Hockey’s Top 215. But in his article, Kevin LeBlanc rightfully warned us that Pouliot might not make the team because of his subpar defensive play. That turned out to be the case, as his -8 ranking was the league’s worst during this preseason. But Pouliot should be back at some point this season. After all, has the Penguins' defense ever been able to stay healthy these last few years?

So according to Pensburgh, the Penguins’ defensive pairings sans Gonchar and Pouliot will be as follows:

Olli MaattaKris Letang

Brian Dumoulin – Ian Cole

Adam Clendening – Ben Lovejoy

Rob Scuderi – Tim Erixon

There are at least a couple of under-the-radar Penguins’ defensemen here that could warrant fantasy consideration to start the season.

Cole averaged 23 minutes per game during the playoffs, although that was without the injured Letang. Keep in mind that the Pens could still use him as a top-4 defenseman this season anyway, and that he scored eight points in 20 games during the regular season after being acquired from St. Louis.   

Clendening possesses real offensive upside, scoring as many as 59 points in an AHL season. He’s never been able to translate that to the NHL level (four points in 21 career games), but sometimes it’s all about opportunity. With Pouliot gone to the AHL, I can’t see how Clendening doesn’t get at least second-unit power-play time.

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Peter Chiarelli continues to make his mark on the Oilers, placing Nikita Nikitin on waivers on Saturday. Nikitin receiving $4.5 million per season last summer seemed like quite the stretch, and he didn’t do much last season or during the preseason to justify that contract.

I find it interesting that the Oilers and Blackhawks discussed a Nikitin for Bryan Bickell swap (Yahoo Sports). How often do we see one bad contract traded for another? I can’t recall many times that it’s happened. Maybe the David Clarkson for Nathan Horton swap last season.

With Nikitin assumed to be off the Oilers’ roster, Brandon Davidson has a better shot at making the team (Edmonton Journal). Davidson displayed some offense during his WHL playing days, but he hasn’t been noticeable offensively either during his brief time in the NHL or over two AHL seasons (NHL player page).

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Speaking of Bickell, he cleared waivers on Saturday. Interestingly enough, he will stay with the Blackhawks and not be sent to the AHL, as Pierre LeBrun had suggested might happen. I still like Artemi Panarin as discussed in yesterday’s Ramblings, as I think it’s unlikely that Bickell is used as a top-6 forward.

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The Hurricanes signed goaltender and noted taco connoisseur Eddie Lack to a two-year extension worth $2.75 million per season (Cap Friendly). More importantly, this signing probably signals the end of Cam Ward in Carolina once the season is finished. In spite of that, Ward will be the starting goalie when the Canes open the season against Nashville on Thursday (Chip Alexander).

Of course, many Canucks fans wish Ryan Miller had never been signed, especially if Lack could have been just as effective at half the price. But hindsight is always 20/20. How confident would Canucks fans have felt if the team entered last season with Lack and Jacob Markstrom as their two goalies?

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The Devils signed Lee Stempniak, who was on a tryout, to a one-year contract worth $850,000. After he scored ten points – including six goals – in 18 games as a deadline-day acquisition by the Jets, I’m surprised that he couldn’t get signed anywhere until now. In case you’re counting, New Jersey will be Stempniak’s eighth NHL team. He’s still got four more teams to go before he catches Mike Sillinger.

The Devils also released Tyler Kennedy from his tryout, but they still have three more cuts to make (NJ.com). As of the time of this writing, first-round pick Pavel Zacha is still on the roster. New Jersey is a team many of us are flat-out avoiding for fantasy purposes this season, so Zacha could eventually make his way into the top 6 if he manages to stick around. But as I’ve mentioned before, there’s no point in rushing unripe players into losing environments.

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I completed yet another draft recently, this one just before I started typing this edition of the Ramblings. This particular league is one I’ve played in for seven years – one that I have yet to win a title in. Although it’s not the deepest league out there and it’s not a keeper, it’s one that has been fiercely competitive since its inception.

This league is called Remembering fantasyhockey.com, named after the site I used to manage. It’s a great way for the former contributors for the site and its podcast (Weekly Slapshot) to keep in touch. Of course, it was originally set up as a writer’s league for the site. Back in those days as the editor/manager of this site, I can remember trying (and failing) to keep up with what Dobber had going on. But as a wise man once said, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So that’s what I did, and I’m glad I did.

As for the draft, I think my goaltending is decent (Ben Bishop, Sergei Bobrovsky, Antti Niemi), and I was thrilled to grab Tyler Seguin with the third overall pick. I can say that I just missed out on players that I was ready to draft – players such as Shea Weber and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so I had to scramble to make alternate arrangements when my pick came up.

For this draft I used Fantasy Hockey Geek, which I have now used for a few drafts. The one common denominator that I found for players that were ranked much higher than Yahoo was that they have high SOG totals. So I figure if nothing else, I will dominate that category this season. And goaltending makes up four of the ten categories in this head-to-head league, so I figured I needed to be strong at that position.

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Lastly, I hope you’ve been checking out Dobber’s content over at Sportsnet. One particular article that I enjoyed reading over there was written by Eric Daoust. In his article Fantasy Hockey Draft Tips: Veterans vs. Youth he explains how veterans supposedly on the downside of their careers don’t receive enough respect in drafts.

This is an understated yet amazingly effective theory in fantasy leagues – even keeper leagues. I’ve won my money keeper league two years in a row with mainly a veteran-laden roster. In fact I’d like to call this the “Joe Thornton” theory. With that in mind, props to the owner who picked Thornton with the 148th pick in my aforementioned draft tonight.

I was considering Thornton, but I decided to draft fellow falling veteran center Eric Staal at #99 and fill other positional needs afterward. In this league format, Staal was more highly ranked than Thornton, which explains why I didn’t want to wait for Thornton. You may remember that Staal was last week’s Geek of the Week, so I decided to take Terry’s advice and draft Staal right around where he suggested to!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your Sunday.