Happy Fourth of July to our American readers! Hope the hot dogs and fireworks were amazing.
In case you were wondering whether Alexander Kerfoot and Cody Ceci were part of the Leafs’ plans or were simply going to get flipped, both signed contracts with the Leafs on Thursday. Kerfoot signed for four years at $14 million, while Ceci signed more of a “prove it” deal for one year at $4.5 million. I believe that leaves around $9.5 million for Mitch Marner. Maybe the Leafs will get Marner for under $10 mil, or maybe Kyle Dubas does some more roster maneuvering. In the meantime, we wait to find out whether an offer sheet drops.
Is this a reliable source, Torontoians? Maybe he has some inside info on Kawhi as well…
I’m hearing offer sheet coming on @Marner93
— Joey Vendetta (@RadioVendetta) July 5, 2019
Kerfoot is expected to take on the role of the Leafs’ third-line center and will likely be used on the second-unit power play. That’s not unlike his role in Colorado, where he also skated on the second-unit power play with middle-six duties. Something in the area of 40-45 points, which he has attained in his two NHL seasons, seems like a reasonable projection again. If I had to, though, I’d probably bet more of the under than the over on his 42.5-point career average, since the Leafs are a deeper team scoring-wise than the Avalanche were.
Ceci’s fantasy value should improve on the basis of plus-minus alone, as he has been a combined minus-49 over the past two seasons alone. He was a top-50 option in blocked shots while being just outside of the top 50 in both shots and hits among defensemen, so he’s not as much of a complete stiff in fantasy as you might think. He would take on the more defensive role in a pairing with Morgan Rielly, which probably won’t help his point total. So what you see is probably what you get.
Staying on the subject of the Leafs/Avs trade, there seems to be a lot of interest on how Nazem Kadri will perform in Colorado. As I mentioned in the Fantasy Take, Kadri would fit in as a second-line center in Colorado, which in general should lead to more scoring opportunities. I can see the argument about his scoring improving, particularly on his relatively disappointing 2018-19 output (44 points in 73 games). There are a couple of points I would like to expand on further, though.
Kadri’s shooting percentage was down (8.7%, compared to career 12.7%). So his goal total (16 goals in 2018-19 compared to 32 in each of the two seasons before) stands to improve regardless of the trade. For the record, I don’t record something like injuries or natural shooting percentage improvement as reasons that “trade helps Player X”, because these factors are not directly related to a trade.
Another factor is power-play time. Kadri was consistently on the top unit in Toronto last season. A total of 13 of his points were on the man advantage. So that was 31 even-strength points, which was eighth on the Leafs. He had okay linemates with the Leafs, but usually not one of Matthews, Marner, or Tavares (part of the problem was that Kadri is a center and so is Matthews and Marner). As Mike mentioned yesterday in the Ramblings, Kadri seems like a great fit for the first-unit power play. So his power-play time might be unaffected, but what about his even-strength production?
Colorado has improved its second line this offseason, but has it improved it enough to make a difference for Kadri? I’d expect Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to continue to be a unit. Perhaps Gabriel Landeskog will slip down to the second line, which would help. Point being is that I’d expect a small bounceback from Kadri that could top out somewhere in the 50s, but some of that wouldn’t be related to the trade.
If you’re talking multicategory, remember that Kadri’s value improves, although in 2018-19 he failed to reach certain benchmarks that we’ve become used to. It was a down year for him in shots on goal (fewer than 200), penalty minutes (fewer than 50), hits (fewer than 100), and faceoff wins (fewer than 500). If Kadri believes that his untimely suspensions factored into the Leafs’ decision to trade him, could a tamed-down version of him be less of a multicategory threat? It might help his scoring.
Another trickle-down effect of the Kadri trade could be a potential loss of value to J.T. Compher. As you’d expect, the Avs used MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog as their first three power-play forwards. The fourth forward was often Compher, who was a minute per game (3:07) in power-play time higher than the next-highest forward (Kerfoot and Colin Wilson at 2:05). Compher was only able to accrue nine power-play points all season, so he’s an easy candidate to be bumped to the second power-play unit and even the third line with the recent additions.
The Canadiens signed defenseman Ben Chiarot to a three-year contract worth $10.5 million. He won’t provide much in the way of offense (career-high 20 points in 2018-19), although his 171 hits ranked 18th among defensemen and his 139 blocked shots ranked 34th among defensemen. Chiarot was paired with Dustin Byfuglien for 80 percent of Big Buff’s even-strength minutes. It’s possible that Chiarot could be deployed with Shea Weber in a similar manner, especially since he’s now getting paid $3.5 million per season.
The Oilers have signed 2019 first-round pick (8th overall) Philip Broberg to a three-year, entry-level contract. Broberg is expected to play the coming season in either the OHL (the Hamilton Bulldogs own his rights) or the Skelleftea of the Swedish League, although more likely the Swedish League. See his Dobber Prospects Profile for more.
One player I didn’t get to write a fantasy take about on a busy July 1 was Robin Lehner. After his amazing comeback season, I was interested to find out whether he would re-sign with the Islanders, but if that didn’t happen, what team would land him. I was very surprised to find out it was Chicago, as I didn’t believe that the Blackhawks were in the market for a goalie. But with Corey Crawford’s recent concussion history, a Lehner signing makes sense. Dobber took on the original Fantasy Take, where he breaks down the scenarios very logically.
If I’m a Lehner owner, I would have been hoping for more. A return to the Islanders would have been preferable, as Barry Trotz’s defensive system and Mitch Korn’s goalie coaching turned Lehner and Thomas Greiss from fringe owns to fantasy studs. (For that reason, I like Semyon Varlamov a whole lot more than I thought I would like Semyon Varlamov at this point, but that’s for another day.) If not the Islanders, then Carolina and its top-10 defense would have been a decent landing spot with James Reimer as the backup.
I’m not sold on Lehner’s fantasy value improving in Chi-Town, even though he’s betting on himself on another one-year contract. As Dobber said, a great season for Lehner won’t be a .930 SV% season… it’ll be a .918 SV%. So if Crawford is healthy, who is the starter? Lehner deserves a timeshare at the very least given his Vezina Trophy finalist season, but Crawford has also built up equity in the Hawks’ net as a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Granted, Lehner played in only 46 games last season, and that number should increase if Crawford is dealing with concussion issues yet again.
A better way to put it is that I’m not really sure where to rank Lehner in 2019-20. There is some risk/reward here, and by saying that I’ll assume he has put his personal demons to rest. Talk me into keeping him over both of Tuukka Rask and Devan Dubnyk in one of my keeper leagues (I can only keep one goalie).
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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