Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week – Rittich Signs, Bubble Keepers DeAngelo, D. Toews, Varlamov, Stastny (July 28)

by Ian Gooding on July 28, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week – Rittich Signs, Bubble Keepers DeAngelo, D. Toews, Varlamov, Stastny (July 28)


Mere hours after I featured him in Bubble Keeper Week yesterday, David Rittich signed a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.75 million per season with the Flames. Rittich will be earning exactly the same amount as newly acquired Cam Talbot in 2019-20, which is a clear sign that the Flames’ goaltending situation will be a battle and could very well involve the two goalies splitting starts. Opinions seem to be mixed about whether Rittich can become the Flames’ full-time starter, as his first-half numbers were stronger than his second-half numbers. The ratios are also further proof that the win-loss totals can be misleading (especially Quarter 3).
 

Qtr

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

SV%

QUAL

QUAL%

1

9

6

1

0

1.92

0.933

7

77.8

2

15

8

3

3

2.62

0.915

9

60.0

3

11

7

1

2

3.10

0.892

3

27.3

4

10

6

4

0

2.63

0.908

5

50.0


For the Flames, this is a smart move. They’re not trusting him as much as the Oilers did when they handed Mikko Koskinen a larger extension after half a season. The contract tells Rittich that he has two years to prove himself as the starting goalie. Talbot’s contract is only for one year, so the Flames might be expecting either Jon Gillies or Tyler Parsons to fill that void in 2020-21.

Does this change my answer from yesterday about keeping Rittich over goalie prospects Thatcher Demko and Ilya Sorokin? (Before you chime in below, please read my original answer.) It doesn’t for the most part, though I would suggest to the owner that he attempt to find at least one more proven NHL-level goalie to help his team now, if he doesn’t have one already. I’m not sure if this is the case here, but one mistake I see with keeper teams is stockpiling too many prospects while the cupboard is bare when it comes to big-league options. That’s where I’m coming from here.

For commenter Braeden who inquired about Gillies, 2019-20 will be a make-or-break year for him. His contract morphs into a one-way deal, which means he will be paid the same amount ($750,000) at both the NHL and AHL level. Gillies might still be considered a prospect, but he was drafted back in 2012 and is now 25 years of age. If his AHL numbers don’t improve (3.51 GAA, .889 SV%), then don’t expect him to be back in the Flames’ organization in 2020-21. There are already some Flames’ fans who believe it is time to move on from him (see the article/poll from Matchsticks and Gasoline).

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The Washington Capitals have signed forward Chandler Stephenson to a one-year, $1.05 million contract. With the signing, the Caps are now about $1.3 million over the salary cap ceiling, although they will have until the start of the season to resolve the situation.

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To wrap up Bubble Keeper Week…

via GIPHY

… here are my four remaining bubble keepers. The first two are potential sleeper options on the blueline that both happen to play in the NYC market. The last two could experience increases in value from changing teams either last summer or this summer.

Tony DeAngelo

DeAngelo seems like he’s been a prospect for a while, as he’s now 23 and just finished his first full NHL season. His power-play time was equivalent to second-unit in 2018-19, although 10 of his 30 points were scored on the man advantage. DeAngelo only got into 61 games in 2018-19, as he was at times healthy scratched by David Quinn, more often earlier in the season though. In spite of the healthy scratches, he is projected to a second-pairing d-man of the Rangers, according to Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic.

DeAngelo should receive power-play time once again, although getting onto the first unit will become increasingly more difficult. Expect new golden boy Jacob Trouba to man the first unit, and don’t forget that the Rangers have also traded for Adam Fox, who was over a point-per-game scorer at Harvard. The Rangers also have Kevin Shattenkirk, who could potentially be traded or bought out now that the Rangers need to make a move to get under the salary cap.   

Note that DeAngelo is also an RFA, so we’ll have to await his next contract while the Rangers sort out their cap issues. Shattenkirk or Brendan Smith could be bought out, while Chris Kreider or Vladislav Namestnikov could be traded. Since the Rangers’ situation is in flux and already seems somewhat crowded, and I need to make a decision soon, chances are I’m not going to wait on DeAngelo. There’s still considerable upside, so I could still decide to add him as a free agent in this league (it has something called a hometown discount to match any auction bids).  

Devon Toews

Toews made his NHL debut in 2018-19, scoring 18 points in 48 games, including four power-play points. On the surface, that doesn’t seem overly spectacular, considering that the Islanders have other options for the power play. Ryan Pulock is coming into his own as a blueliner that should reach 40 points very soon, while veteran Nick Leddy led Isles’ defensemen with ten power-play points in spite of an overall down year. However, a deeper dive shows that Toews might have something more to offer that could appeal to fantasy owners.

Toews showed offensive upside in the AHL, scoring 41 points in 54 games spanning over his last two seasons there. Once he was recalled, Toews led the Isles with a 53% Corsi For (if you remove Josh Ho-Sang’s ten-game trial). Toews also cashed in on a golden opportunity during the playoffs, when he was given first-unit power-play minutes (led all Isles’ d-men with 60 PP%). He led Islanders’ blueliners with five points in eight playoff games, with four of those points on the power play.

I’ll have to admit: This is one I’m giving some serious thought to. For starters, I can keep Toews at a lower price than what it would take to keep DeAngelo. For what it’s worth, I’ve been reading comments from Islanders’ fans who believe that the first-unit power play should be run by Toews and Ryan Pulock and not Nick Leddy, which based on Leddy’s lack of production last season, makes sense. The trouble is, the Islanders still have three more years left of Leddy at $5.5 million per season. So as much as I say that Toews has sleeper potential, don’t be surprised if the Isles haul Leddy and his 26 points in 82 games back on the first-unit power play to give him a chance to rebound. That shouldn’t stop you from rolling the dice on Toews as a later-round flier anyway.

Semyon Varlamov

I know that the Islanders didn’t exactly upgrade their netminding by letting Robin Lehner sign with Chicago and signing Varlamov to a four-year contract. This is a contract that may not age well for the Islanders; however, I’d rather wait to see how Varlamov will fare in a Barry Trotz/Mitch Korn system before declaring it a complete disaster. An under-the-radar reason for the Varlamov signing could also be to help lure fellow Russian Sorokin over to the NHL.

Whether I decide to keep Varlamov or not, I won’t be signing him beyond this coming season (as I mentioned yesterday, I have the option of retaining him for multiple years if I wish). The possibility of Sorokin signing with the Islanders could hurt Varlamov’s value. Varlamov isn’t necessarily in the clear this coming season either, as Thomas Greiss is still in the picture (2.27 GAA, .927 SV% in 2018-19). Greiss is under contract for one more season, although he could still be a Plan B for the Isles should Sorokin decide to take the rubles offered in Russia.

I wrote about Varlamov earlier this month, so I won’t go on any further. Cliffy also wrote a Fantasy Take on his signing with the Islanders. I probably like Varlamov in this spot more than a lot of others do and would be willing to give him at least a trial under the Islanders’ strong defensive system. 

Paul Stastny

I was able to snag Stastny off the waiver wire after he missed two months early in the season with a lower-body injury. He’s on my bubble keeper list because he scored just 42 points, but that total came over just 50 games. That put him at a 0.84 PTS/GP pace, which placed him at the same pace as Joe Pavelski, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Viktor Arvidsson, and Mats Zuccarello in 2018-19.

Stastny was particularly strong down the stretch, when he scored 17 points over his last 17 games. That had a lot to do with the deadline addition of Mark Stone. Chris Kane has more about the production breakdown in his Wild West Bubble Keeper Week piece. I’ll just add that Stastny scored just four power-play points in all of 2018-19, so he might not be considered for the first-unit power play. However, there wasn’t a huge variance in PPTOI between the first- and second-unit power plays, so that number should improve significantly.

Stastny could provide solid bang for the buck for where he is drafted. However, CBS has a higher-than-normal number of forwards listed as centers. I can likely re-acquire Stastny for less during free agency if I wish. Vegas should have one of the strongest top-6 units in the league, so Stastny should make for a productive pick that probably won’t cost you that much.

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With today being the last day, we hope you’ve enjoyed Bubble Keeper Week. Geek of the Week will feature one more bubble keeper that I think you’ll be interested in.

For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.