Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week; Zach Aston-Reese; Dobber Guide – July 23

by Michael Clifford on July 23, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week; Zach Aston-Reese; Dobber Guide – July 23


The Penguins have come to terms with RFA winger Zach Aston-Reese to the tune of a two-year contract worth $1M annually.

Aston-Reese has 23 points in 59 career NHL games, most of which has been spent in Pittsburgh’s bottom-6.

ZAR is an interesting name because if he can get regular minutes with Malkin or Crosby, he won’t need a lot of production for fantasy relevance; the guy has 193 hits and 43 blocked shots in those 59 games, playing 13 minutes a night. Imagine what he could do in 80 games with 15 minutes a night?


We’re just over a week away until the 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide is released! Head over to the Dobber Shop to pre-order now. While you’re there, check out our guide packages as well as other goodies.


This week is Bubble Keeper Week here at Dobber Hockey. It might seem kind of crazy to think about but we’re only about five weeks from the unofficial start of hockey draft season. It really doesn’t take long to get from, “let’s take a little break from hockey,” to “well, it’s almost hockey season again.”

Bubble Keeper Week is exactly what it sounds like; which players do you feel are on the bubble as a keeper either in general, or specifically to one of your fantasy teams? Is Player X a better option than Keeper Y? Who is on the rise and who is on the decline? Where are the important positional battles affecting value? These, and many others, are factors to consider.

To kick off my coverage of Bubble Keeper Week, I thought I would turn the tables a little bit. Rather than having readers pose questions to me – that will be later this week, I promise – I will be posing the questions to the reader and ask you guys to help me.

I’m in two keeper leagues (well, one is technically a dynasty):

  1. Ten-team home keeper league. Standard ESPN settings (G, A, PPP, SOG, PIM, +/-) without ATOI. Nine forwards, five defencemen, one utility, two goalies, and five bench slots.
  2. Twelve-team industry dynasty league. Multi-cat on Fantrax (G, A, Special Teams Points, SOG, Hits, Blocks, Takeaways, FOW). Three centres, three left wing, three right wing, four defencemen, three utility, two goalies, seven bench slots. It’s a cap league.

The dynasty league isn’t a true keeper league in the sense that I don’t have to really make a decision on keeping some players over others. Rather, there are decisions to make about which high-priced players to keep and which players need to go to make room for my RFA guys getting paid. The waiver wire is loaded with expensive players coming off down years – Kopitar, Bobrovsky, Getzlaf, Letang, Benn, Lundqvist, Krejci, and so on – so if there are expensive players I want to swap out of my lineup, there are options to choose from.

Let’s start with the ESPN keeper league.

As mentioned, that league keeps eight. ESPN is currently under maintenance, and like most people who struggle to remember to put on pants in the morning, I don’t have a copy of my roster on my computer. I do think I remembered all the players of consequence: Brent Burns, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mark Scheifele, Viktor Arvidsson, Andrei Svechnikov, John Gibson, Alex Radulov, Kris Letang, Oscar Klefbom. We need to cut three.

It seems obvious to cut Klefbom. I won’t spoil the surprise as to why, but I do think the power-play blueline now belongs to Darnell Nurse (I discuss it at length in the Dobber Guide). It also seems obvious to cut Letang. While I don’t like keeping just one defenceman out of eight, and he can be great when healthy, Letang has averaged 60 games a season over the last six years and is 32 years old. Even if I could get 70 games, I would probably keep him. He just misses far too much time and because I have Burns, it allows me to be a little more wiggle room with which defencemen I draft/keep.

The automatic keepers, as I see it, are Burns, Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Gibson, Tarasenko, and Scheifele. That leaves us a decision to cut one of Radulov, Arvidsson, or Svechnikov. Let’s dig in.



It seems odd to have a guy with back-to-back seasons with at least 70 points, 200 shots, and 50 penalty minutes on the bubble in a keep-8 league but I’ve been fortunate to horde talent over the last couple years.

Radulov turned 33 years old earlier this month. Aging curves tell us that as guys decline pretty hard as they approach their mid-30s – it’s a pretty steady decline from about 28 years old onward but a freefall starting at about age-34 – so if he were to follow this pattern, then 2019-20 would probably be his last very good fantasy season. Even if he declines slower than most, does that justify keeping him around?

Joe Pavelski was added in the offseason and he, presumably, will make the top Dallas power-play unit more dangerous. But how does the introduction of Pavelski affect the production at five-on-five? When Dallas’s Big Three have been broken up over the last three years, the on-ice goals for rates of all players involved plummet. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise – replacing Benn with, say, Roope Hintz is going to hurt goal totals. So if the Stars go to two relatively even lines, something along the lines of Hintz-Seguin-Radulov and Benn-Pavelski-Comeau, they could probably score more goals in aggregate than not having Pavelski and loading the top line with Benn-Seguin-Radulov, but if they all score less individually, that’s bad for fantasy.

Now that I talk it out, it seems pretty obvious that Radulov is going to get the cut, but let’s keep going.



There may not be a more frustrating player to own in fantasy hockey, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Arvidsson’s 82-game paces over the last three years are as follows: 35.7 goals, 28.9 assists, 3.2 shots per game, eight power play points. Let’s repeat that last one: the guy who averages 36 goals and 66 points every 82 games does so while getting fewer than 10 PPPs.

The frustration is borne out of longing for Arvy’s true ceiling. Any guesses on how many players managed 65 points in 2018-19 while also getting single-digit power-play points? None. Zero. The closest was Pierre-Luc Dubois with 61 points and nine PPPs. Even with a 60-point threshold, Dubois was the only player with single-digit PPPs. And Arvidsson has averaged over 65 points per 82 games for three years.

Matt Duchene was added in the offseason and it brings a similar situation as Pavelski in Dallas. Surely, Duchene will improve the power play. But at the same time, the Predators can now spread Arvidsson, Johansen, Forsberg, and Duchene across two lines. Over the last three years, Arvidsson has spent over 53 percent of his five-on-five TOI as part of a Big Three line. That Big Three line scored 3.6 goals per 60 minutes, which is a monster number. When Arvidsson skated without Forsberg and Johansen, he was on the ice for 3.7 goals (a number supported by inflated shooting percentages). That’s about 75 percent of Arvidsson’s 5v5 time at elite scoring rates. Presumably, if they’re split up, each of the top two lines won’t score 3.6-3.7 goals per 60 minutes. Would the anticipated decline in production emanating from the Big Three minutes be offset by improved scoring in the remaining 25 percent as well as (hopeful) improvement on the PP? That is the question to wrestle with.



I’m not going to write much on Svech. I’ve written about him so much over the last 12 months (just do a Dobber search) that it’s getting redundant. I truly believe he’s on the cusp of being an elite scoring forward, and I mean it when I say I think he can be the next Steven Stamkos.


My initial lean with these three players is to cut Radulov (likely trade him for a draft pick) and keep Arvidsson and Svechnikov. What do you guys say? Hit up the comments.


Now to the Fantrax dynasty league.

I don’t really have expensive players. My most expensive is Evgeny Kuznetsov at $7.8M, with Vladimir Tarasenko at $7.5M, and Brad Marchand at $6.1M. Those are my only three players with a cap hit over $6M.

I do have players getting raises:

I’ll be able to save money when I cut Jonathan Quick ($5.8M) and Jeff Petry ($5.5M). I will also probably cut Gourde. Those three cuts will be enough to offset my incoming raises. But I also have Nazem Kadri ($4.5M) and Ondrej Kase ($2.6M) on my injured reserve and they’ll need to be activated. I should have enough space to activate Kase but will need to find more wriggle room to fit Kadri. Someone has to go.

Basically, I need to free up enough space to active Kadri, or someone worth $4.5M or higher, or some combination of players to get to $4.5M. These are my options:

I doubt I’d cut Kreider; worst comes to worst, I would just trade him. My initial lean is to cut Connolly and Montour, activate Kadri, and go find a defenceman for about $2M. The problem with that is because it’s a cap league, almost every good cheap player is rostered; the defenceman with the best season last year still on the waiver wire with a cap hit under $4M is Ben Chiarot (seriously). We’re talking guys like Michal Kempny, Scott Mayfield, MacKenzie Weegar, Jordan Oesterle, and the like.

So I ask the Dobber community: do I cut a couple guys around $3.5M and go dumpster dive the waiver wire? Do I cut someone expensive like Kuznetsov, along with someone like Montour, and try to roster a better defenceman? Let me know in the comments.