Ramblings: Gardiner to Carolina, One More Season of Joe, Players Undervalued by ESPN (Sept 7)

by Ian Gooding on September 7, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Gardiner to Carolina, One More Season of Joe, Players Undervalued by ESPN (Sept 7)


Did anyone expect Jake Gardiner to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, and believe that it would take over two months? Your guess was as good as mine as far as where the free agent blueliner would sign. In case you missed it, the contract is four years at $4.05 million per season. That’s a bargain for the Canes, who according to Cap Friendly are now above the cap limit (another surprise). Gardiner might not have been a fan favorite in Toronto because of his defensive miscues at inopportune times. Yet there shouldn’t be any doubt about his offensive upside, which should fit well on a team that already plays a strong puck possession game.

You can check out the Fantasy Take on the Gardiner signing. Since I just posted it, I don’t have too much else to say in here. You’ll just have to click the link.

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Another year of Jumbo Joe Thornton? Yes please. The 40-year-old bearded one has signed on for one more season, which will pay him $2 million and provide him with one more chance at winning a Stanley Cup. Thornton had stated in the offseason that he wasn’t ready to retire and that he would only return to the Sharks, so this signing shouldn’t have ever been in doubt in spite of its proximity to training camp.

Thornton was used mainly as a third-line center and a second-unit power-play option in 2018-19, yet he still finished with a very respectable 51 points (16g-35a) in 73 games. Expect him to be used in a similar type of role in 2019-20. Before jumping to the conclusion that he might be completely done as an effective NHL scorer, keep in mind that 33 of those 51 points were scored in his last 39 games. Big Joe’s line with Marcus Sorensen and popular sleeper Kevin Labanc was also the Sharks’ most productive unit during the last part of the regular season.

Something to watch with Thornton, however: Because he is now 40 and has had two major knee surgeries, the Sharks may exercise a load management strategy with him in terms of his number of games – particularly in back-to-back situations – as well as his minutes.

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The Chicago Blackhawks have signed RFA forward Brendan Perlini to a one year, $874,125 contract. Perlini will still be an RFA once this contract has expired. Perlini scored 14 goals and added seven assists in 68 games, although 12 of those goals were in a Hawks’ uniform (over 46 games) after he was traded from Arizona.

Perlini’s most frequent linemates last season were Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, who of course also came over in the trade with the Coyotes. If Perlini can see continued minutes with those two scorers, then he could be a potential deep sleeper. His lack of power-play time (by that, I mean almost none) remains an issue as far as has viability in standard fantasy leagues, though.

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Before I forget, here’s an invitation to the 2019-20 DobberHockey Tiered Invitational. Compete against fellow Dobber Hockey visitors for a chance to become the ultimate champion, which I’m sure comes with some amazing bragging rights! More information can be found inside the link, which takes you to the Forum. If you do not have a Forum account, you will need to create one first in order to join.

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We continue on with mining the ESPN rankings, this time with players that might be valued too low by the Worldwide Leader. Yesterday we had a look at players who could be overvalued.

Note: If you’re not in an ESPN fantasy league, you may not be able to view these rankings. You can view a very early rankings list from July here, although the ones I am using are not the same. If you do sign up for a league, go to the Players drop down, then select Projections.

Patrik Laine (98) – Because of his very rollercoaster 2018-19 season, there seems to be a lot of debate as to where to pick Laine. If you turn back the clock to just one season, Laine was picked in the first round in many fantasy drafts. I’m not suggesting at all that he should be picked there this season; however, if Laine rebounds to what he is capable of, he could easily deliver on this pre-draft ranking and then some. I wouldn’t have a problem picking Laine two rounds earlier than this, which would place him at around pick 75. That’s still solid value for a player who has scored at least 30 goals in each of his first three seasons.

Frederik Andersen (127) – The most significant criticism I have of the ESPN rankings is the massive undervaluing of certain key goalies, starting with Andersen. The Leafs’ starting netminder is considered a first-tier goalie in many fantasy rankings. For any league that happens to count saves, Andersen provides especially high totals because of his high number of games played. His GAA and SV% don’t particularly stand out, but he should once again be among the league leaders in wins while he doesn’t have to worry about challengers to his job.

Erik Gustafsson (153) – This is a defenseman that finished sixth in scoring at his position with 60 points. None of the defensemen above him scored fewer power-play points. So the argument is that his point total could actually improve, especially considering his strong second half (almost a point per game). He might be bumped down because of his lack of pedigree, yet he would be an absolute steal if you can draft him at this point. ESPN’s scoring projections for Gustafsson are fairly kind, surprisingly enough. And fantasy owners are noticing him anyway, drafting him at an ADP of 122.

Tuukka Rask (157) – If Rask plays in fewer than 50 games for the second consecutive season, then his win total will be outside of the top 10 again. That could be the argument for pushing him down this low. However, many fantasy owners will probably take the reliability of Rask over more relatively unproven options that are usually drafted at this point. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to handcuff Jaroslav Halak, depending on your situation. Rask’s ADP is 118, which is better but still seems too low.

Connor Hellebuyck (176) – Hellebuyck is in a similar situation to Andersen, as he provides high save and win totals because of a high number of minutes, yet his ratios are somewhat ordinary. However, there is the chance to pull even greater value from Hellebuyck than Andersen, given this low ranking. In fact, I find it hard to believe that fantasy owners would wait this long to draft a starting goalie from one of the league’s better teams. Usually these kinds of goalies are gone by pick 100. Because of lower goalie rankings, you should be able to wait on a goalie longer in ESPN than you can in Yahoo.

Matt Murray (206) – The injury history could be pushing Murray down here. So in spite of the risks, Murray is probably worth more than a pick outside the top 200. He’s ranked inside the top 100 in Yahoo, which not everyone will be comfortable with. Yet you will need to pick him there in Yahoo, considering the earlier run on goalies.

Robin Lehner (256) – Last season’s Vezina Trophy finalist is ranked behind the likes of Darcy Kuemper, David Rittich, Collin Delia, and Jimmy Howard. Fantasy owners might be worried about a potential Lehner/Corey Crawford timeshare as well as a move to a more offensive-minded system in Chicago. Still, this is great value, as Lehner’s ranking and ADP are about 100 spots higher on Yahoo.

To summarize the ESPN goalie situation, the lower rankings/ADPs might have something to do with there being a lower proportion of goalie categories than Yahoo. I believe in default leagues it’s 7 scoring/3 goalie for ESPN and 6 scoring/4 goalie for Yahoo. In other words, goalies play less of a role in a fantasy team’s success at ESPN than in Yahoo. That’s something to consider if you participate in both leagues.

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