Ramblings: Goaltending Duo in Florida, Gibson’s Value, Coyotes/Panthers Trade (August 26)

by Michael Clifford on August 25, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Goaltending Duo in Florida, Gibson’s Value, Coyotes/Panthers Trade (August 26)

Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, Gibson’s Fantasy Value, Arizona/Florida Trade, and More

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As reported by George Richards of the Miami Herald on Wednesday, it appears as though Roberto Luongo is on track to start the season with the Florida Panthers. The 37-year-old had off-season hip surgery, and according to Mr. Richards, has been skating for about three weeks now. He has roughly seven more weeks to be ready for the start of the season.

Luongo has long been a fantasy favourite of mine, and of many others I assume. He has been one of the most consistent goalies of his generation, and from a fantasy perspective, he’s been a safe option over the last few years when not paying a premium on draft day.

However good he may have been for fantasy owners, we, the offspring of our parents, need to be able to keep a divide between attachment to the help a player has provided us in the past, and what he can do for us this upcoming season. Emotions and reason: you gotta keep ‘em separated.

James Reimer being signed to a five-year contract carrying an average annual value of $3.4-million would indicate to me that Reimer is not going to be used as a 20-25 start backup. With Luongo coming off a pretty serious surgery – any hip surgery for a goalie is serious, especially one of his age – and not getting a full off-season of training, I think Reimer could be closer to the 30-35 start range.

This is pretty important, as I would wager that Reimer will not be among the top-25 goalies drafted, unless there is a significant delay in Luongo’s expected return. Florida was a pretty good team last year, and with the additions on defence like Keith Yandle, Jakub Kindl, and Jason Demers, the blue line is hugely upgraded from 2015-2016, even with the loss of Brian Campbell. They should be one of the top teams in the East.

I understand the trepidation with Reimer, as he’s generally been inconsistent in his final numbers from year to year. The one thing I would say is that for the bulk of his Toronto career, he was playing behind a Toronto team whose defensive system could readily be described as “non-existent.” I don’t think it’s much coincidence that for the most part, Reimer played reasonably well under Ron Wilson, Mike Babcock, and then in San Jose, and for the most part, played reasonably poorly under Randy Carlyle. He should be behind a well-structured team in Florida.

Given that his draft day cost should be fairly low with most of the fantasy world focused on drafting Luongo, I would be setting sights on grabbing Reimer as a third goalie. An at-worst league-average goalie playing behind a good team is valuable in fantasy, and I think that’s a fair way to describe Reimer and his situation this year.

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The late August trades in the NHL are always interesting. And by interesting, I mean infrequent. We did get one yesterday, though, as the Arizona Coyotes traded a second and third round pick to the Florida Panthers, who sent back Dave Bolland (and his amazingly atrocious contract), along with top Florida prospect Lawson Crouse:

These are the details of the deal:

Also, Craig Custance of ESPN would add that if Crouse does not play for Arizona this year, that second-round pick becomes a third round pick.

On Florida’s end, they get a couple of draft picks to help replenish the cupboard, which helps, considering they gave up one of their best prospects. More than that, though, shedding Bolland’s contract is a big win for them. He had three years and $5.5-million annually left on his contract, and at this point, he’s not even an NHLer (when he even returns is up in the air itself). The cap space that they’re freeing up gives the Panthers a lot of flexibility, but moreover, they don’t have to worry about making a major deal this year in order to free up space for the Jonathan Huberdeau extension that’s coming down the pipe.

This probably concludes a pretty good summer for the Panthers. They’ve added a couple of picks over the next two drafts, bolstered the blue line, got insurance in net, and still have largely the same forward group from last season. Not bad.

Crouse gives the Arizona farm system just that much more depth. In general, I do think he’s a bit overrated by some – I don’t see him as a future top-liner, and think he eventually settles into a third line role, second at best – but even if he’s “just” a third liner, that’s a pretty big win for Arizona. They have to eat Bolland’s Clarkson-lite contract, but they add a legitimate prospect in doing so.

It’ll be interesting to see if Arizona has Crouse on the roster this year. Safely assuming Max Domi is their first line left winger, this muddles thing down the roster. Jamie McGinn was brought in through free agency, Tobias Rieder had a pretty good year for them last year (Author's added note: yes, he's still waiting on a contract), and now there’s Crouse. Unless in deeper leagues, avoiding Rieder now is probably a good idea. I’m not sold on Crouse being on the roster this year – there’s no reason to start his entry-level clock – but we’ll have to wait and see.

This is a win-win for both teams, and for fantasy, I think this is good for dynasty Crouse owners. Crouse would have been blocked from a top-six role in Florida for at least two more years, and this probably gets him to a feature role faster. As for fantasy impact this season, I don’t think there’s much of one stemming from this trade.

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One thing that fantasy owners can rely on, or as much as fantasy owners can rely on anything, is that outliers usually regress. A career 11-percent shooting player who shoots 5-percent in a single season is unlikely to repeat. A career .915 save percentage goalie who happens to post a .930 in a single season is unlikely to do that again. And so on.

With that in mind, I think there is cause for concern with John Gibson next year. There were 27 goalies who played at least 200 minutes while their team was short-handed in the 2015-2016 season. Of those 27 goalies, three posted a short-handed save percentage of at least .900: Brian Elliott at .907, Ben Bishop at .911, and Gibson at a whopping .931. Think about that for a second – Gibson’s save percentage while his team was short-handed was higher than all but six regular starters last year at five-on-five. Gibson’s short-handed save percentage of .931 was the same as Braden Holtby’s at five-on-five. To think he’ll repeat anything close to that is a big mistake.

A regression from that number to what was the median (.872), in a full 60 start season, would mean somewhere close to an additional 10 goals against. Even in his 40 start season, that would probably be around an additional seven goals against. In his 40 game season last year, if he had allowed just seven additional goals, it would have dropped his save percentage from .920 to .913, and his goals against would have risen from 2.07 to 2.25. Those are sizeable differences for fantasy.

As far as young goaltenders go, Gibson is one of the most highly-regarded, that there is no doubt. However, that save percentage while short-handed is going to come down, and even dropping to the median will have significant repercussions. On top of this, the new coaching staff in Anaheim (Carlyle and co.) is not known for instilling sound defensive hockey. There are a lot of red flags that concern me about Gibson’s fantasy value this year. Given that he’ll probably be one of the first 12 goalies off the board – or a G1 – I would do like I recommended with Elliott in an earlier Ramblings; either jump on guys like Schneider or Lundqvist a couple rounds earlier, or just wait and grab guys like Rask or Bobrovsky.

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Just aside from fantasy hockey for a bit, one thing that caught my eye this week was the talk of giving the captaincy in Edmonton to Connor McDavid. As a standalone, I don’t particularly have a problem with giving the captaincy to a young player like McDavid. Other young captains like Gabriel Landeskog, Vincent Lecavalier, and Steve Yzerman have done just fine, to understate things. The reason I don’t really get this from Edmonton’s perspective is this is the exact problem this franchise has had for about half a decade, aside from being completely unable to scout/draft/develop defencemen and goaltending.

Among the franchise’s many problems, high expectations placed upon young players figures into the picture. It wasn’t long ago that late-teen, early-twenty-somethings were expected to become a playoff team. That flamed out miserably.

Now, with the team (possibly?) trending in the right direction, they’re going to put the captaincy on a teenager? Like Ryan Reynolds might say, “But why?” Whether McDavid is ready to handle the pressure of being the go-to guy for conflict resolution in the dressing room is irrelevant; it’s a continuation of the problems that have been plaguing the Oilers for a while now.

Andrew Ference has a year left on his deal, and presumably the respect of the dressing room (whether he’s in uniform this year is another question). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has five years left, but the end of his tenure would put McDavid around 23-24 years old, and he would definitely be able to handle the pressure by then.

This isn’t all to say that McDavid won’t be/can’t be a good captain right now. I just don’t understand why the Oilers would continue to operate in the manner they have for several years now. Considering the results, one would think they’d do everything completely different than they have been. They should be like Costanza, and doing the exact opposite of every natural instinct they have (or the instincts of the previous regimes, at least).

*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap information from Cap Friendly