Ramblings: Kessel Trade, Risto Staying Put, Potential Zaitsev Deal?

by Ian Gooding on June 30, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Kessel Trade, Risto Staying Put, Potential Zaitsev Deal?

I just finished writing the fantasy take on the Phil Kessel trade to Arizona, with Alex Galchenyuk headed to Pittsburgh. You can read it here. One day after I wrote about Kessel in the Ramblings, he is moved. That’s how it goes this time of year. Something I write becomes outdated very quickly.

How will Kessel’s value be affected on my Top 100 Roto Rankings? You’ll have to wait until the next update on July 15 to find out. Or read my Fantasy Take and draw your own conclusions. 


We’ve been under the impression that Rasmus Ristolainen would be traded this summer. However, according to Darren Dreger, the Sabres are unlikely to trade Ristolainen. This news changes the perceived fantasy value of Colin Miller moving to Buffalo, perhaps even hurting his value. As Mike pointed out in his Fantasy Take, Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Zach Bogosian, and now Miller are all on the right side. It’s possible that the Sabres could trade Bogosian or move one of these defensemen to the left side, but I’ll leave it to someone who follows the Sabres more closely to determine which one that would be and the defensive implications.

On this whole “left side/right side” or “left shot/right shot” issue on defense, maybe it’s time for the NHL to differentiate between LD and RD in its player profiles and stats, since it seems to matter to teams. This could have a trickle-down effect in fantasy as well, of course. Maybe there are some leagues out there that have already found a way to do this, but I’ve never encountered one.

Back to Ristolainen for a moment. With Dreger’s news, it seems that the Sabres are simply trying to address what has been a sore spot for years as opposed to moving away from Ristolainen. More defensemen now in the fold allows Ristolainen to not have to take on such a heavy workload. Over the last four seasons, Ristolainen’s icetime has averaged around 25 minutes per game, which is by far the most on the Sabres.

Reduced icetime could help his plus-minus, which was a league-worst minus-41 last season. However, it may have a negative impact on his other fantasy “counting” categories, which will include both the scoring and non-scoring stats. Ristolainen failed to crack the 20 power-play-point mark last season, a number he had reached the previous three seasons. I don’t expect that number (17 PPP in 2018-19) to improve in 2019-20 as Rasmus Dahlin seems likely to take over the first-unit power play and also with Montour and Miller now in the fold. In fact, the Sabres could be targeting Ristolainen for a more defensive role with the Montour/Miller acquisitions.


Ryan Spooner has fallen fast. Just four seasons ago he nearly reached 50 points with first-unit power-play time for the Bruins. Last season he was split between three teams, scoring just nine points in 52 games. The Canucks already have a million forwards and for all I know could be shopping for more starting July 1, so Spooner never seemed to fit into their plans. As someone who watches the Canucks a fair bit, I can honestly say I hardly noticed Spooner out there during his 11 games there. Expect a team to invite him to camp on a PTO at the very least.

As for Valeri Nichushkin, how things can change from draft day to the present. I can remember a Stars fan I know being glad that the Canucks chose Bo Horvat ninth overall in the 2013 draft so that the Stars could grab Nichushkin with the next pick. Remember, it takes years before we know the real winners and losers of a draft. I can’t help but wonder if the two-year trip to the KHL set Nichushkin’s development back, but Alexander Radulov spent even more time there and was just fine when he returned to the NHL. Even though Nichushkin failed to score a goal in 57 games with the Stars last season, I could still see an NHL team taking a flier on him at the league minimum based on his original upside.


The Leafs have signed goalie Michael Hutchinson and defenseman Martin Marincin to one-year, one-way contracts at the league minimum.

Earlier this month, I mentioned in a Ramblings that Frederik Andersen’s workload could be in the 50-60 game range in the interest of load management. That could mean that Hutchinson could make his way into 25-30 games next season, since the Leafs are trying to part with Garret Sparks. As potential playoff teams look at keeping their starters fresh for the playoffs, backup goalies could have more of an impact in fantasy leagues than they have in the past.

As for Marincin, he’s best known (at least to me) as the borderline NHL defenseman whose Yahoo ranking was artificially high last season, resulting in his being drafted to the teams of many asleep-at-the-wheel autopickers. However, since this is a one-way contract and with the likely departures of Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey via free agency, Marincin appears more likely to be sticking in the NHL this season, whether Leafs’ fans like it or not.


This didn’t look good for Sabres’ first-round pick Dylan Cozens. He is expected to see a hand specialist on Monday, but the belief is that there’s no major damage.


Zaitsev has five more years left on a contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million per season, while Ceci is an RFA.  I guess we’ll wait for all the specifics after July 1, although I wonder if the Leafs throw in a sweetener to help with their cap crunch (hearing Connor Brown’s name mentioned). What’s in it for the Sens is that they need to get over the cap floor. I’ve heard the Sens mentioned as a potential destination for Loui Eriksson for the same reason as well.


I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, so I won’t discuss the fantasy implications of Joe Pavelski on the Stars or Mats Zuccarello on either the Wild or Blue Jackets yet (though I think adding Pavelski would be huge for the Stars). You’ll need to check back on Monday for our fantasy impact pieces on what should be a crazy busy day.


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