Ramblings: Kucherov Gets Paid, Maroon Comes Home (July 11)

by Ian Gooding on July 10, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Kucherov Gets Paid, Maroon Comes Home (July 11)

 


On Tuesday Nikita Kucherov signed the contract we were all waiting for. “Only” $9.5 million over eight years. You may have thought he could have received $10 or $11 million on the open market. But remember that Tavares salary calculator that showed that JT would pay the least amount of taxes in Tampa Bay? If you think about it, that $10 or $11 million is what other teams would have had to pay if Kucherov decided to go the John Tavares route. So I’m sure he’s happy right where he is. Plus if he’s as serious about winning Stanley Cups as he says he is, he shouldn’t be reaching for the max deal anyway.

On a side note, I know that Toronto can bring the endorsement deals for a star player such as Tavares. But I wonder how much of a competitive disadvantage there will be for teams in Canada, where taxes are generally higher than in the US. I know firsthand that the cost of living in a place like Vancouver (or Toronto, for that matter) isn’t cheap. But even in the salary cap era, the Canadian teams are going to be in tough to compete for free agents because of actual take-home pay.

Back to the fantasy implications of the Kucherov deal. Salary cap league owners now have a year to plan for the nearly $5 million raise that Kucherov will receive. If you think about it, his current contract (less than $5 million per season) is a smokin’ deal for a 100-point player. And as long as he continues at close to that pace, you can probably make room for him in most salary cap league formats. You don’t give up elite players easily, no matter the cost.

There are, of course, the implications as far as a potential Erik Karlsson deal for the Bolts. The heavily rumored player to be on the move to make room for Karlsson’s salary would be Ryan Callahan (to the Rangers). But could the Lightning move any other players? In an interview with TSN 1040 this afternoon, Lightning insider Erik Erlendsson suggested that someone like Alex Killorn or Dan Girardi or Braydon Coburn or even Tyler Johnson could be moved. All those players make at least $3 million per season. To make room for Karlsson, the Bolts would need to trade someone off their current roster anyway. Might not be easy to maneuver, but could still be done.

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We found out on Sunday that Patrick Maroon was close to signing in his hometown of St. Louis, but on Tuesday that was made official. Mike Clifford took care of the Fantasy Impact article for you. The easy assumption is that Maroon’s fantasy value is tied to an elite center (eg. Connor McDavid), but Maroon did score 13 points in 17 games with a variety of lesser linemates on the Devils.

Here’s how the Blues’ lines could shape up with Maroon now officially in the fold:
 


You could quibble about whether Maroon ends up on the second or the third line, but Robby Fabbri’s health will probably have a say in the matter.

Despite his size as a potential net-front presence, Maroon hasn’t been a huge power-play guy throughout his career, recording no more than eight power-play points in a season. But it’s worth mentioning that the Blues had a dismal 15.4 percent power-play success rate in 2017-18 (only Edmonton’s was worse). And even though Maroon was a part of that Edmonton team for the majority of the season, I don’t think it would be out of the question for Mike Yeo to try Maroon on the first-unit power play at some point if it continues to struggle.

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Not that this is any major surprise, but the Canadiens will try to trade Max Pacioretty as soon as possible.

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Over the next few weeks I’m going to evaluate a goalie identified in the Goalies to Watch article in last season’s fantasy guide. First I’ll compare what I said about the goalie to what actually happened, then discuss what fantasy owners can learn from the prediction. I’ll identify three goalies that ended up having strong seasons, and one that turned out to be a major bust (there were more than didn’t have successful seasons, but this particular goalie affected a lot more fantasy rosters than the others).

This week I’ll feature Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy.

What I said:

“All he needed was an opportunity and he finally has it with Ben Bishop’s trade last season. Even though his NHL stats thus far aren’t phenomenal (career 2.67 GAA, .917 save percentage), the Bolt could be in line for a big year. Vasilevskiy has been one of the league’s top goalie prospects for the past few seasons, so he should be an obvious name here.”

What really happened:

Vasilevskiy was less of a reach here than the others in this article, as he was drafted on average at pick number 60 in Yahoo leagues. Those who were confident enough to draft Vasilevskiy as a second goalie in 12-team leagues were instantly rewarded with a 2.18 GAA and .931 SV% prior to the All-Star break. However, he was a different goalie post All-Star break, posting a ghastly 3.37 GAA and .902 SV% – not what his fantasy owners had in mind.

To put it another way, Vasilevskiy was owned by about 45 percent of the top 500 public league teams in Yahoo leagues just before the All-Star break – by far the most of any player. That number was down to 21 percent by the end of the season, surpassed by three other goalies (Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick, Connor Hellebuyck) and one player (Taylor Hall) in the meantime.  

All in all, the first-half performance and league-leading totals in wins (44) and shutouts (8) were enough for Vasilevskiy to be named a finalist for the Vezina. Yet the 2.62 goals-against average was in line with his career average, and his .920 save percentage only slightly higher than his career average.

What we learned:

For starters, a starting goalie on a Stanley Cup contender should hold considerable value, even if he lacks a proven track record. You might not be that enamored with the ratios, but the fact is that Vasilevskiy’s fantasy value was propped up by his high win totals. Whether that artificially inflates his actual goaltending ability or not, the fact is that he plays for a legit Cup contender (even more so if they can trade for Karlsson!) And if your league counts wins, you always want to target starting goalies playing for strong teams, even if the games can get a little high-scoring. Also keep in mind that Vasilevskiy will be 24 later this month, so there is still room to grow. And by grow I mean for his ratios to improve.

Vasilevskiy’s value was at its absolute pinnacle at the All-Star break. It’s difficult to consider trading away the number one reason that your team is in first place, but it could be worth leveraging him to address an area of weakness on your team. Especially if you won’t be left too shorthanded in net or you’ve accumulated a considerable lead in the wins category in your roto league. What fantasy owner doesn’t want to sell high? You have to be honest with yourself as to whether you think a player’s incredible run of success will continue.

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Don’t forget to vote in the Cage Match Tournament Breakout Forwards poll on the Forum. This week, you can pick which forward(s) will exceed their career best scoring output/rate by at least 10 points. And if you’re not sure which player(s) to pick, you’ll want to check out the Cage Match article this week, where Rick provides his usual insight. When voting, remember that the point totals are not actual point totals, but what the player was on pace for over 82 games. For example Bo Horvat scored 44 points in 64 games last season, so he was on pace for 56 points over a full 82-game season.

Personally, I had a tougher time with this one, choosing just two players: Horvat and William Nylander. My reasons are simple. Not only do I like the upside for both, but also the potential linemates. Horvat should get an entire season with Brock Boeser (assuming neither gets injured), while William Nylander will have his pick of Auston Matthews or John Tavares.

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For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.