Ramblings: Kucherov Hurt, Magnificent Marner and more (Feb 27)

by steve laidlaw on February 26, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Kucherov Hurt, Magnificent Marner and more (Feb 27)

 

Was there a bigger loser of this year’s trade deadline than Vladislav Namestnikov? I don’t think so.

The biggest possibly opening is the one left by Namestnikov as the net-front presence on the Lightning’s top power play unit. There isn’t as much of an opening in the top-six considering Namestnikov fell out of favour of the past couple of months. Last night, we saw Chris Kunitz deployed in that net-front spot, but it’s worth noting that JT Miller hadn’t yet joined the team.

Miller, Kunitz and Ryan Callahan are all candidates here. As I suspect is Yanni Gourde, but I suppose we’ll wait and see.

None of that may matter if Nikita Kucherov’s injury proves serious. He left last night’s game with an upper-body injury and did not return. No word on his exact status, so keep an eye out for updates. The Lightning can survive a few weeks without him, but likely not a few playoff rounds. My fantasy team can survive neither.

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Mitch Marner’s absurd run continues. He has 16 points in the last nine games, including a five-point night and a four-point night. Just like that he’s on pace for 67 points, just shy of the 70 that I forecasted. I held strong on Marner until January and then I started to have doubts. This run is all worth it. I hope he can maintain this through the fantasy playoffs. I also need him to get at least 65 points to hit as one of my few aggressive over bets this season. Until this week, it really didn’t feel like it was in play.

Nikita Zaitsev recorded his first point in 22 games. His fantasy value died a quick death when Morgan Rielly scooped his spot on the power play this season.

As expected, no fantasy relevance to be found in Tomas Plekanec. He skated 11:38 in his Leaf debut. PK time but not PP time.

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Petr Mrazek moved to 3-0 as the Flyers starter without a shutout win over the Canadiens. He was matched until the shootout by Charlie Lindgren who had this miracle save in overtime:

 

Nolan Patrick’s four-game goal streak came to an end, but all the reasons that I like him are still in play. Second line minutes with Jakub Voracek, plus top PP time as the net-front man with Wayne Simmonds hurt.

Depending on how long Simmonds is out (we’re just past week one of a 2-3 -week injury) you may get some use out of Patrick in the fantasy playoffs, which is the dream.

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Mark Letestu scored in his return to Columbus. He did indeed get into the mix on Columbus’ second power play unit, as well as the penalty kill. Could be some marginal value there, though doubtful. Also, we haven’t seen the Blue Jackets with Thomas Vanek in the lineup yet, so we cannot conclude that Letestu’s PP usage is permanent.

Three-point nights for Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson. Jones is officially winning the battle with Zach Werenski for #1 billing in Columbus. It’s the case on most teams, there can only be one truly star defenseman and Jones is doing it. It’s worth considering that Werenski has basically been a 35-40 -point guy since the bottom fell out on Columbus’ power play around Christmas 2016. He really only had a couple of months of elite offensive production. Jones’ track record seems longer. Still time for this to flip back in Werenski’s favour, but right now he’s losing. In your average one-year league Werenski isn’t even rosterable.

Atkinson is up to 12 points in 15 games since returning from injury. Still not sure I trust him, but he is starting to win me over. I especially like that he has 63 SOG in this span. Ludicrous shot volume!

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What an exorbitant price Vegas paid for Tomas Tatar. I’d have figured that for such a haul they could have gotten a better non-rental, but perhaps not. The Canadiens seemed intent on getting roster talent in return for Max Pacioretty (pretty well a non-starter for a contender) and it’s tough to see the Golden Knights simultaneously negotiating trades with Ottawa for both Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman.

Apparently, Vegas went hard after Karlsson, and I wish they would have gotten it done. It’s tough to see them getting back in at the draft after having moved three picks in exchange for Tatar. They did a reasonable job of spreading the picks out across multiple years, but still lose some draft capital that they’ll need to fill out their organization.

I think they just really like the length of Tatar’s deal. With three years left, Tatar can provide middle-six scoring at market rate for three more seasons. He’ll essentially replace James Neal when the forward hits free agency this summer. Why pay Neal for his age 31-35 (or older) years when you can pay Tatar for his age 27-30 years?

There is opportunity cost in this, not only from the picks spent, but also that someone else may have taken their money. However, the free agent market isn’t teeming with great wing options. The best UFA wingers might be Neal and Perron. Other guys like JVR, Rick Nash or Patrick Maroon are similarly old. Evander Kane is the only young UFA winger with a strong track record, but I suspect if the Golden Knights were interested in him this season and long-term they’d have met Buffalo’s ask of a first-round pick.

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Neal was back in the lineup after missing three games with an illness. He immediately got in on the action with an assist.

Shea Theodore is suffering an illness as well and is off the IR but still isn’t playing. He should be back shortly, although to what extent he has value is up in the air. He was scoreless in eight games before getting sick and his production is right in that tweener zone where you shouldn’t commit to him during injuries or cold streaks.

Luca Sbisa has been lapping up minutes with Theodore out (although not PP minutes). He has four points in five games since returning from injury. Can’t say I advise a pickup here, but the productivity is notable.

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Word is out that the Penguins are looking to extend Patric Hornqvist for five years at $5.3 million per year. That is about 85% as terrible as the Lucic contract. We talked about how bad deals for players heading into their 30s can be with regard to Josh Bailey’s extension last week. Hornqvist is already 31 and showing serious signs of wear and tear. What’s another playoff run going to add on to that?

It cannot be understated how the bottom has fallen out on Hornqvist’s 5-on-5 production. He is down to just 1.19 points/60 at 5-on-5, which is fourth-line level production. Some of that is shooting percentage based. The entire Penguins roster has suffered across the board in this regard, but even factoring that in, this is a significant drop. Even with regression in terms of shooting percentages, Hornqvist is going down not up. It’s only going to get worse. At this level of production, he’s a power play specialist, which as this deadline showed, are a dime a dozen.

Hornqvist remains an elite net-front man, but it would be foolish to consider his contributions the reason for Pittsburgh’s power play success. Instead, maybe consider the superstars surrounding him as the engine for this. They already have a ready-made replacement for Hornqvist in Jake Guentzel. The power play doesn’t even suffer when Guentzel fills in when Hornqvist is out for maintenance!

This deal will serve to block Guentzel from reaching his fantasy potential and may even result in the Penguins failing to be able to afford Guentzel when his deal is up at the end of the next season. The Penguins already have $60 million in cap commitments for 2019-20, with just 11 players and one goalie under contract. Who knows where the cap will be by then, but they are looking at skating it thin once again. But don’t panic too much with Guentzel. He’s an RFA at that point, without arbitration rights.

To be fair, the Penguins had no cap space and figured out a way to get Derick Brassard onto their team. They’ve traded away prospects and first rounders for years and still managed to find guys like Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Zack Aston-Reese and Daniel Sprong. Perhaps they will still find the next wave of cheap wingers despite a lack of cap space and having traded their last three first-rounders as well as their upcoming one. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as they are only concerned with winning while they still can with Crosby and Malkin. I just don’t think a 32-year-old Hornqvist helps as much with that in year one of his five-year pact as you’d like.

I also think that there’s value in bringing in new blood to a championship run each year. The miles on Hornqvist by next playoff run will be absurd. How willing is he going to be to grind every day with a fat contract in his back pocket and potentially three rings on his fingers? What might a 27-year-old who hasn’t yet had his big pay day, or won it all offer? I don’t think these psychological factors are make or break, but if they improve performance a little bit then it’s worth caring about.

None of this particularly matters for fantasy owners. Hornqvist keeper league owners should be pumped. Guentzel keeper league owners should be a bit concerned.

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Still no timeline for Mike Smith’s return from injury:

 

Does the fact that the Flames didn’t add a goaltender offer you any optimism? Or is this just further confirmation of their belief in the patchwork tandem of David Rittich and Jon Gillies? The Flames skaters should be good enough to withstand a few more weeks without Smith, but they haven’t exactly proven that yet this season. I like Gillies if for no other reason than he was good in their last game.

This Smith injury is one reason I was skeptical coming into the season. I loathe goalies in their 30’s with injury woes.

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Dobber discussed some of St. Louis’ struggles yesterday, focusing mainly on the goaltending situation. Check out their top scorers since the start of January:

 

Name

GP

Points

STEEN,ALEXANDER

22

17

TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

22

15

STASTNY,PAUL

22

15

SCHENN,BRAYDEN

22

14

PIETRANGELO,ALEX

22

9

PARAYKO,COLTON

22

9

DUNN,VINCE

17

8

BARBASHEV,IVAN

22

8

SCHWARTZ,JADEN

13

7

BERGLUND,PATRIK

22

7

SOBOTKA,VLADIMIR

21

5

BRODZIAK,KYLE

22

5

THOMPSON,TAGE

15

4

BOUWMEESTER,JAY

21

4

 

Remember when Schenn, Tarasenko, Schwartz and Pietrangelo were tilting fantasy leagues? Shit, should have sold high. Tarasenko remains relevant, but that might be it from that quartet. Schwartz has been up and down. Schenn saw the regression we were all calling for. Pietrangelo has been passed for power play time by Vince Dunn! I’m definitely guilty of hanging onto Pietrangelo too long. I tried to make the swap to Dougie Hamilton but couldn’t ultimately swing the buy low/sell high. I probably waited too long.

I don’t believe the exodus of Paul Stastny means that the Blues front office is packing it in. This is more an indication of how pragmatic a franchise the Blues are. Consider this:

 

You can’t make decisions like that without ownership having an eye on the future. They appear to have a bumper crop on the way with Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin. Not to mention the young guys already on the team. They also may not be selling if they didn’t lose Robby Fabbri or Joel Edmundson to injuries. They are likely to lose their first-round pick (courtesy of the Brayden Schenn trade) unless it falls into the top 10, so recouping a first for Stastny makes sense.

By the way, how notable is it that Stastny waived his no-move to go to Winnipeg. He didn’t have to go anywhere but elected to join a division rival when given a chance. That trade certainly tells you where the belief in that locker room is at. It’ll be interesting to see how the players respond. They have enough talent to pull out of the tailspin and hang in the playoff race but it’s looking less likely.

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If you’re curious why the Panthers didn’t really get into the mix yesterday, this has to be one good reason:

 

It’s hard to envision where Borgstrom might slot into the Panthers’ lineup that would truly help fantasy owners. After all, they are loaded up the middle with Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck. Then again, a 1-2-3 punch down the middle could be unstoppable. This quote sure makes it sound like the college sophomore will be joining the Panthers some time in the near future. I’m guessing this fall. Read more about Borgstrom here.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.

 

14 responses to “Ramblings: Kucherov Hurt, Magnificent Marner and more (Feb 27)”

  1. Larry Theyorkie says:

    i agree to some extent on nemestokov, however how bout Leipsic going to Vancouver from Vegas?

  2. MarkRM16 says:

    Steve, you’re bang on. The Pens re-signing Hornqvist to a new deal like the one floated would be an awful move. They have more than enough youngsters as talented as Hornqvist that are still inexpensive and will need to be re-signed in a few years. The Pens need the salary and cap space that a Hornqvist deal would cost them to upgrade their D, which is not good at present. Who do you think they’d be wise to pursue?

  3. Striker says:

    Steve.

    Can you please provide clarity on this statement.

    ” At this level of production, he’s a power play specialist, which as this deadline showed, are a dime a dozen.”

    What does that mean, which players moved at the deadline are PP specialists & a dime a dozen?

    • steve laidlaw says:

      Vanek, Letestu and Spooner.

      • Striker says:

        I don’t perceive any of those players as power play specialists. Nor do I think any team in the NHL has 1 today really.

        Letestu played as Edm’s #4 C & #1 PK forward. 3 of his 8 goals, 37.5% & 6 of his 19 points; 31.5% came on the PP. He was deployed on Edm’s #1 unit & has been for 2 years. I think they like his faceoff abilities as only Draisatl has taken more PP faceoffs for Edm than Letestu as McDavid is terrible in the circle, his 59% PP Faceoff % is solid as his passing ability.

        Vanek would potentially be the closest to such, he plays 4th line TOI/GP biut see’s 2nd line PP time. Yet only 4 of his 17 goals, 23.5%, & 14 of his 41 points, 34.15, are scored on the PP. Considering his quantity of icetime 13:58 his 13 ES goals & 27 ES points have to be fairly solid when using the dreaded 60 mins of ES played formula.

        Spooner. 1 of 9 goals, 11.1% & 5 of 25 points, 20%, last season 3 of 11 goals, 18 of 39 points. Spooner is still a developing forward, late to the party & in my system his breakthrough comes next season. 20 to 25 goals & 55 to 60 points comfortably if he plays at least 75 games. If not for injury it would have come this season.

        None of these are power play specialists for me but all have good PP skills but bring far more to the ice than just that. Just my opinion it just doesn’t match your criteria.

        I don’t get the distaste people have for Vanek. Goal scorers in today’s NHL are a rare commodity. Good on Columbus for picking Vanek up for a bag of used pucks. Motte! Does he have an NHL future? Vanek’s 13 ES goals ties him for 72nd with R. Smith, Guentzel, Landeskog, Brown, Duchene, etc. & he see’s about 5 mins less TOI/GP than any of those players. his 27 ES points, O’Reilly, Couture, Maroon, Nash, etc & 1 more than say a player like Laine, Johansen, Tiffoli, etc.

        Does that make those players PP specialists?

      • Nathan says:

        I agree with you on Spooner and Letestu, specifically Letestu who I’d call the modern equivalent of a grinder- takes draws well, plays on special teams, drives play ok etc.

        Vanek, however, even with his production this year is just a terrible play driver at 5v5, cannot play on the PK, and while he can still score, pretty much does nothing else on the ice. That to me is a guy that you’re sheltering at 5v5 in your bottom 6 or next to two big time play drivers and mostly rostering because of what he can add to your PP- which is the only on-ice scenario where he makes his line-mates better. That to me is a PP specialist. In fantasy, it has value, in real life- Vanek was a player I was praying my team didn’t make a trade for. That’s my distaste for him. Maybe he helps turn around that mess of PP in Columbus the way Ganger got it going last year, but it appears it might have been coming out of a hole already.

      • Striker says:

        The additions of Letestu & Vanek should allow Columbus to now ice 2 competent power play units & get their PP% up nominally.

        Motte may have some form of NHL future. Just not sure what role that might be. Having come out of college he doesn’t have to clear waivers until the start of the 2019-20 season but only 16 NHL games away. If he can’t carve out a role with Vancouver next season they could bury him for a season in the AHL giving him another year in the AHL & see if he can play the season following or he becomes waiver fodder.

  4. 24601 says:

    Who’s the beneficiary for TB if Kucherov misses time? Slim chance he’d be available in fantasy, whoever it might be.

    • Luke P says:

      Most likely we’ll see what we saw last night, Point moves into Kucherov’s slot next to Stamkos and Killorn. Johnson takes over full-time C on the second line between Gourde and Adam Erne, though I suspect it will be a rotating cast there if Kucherov is out for a while.

      The guy I’d probably put my money on though (short term) is Kunitz. He played almost 18 minutes including nearly 4 minutes on the PP. Erne got the ES time but 0 PP time. Cory Conacher took over that open spot on the second PP, but if he’s ineffective, Erne will probably get a shot there. Worth noting that even with a hole in the lineup, Conacher still played under 10 minutes.

      So, guys who might be available and benefit, in order of likelihood and potential: Kunitz, Erne, Conacher.

      • Nathan says:

        I think you have to be careful of making any assumptions of who goes where in that lineup, especially with JT Miller entering that lineup too and the fact that Johnson was seen limping after the game and may miss time too. I’d wait till their next practice before I’d scoop up any of those guys- its not like they’re gonna be huge difference makers if both Kuch and Johnson are both out anyways.

        That said, I do suspect Kunitz will be the guy to benefit the most on the PP.

      • CryptoBobz says:

        along with JT, you have to also remember Palat is due to come back around the time fantasy playoff start so that will shake things up again and *should* push Kunitz back down but these next few weeks will be interesting

  5. Christoph says:

    Lindgren or Niemi for the h2h-playoffs?

    • Nathan says:

      Preferably neither lol. But I think Lindgren is the one I’d roll with-especially after last night. I know Niemi has been fine in MTL, surprisingly, but Lindgren has been better and it benefits them to get a look at what’s in the pipeline rather than run Niemi out there every night. And do you really want to trust NIemi in your playoffs?

      • CryptoBobz says:

        Agree with Nathan, i would never trust Niemi let alone Niemi with a subpar team in front of him. If Lindgren continues to have a decent next few games then MTL will ride him the rest of the way because they need to see what they got. They need to know if he will be the go-to guy after Price or if they should be considering getting more goalie prospects looking forward. They just signed him to a three-year extension so its time to see what they paid for.

        But i would closely monitor the next few games bc he didnt look good back in Nov but has improved in the AHL and looked good in the first game but these next few will tell a lot