Ramblings: Leafs’ PR Machine, notes on the Isles, some prospect sleepers and more (June 03)
The Leafs’ PR machine is working in hyper-drive right now and fans and media are falling right into line. It’s no secret that the Leafs are in a really tight jam with the salary cap this summer. So let me ask you this – what is the best way out of this? Which player names and contracts do you need to remove from the salary cap in order to ease the pain? The number one name mentioned, even going back months, is Patrick Marleau. The number two name? Nikita Zaitsev. Man, if the Leafs could somehow get rid of those big contracts, things would be much easier. In fact, it’s not just a need it’s a desperate need.
Nick Kypreos on HNIC adding to the narrative that Leafs and Marleau will part. Family moving back to California. An expected development, but Leafs still have to get creative with shedding his salary.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) June 2, 2019
From @kristen_shilton: While the #MapleLeafs work urgently to keep pending RFA Mitch Marner in the fold, top-four defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has unexpectedly expressed he wants out of it https://t.co/fxjeCmw1wn #TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/y2eXjptpo5— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) May 31, 2019
Wh… What a wonderful coincidence! That’s amazing because that’s just what the Leafs needed and it’s the only way out of their cap jam and oh my gawd!
If you believe these players actually did this, then I have a bridge I want to sell you. This is a carefully crafted media play in which someone in Leafs’ management – whether it’s Brendan Shanahan or Kyle Dubas or someone else it doesn’t matter, but someone persuasive – sat down with the player and explained that they will need to be moved, and that the best way to do that was to help the team take the focus off of the cap situation and instead make it about a player request. They would get more suitors and thereby can offer the player a choice of destinations this way, plus the fans would cheer them off because they served the team well both when they were here as well as the way they left. Then this manger contacts some key media people with influence, call in a couple of favors, and help shape the narrative. Other media picks up on it and voila – this is the player requesting the trade and not some desperate need to shave cap space. Pretty elaborate, I believe it will help, and it is totally worth doing. And I’m not buying it. You?
Cal Clutterbuck underwent ‘successful’ surgery on his back last week. If he underwent surgery and that was all they announced, I would wonder all day long whether or not it was a success. But know this – it was. Anyway, he played through “two slipped discs, two rotated vertebrae and a stress fracture”. He will apparently be ready for camp. Andrew Ladd had surgery (also successful) on a torn ACL and is out until November.
Other Islanders’ notes from that article:
– Noah Dobson will have a good chance to make the team in the fall because he would otherwise have to go back to junior where he has nothing left to learn. I suspect they will keep him up through October, but that he will be sent down.
– Bode Wilde can be sent to the AHL because he was drafted out of the US system and not Canadian junior hockey.
– Lou Lamoriello has no plans to “get rid” of Josh Ho-Sang. I take that means he is not trying to trade him. Of course, all GMs say that. I actually think he’s in play, but we’ll see.
– Lamoriello spoke to Ilya Sorokin’s agent, hoping to get him to North America this year. But he still has another season left on his KHL contract. But it appears Sorokin will cross the pond next year. Sorokin, who is profiled in the Fantasy Prospects Report of course (and highly regarded), is probably the Islanders’ goaltender of the future.
The Athletic also reporting that the Blackhawks could soon sign KHL goaltender Ivan Nalimov. I’ve spoken about Nalimov in this space on several occasions. He is also profiled in the FPR. I’m high on the 6-4 netminder, but this past season was a rough one between his early injury, his terminating his contract with his first team before signing as a backup with Avangard. If he signs, I get the sense that he wants to be in the NHL. So they would have to convince him in advance that he’s AHL-bound to start.
So yes, on Saturday I released the 13th annual Fantasy Prospects Report. We changed up the look and added some new features (the look was supposed to coincide with a new look for the websites – but of course that’s behind schedule). This edition has more info than ever and is a keeper league must. On Sunday Cam Robinson informed me that the rankings that he gave me were for fantasy points-only, and not the actual rank that the Guide says it is. It was a miscommunication. So I re-uploaded the FPR on Sunday with the actual rankings beside each player. So you can re-download the FPR and see that change. However, I received a ton of feedback from people wanting to actually see that fantasy upside in a chart. So I will endeavor to get that chart in there as yet another added feature.
Every year there are two players who really pop out to me when I review, analyze, write and edit this thing. One year it was Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes. One year it was Kevin Labanc and Rourke Chartier. It’s a pretty good track record when you consider that, at the time, they were ignored in all but the deepest fantasy leagues at the time. This year my two are Victor Olofsson, Buffalo. And Sasha Chmelevski, San Jose. The latter was actually on this list last year too, but I knew the wait would be long. One year later, and he’s still looking like a great prospect. Better, in fact.
So those two are this year’s non-obvious favorites of mine. Pay close attention to what is written about those two in the Fantasy Prospects Report and decide for yourself.
Three players who weren’t on anyone’s Top 50 list but were on my list were of the “older” variety. The writers, and most fantasy owners for that matter, migrate towards the 18-year-olds who are being drafted. This Top 50 list is a list geared towards leagues in that are 27 to 37 players deep on each roster. I don’t like sitting on a guy for five years. I like two years max. Because I know that the player on my roster “ready in two years” is probably going to take three. And then he’s going to get 35 or 40 points, which still doesn’t help. And then in year four or five he actually helps. Drafting a player four years out is going to be six or even seven before he helps. No thanks.
But I digress. That was just some background as to why I went with a few older prospects over that 11th or 12th 18-year-old (I had 10 draftees on my list). So at the bottom of my list I had Dominik Kubalik, who Chicago signed just last week. This is purely on faith. Chicago has been hitting home runs lately with their Europeans so sign me up as a blind, faithful follower. The former Los Angeles draftee will be 24 in the fall and just starting to enter his prime. He led the Swiss league (NLA) in scoring with 57 points in 50 games. He was also third on Team Czech Republic at the World Championship with 12 points in 10 games, behind only Michael Frolik (14 points) and Jakub Voracek (16 points).
Also at the bottom of my list, the very bottom, I stuck in another flier in Edmonton defenseman Joel Persson. The 25-year-old is a puck-moving right-handed shot. I don’t mind taking a chance on him because I will know in one year if it will work and he becomes an asset. No waiting five years, I’ll just know. Sure, the answer could (odds are likely) be a bust. But I would rather draft a Joel Persson-type of flier every year for five years (dropping that particular prospect one year later each time), then draft a player drafted 30th overall this summer. By the time that draft pick comes around, I’d have five cracks at a Persson or Kubalik type of winner and I almost guarantee that one of those five years it will be a success. Meanwhile, that pick hogs a roster spot for five years…and will he even be a success?
The third player surprised me that nobody else had him. None of the other writers put Nikolay Prokhorkin in their Top 50. Fourth in KHL points-per-game average last season. He’s 25 and was actually drafted by the Kings, in the fourth round. It’s not as if he is just another free agent Euro signing. He’s their draft pick and a reasonably high one when you factor in that he would have fallen in the draft due to his KHL status. They tried to bring him over for three years now, so again – Prokhorkin wasn’t marinating in the AHL trying to earn his way up. The team was trying to get him over. So now this high-scoring Russian joins a team that needs scoring. I’ll take a chance on a player like that for my keeper league 10 times out of 10 and I don’t care if eight of those times it doesn’t work out. Because I’m not wasting a roster spot for five years.
See you next Monday.
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- Ramblings: Colin White signs long-term; Jaskin to the KHL; positional battles - August 22
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