Ramblings: Marleau bought out; Guhle update; Fedun signs; Girard; Grzelcyk – June 28

by Michael Clifford on June 28, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Marleau bought out; Guhle update; Fedun signs; Girard; Grzelcyk – June 28

 

It had been kind of expected since the trade but the Carolina Hurricanes have officially bought out Patrick Marleau. He had been acquired from the Leafs in a salary dump and the expectation was that this would happen. Marleau is now free to sign anywhere on July 1st but it’s likely going to be back in San Jose.

The Hurricanes pay his signing bonus and will carry the full cap hit of $6.25M this season.

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A bit minor, but Brandon Guhle appears like he’s fine following an oblique injury that followed him down the stretch. Guhle was acquired in the Brandon Montour trade and turns 22 years old in July.

This is a guy I still think will be an NHL regular. He’s apparently made big strides over the last couple years in the AHL and there are a lot of spots to fill on the Ducks blue line. I don’t imagine much fantasy value in 2019-20 but it’ll be interesting to see if he can make, and stick on, the team.

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Something else that appears minor but could be important: defenceman Taylor Fedun signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Stars. Fedun turned 31 earlier this month and has 26 points in 100 career regular season games.

I say this could be important because Fedun is a guy who has put up excellent underlying numbers in his small samples. Over the last three years, he’s performed pretty admirably (from Evolving Hockey):

 

 

Again, the last three years total makes about a one-season sample. All the same, if Julius Honka doesn’t turn into an NHL defenceman, the Stars could have themselves a very cheap, capable third-pair guy who can play with the skill of a second-pair guy. That can mean a lot in terms of generating offence on shifts where they aren’t expected to.

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Yesterday in these Ramblings I discussed forwards and their carry-in% in 2018-19. The reasons for focusing on this stat were made and it’s recommended to go back and read yesterday’s intro at least to get a grip on what fantasy owners need to know in this regard.

Today we will focus on defencemen and again, all data from Corey Sznajder's data tracking

To start, we’ll focus on possession exits. As that name implies, it’s how often a defenceman gets out of the zone with possession of the puck i.e. not dumping it or passing it out. These are defencemen that not only like to start the offensive rush but have the skill to do it consistently. Our sample is 115 defencemen with at least 60 zone exit attempts.

 

Sam Girard

Believe it or not, Sam Girard tops the list with a 49.5 possession exit percentage. Others in the top-10 include Erik Karlsson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jaccob Slavin, and Shea Theodore. (There’s another guy on the list we’ll get to in a minute). It was his second year in the NHL and he amassed 27 points in 82 games.

This is fascinating for many reasons. Girard is just 20 years old and has had two great years by these micro-stats, both entries and exits with possession. His shot assist rate – the rate at which his passes are converted into shots –  is elite, ranking in the 95th percentile. His individual shot rate jumped by nearly half compared to his rookie season, too. In all, these first two seasons, outside of posting an unrealistic 50-point season, are about as good as a young defenceman can manage in the NHL. Offensively, at least.

The reason all this is fascinating is the situation of the Colorado blue line right now. Tyson Barrie is one of the best offensive defencemen of the last five years but has just one year left on his current contract. Is he on the roster in October? In March? Does he re-sign? There is also Cale Makar, who burst onto the scene with the subtlety of the Kool-Aid Man at a 7-year old’s birthday party and looks like the cornerstone defenceman of the future. The Avalanche also just drafted Bowen Byram on the weekend, and if he pans out as expected, he’ll be a top-pair blue liner in three years. On a typical rebuilding team, we could be looking at Girard as a top-pair defenceman in 2019-20. On this Avalanche team, there’s a scenario where Girard turns into a very good offensive defenceman and is still fourth on the depth chart in three years’ time. Or maybe Barrie is traded (he probably will be, in all fairness), Byram doesn’t turn into the guy we hope and think he can be, and Girard is a number-2 in three years.

Regardless, this is a blue liner to be very excited about. There is work to do defensively but that’s not really a huge concern for fantasy. On this trajectory, Girard is going to establish himself as one of the top puck-movers in the league in the next five years. If Barrie is still around in 2019-20, his immediate production prospects aren’t good for fantasy, but dynasty owners need to have patience. He will pay off down the road.

 

Matt Grzelcyk

This one is important. Think back to the start of the year. Can you remember that far? I can’t, that’s why I’m thankful, every day, for stats sites that accumulate this information. Anyway, if you remember back to October, Torey Krug missed nearly the entire first month, returning from injury on October 30th. Up until that point, it was Matt Grzelcyk, and not Charlie McAvoy, who ran the top PP unit, both before and after McAvoy was injured mid-October. In fact, Grzelcyk had 32 minutes of 5v4 PPTOI in those four weeks Krug missed, more than every other Bruins defenceman combined.

Back to the micro-stats. In our sample, Grzelcyk finished with the second-highest rate of possession exits among defencemen, just behind Girard. This is very much in line with what he saw from him in his rookie season – 95th percentile of possession exit percentage in both years – so we should feel comfortable saying this is who he is. There is still some work in the passing game but it’s certainly not a weakness of his.

The reason this is important is that we’ve seen the Torey Krug trade rumours for about a year now. Krug has one year left on his deal and then he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. He is going to get a significant raise on his current $5.25M AAV and with the incoming contracts of guys like McAvoy, DeBrusk, Carlo, and Heinen in the next year or so, Boston will probably have, at most, about $20M to fill out 10 or so roster spots for 2020-21. Not that it can’t be done, but they’ll likely need to move out money like Krejci or Backes to do it.

If Krug returns to Boston somehow for 2020-21, this is all moot. But if he doesn’t, it seems a very real possibility that Grzelcyk is the PP quarterback of the future, and he has the skills to do it. That would be a monstrous change in fantasy value. The more adventurous dynasty owners should be sending out feeler messages to try and trade for him. 

 

Hampus Lindholm

It seemed for a few years, there was talk in certain corners of hockey fandom that Lindholm was one of the best defencemen in the NHL and no one else was realized it. Lately, now that the Ducks are rebuilding, those talks have gone away, but Lindholm is still very, very good. He finished 7th in our 2018-19 sample in possession exit percentage, one of the many things he does well.

Anaheim is in a state of turnover right now. Corey Perry has been bought out, Ryan Kesler’s career is in jeopardy, there is a new coach in town, and there is a plethora of young talent on its way, the latest big addition being Trevor Zegras at the draft. Add him to Terry, Steel, Lundestrom, and Comtois, and there is a good group coming.

Does the new coaching staff start using Lindholm on the PP or do they stick with Cam Fowler? Dallas Eakins would be aware of these numbers, unlike his predecessor. This is something we won’t know until later in exhibition games but for those with late drafts, a name to keep in mind.

 

Rasmus Dahlin

Not a whole lot to say here. Dahlin finished fifth in our sample, squeezed between Erik Karlsson and Shayne Gostisbehere. And he did this as an 18-year old rookie defenceman. There has been a lot of hubbub thanks to the playoffs about the young defencemen in the league like Heiskanen, Slavin, Dunn, Makar, McAvoy, and others. Not so much about Dahlin. Just remember that as good as they are, Dahlin is better than all of them, and is younger than all of them. He should have the run of the top PP unit in 2019-20 and they have enough talent for an elite top unit. I won’t know until I run my projections sometime in August, but I’d be surprised if I have him pegged for under 50 points.