A quick look at Mason Raymond signing with Anaheim, a deep look at the value of backup goalies and more notes on the top free agent signings …
Anaheim has plenty of holes and Raymond still skates well enough to be a potential 40-point producer, as he was during the 2013-14 season.
Obviously, a lot depends on deployment, but Raymond is reuniting with '13-14 head coach Randy Carlyle, and the potential of playing with either/both of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry piques the fantasy interests.
Still, it's always better to keep expectations in check, and counting on more than 15 goals and 25 assists doesn’t seem warranted given Raymond couldn't even crack the Flames lineup nightly last year.
Raymond could be looking at fourth-line minutes by the end of training camp, which is exactly what his salary suggests he is worth. He's also well past his offensive prime at 30.
Yet, in an effort to maintain balanced analysis, there aren't a lot of winger options ahead of Raymond right now in Anaheim.
With the bevy of backup goaltending signings over the past few days, it seemed appropriate to try and identify just how valuable No. 2s are and look for situations/settings that are more favorable for a backup to be a contributing fantasy asset.
Off the top, a backup's timeshare of starts and the quality of the team he plays for are paramount to his fantasy value. Additionally, a No. 2 goalie has even more upside playing behind an injury prone No. 1 tender.
Using the ESPN Player Rater and Yahoo Fantasy Rankings from last season, here are the rankings of the top backup goalies.
At Yahoo, Korpisalo and Grubauer ranked below zero, as in they were ranked below goalies who did not play a game. So, there is no way to accurately rank them. A default 35 made sense.
Obviously, there are some concerns with the rankings when Scott Wedgewood's four starts make him a highly ranked netminder. The point isn't to trash Yahoo and ESPN, though. Goals-against average and save percentage are heavily weighted in the algorithm, and goalies with weak ratios are significantly discounted.
Keeping that in mind, and because those are categories are in the majority of rotisserie leagues, there are still actionable fantasy insights to pluck.
First, receiving a chunk of starts and then posting above average ratios was critical to a high ranking. John Gibson (38), Michael Neuvirth (29), Thomas Greiss (38), James Reimer (37) and Chad Johnson (40) all saw time as a No. 1 goalie for stretches.
Second, playing on an excellent team isn't necessary, as of the previously mentioned five, only Gibson was on an above-average team. Johnson was on a basement dweller, and Reimer made 29 of 37 starts with Toronto. Albeit, in the case of Reimer, his numbers with the Sharks put him over the top (six wins with a .938 save percentage and a 1.62 goals-against average).
Posting high-end ratios really helped, though, as among all goalies with a minute of action last year, Wedgewood (.957), Matt Murray (.930), Greiss (.925), Neuvirth (.924), Jhonas Enroth (.922) and Reimer (.922) all had a top-20 Sv%. And Wedgewood (1.24), Murray (2.00), Gibson (2.07), Enroth (2.17), Al Montoya (2.18), Antti Raanta (2.25) and Neuvirth (2.27) all had a top-20 GAA.
For comparison, here's a look at some other goalies Yahoo ranked below goaltenders who didn't play.
Interestingly, five of the goalies returned a top-20 win total last season, which means their Sv% and GAA were so bad they still couldn't return value in Yahoo leagues, apparently. The five: Pekka Rinne (9th-ranked 34 wins), Craig Anderson (12th, 31), Semyon Varlamov (15th, 27), Antti Niemi (17th, 25) and Kari Lehtonen (18th, 25).
And while we all know that all five of those goalies were fantasy relevant and more or less viable No. 2 options in fantasy, they clearly weren't needle movers. And if you left them as set-and-forget locks in your lineup, they hurt your ratios.
And if you picked your spots and tried to play the matchups, you likely got burned on more than one occasion with a sterling performance on the bench and a dud in the starting lineup.
What's perhaps more telling than looking at Rinne, Anderson, Varlamov, Niemi and Lehtonen is just how utterly useless it is to own the low-end types like Cam Ward, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard and Sergei Bobrovsky. Returning to the picking your spots theme, you're almost better off with two backups (Raanta and Neuvirth, for example) who you can rely on starting than guessing with Ward.
Every league is different, but in a lot of cases, you're likely better off taking a quality backup on a good team than trying to make a low-end starter work as the No. 3 or 4 goalie on your fantasy roster.
This is another example of how important high-end goalies are to fantasy success. Remember, I'm adamant on the importance of solidifying the position early.
So, with all that in mind, here's a quick run through the backup landscape.
Here are the projected timeshares I see: Carolina, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, NYI, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Quickly, Petr Mrazek is far better than Jimmy Howard. However, with a $5 million contract, Howard will see some action, if for no other reason to try and salvage his trade value. A best-case scenario for Mrazek owners would be 60 starts, so this isn't a full-out timeshare.
Thomas Greiss, Michal Neuvirth and Jakob Markstrom likely showed enough to push for a timeshare for their respective teams. Although, Ryan Miller's salary could earn him a much bigger workload than Markstrom.
Who knows what's going on with the Jets, and Pittsburgh, Dallas and Carolina project to dance the tandem tango all year.
Backup quick-hit analysis
Dustin Tokarski, Anaheim: Likely a low-end target given his career .904 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average. However, new No. 1 John Gibson has battled injuries for stretches early in his career, and starting behind what projects to be a defensively capable team makes Tokarski a potential gamble late or Gibson handcuff.
Louis Domingue, Arizona: When thrust into the starter role, Domingue showed both his high ceiling and low floor with a .931 Sv% and 2.08 GAA through his first 16 games and a .899 Sv% and 3.22 GAA over his next 23 outings. There is clearly nice upside, and it isn't like Domingue couldn't push towards a timeshare with adequate play. Mike Smith's also 34, and there's a better than zero chance he isn't very good.
Anton Khudobin, Boston: Through his past 43 games, Khudobin owns a .902 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average over the past two seasons. He'll have to fight off Malcolm Subban, although, it is worth noting Khudobin has a one-way contract. Tuukka Rask will eat as many starts as possible, so with an underwhelming recent track record, there isn't much to like about Khudobin.
Anders Nilsson, Buffalo: No. 1 Robin Lehner has a career high of 30 starts. Injuries have been part of the package, and we should be willing to hand Nilsson a pass for his rough run with Edmonton last year (.901 Sv% and 3.14 GAA). Buffalo is improving, and Nilsson could be a viable No. 2 starter in the case of a Lehner injury. And who knows, Nilsson could also unseat Lehner or push for a near timeshare. Nilsson is only 26, too.
Chad Johnson, Calgary: In two of the past three seasons, Johnson has been excellent. For whatever reason, it didn't work out for him with the Islanders. He boasts a career .917 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against average despite his awful 2014-15 showing (.889 Sv% and 3.08 GAA over 19 games), and he could approach 35 starts given Brian Elliott's inability to stay healthy.
Scott Darling, Chicago: How bullish you are on Chicago remaining a top team in the league will influence Darling's fantasy stock. He should receive approximately 20 starts, which means roughly 10 wins with respectable ratios. However, at some point, Chicago is going to begin trending in the wrong direction, which lessens Darling's value. Additionally, Corey Crawford has started between 55 and 58 games in each full season since taking over the No. 1 job. He's a trooper.
Columbus backup: Sergei Bobrovsky can't stay healthy, and the past two seasons, he has been below average (.914 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average). Both Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo stand to receive some playing time and potentially someone not named "Goalie Bob" could be the No. 1 in Columbus. Regardless, there isn't a lot to like about the fantasy stock of any Blue Jacket netminder in the short term because head coach John Tortorella hasn't embraced the 2016-17 NHL yet.
Calvin Pickard, Colorado: Another coaching scene to watch, Patrick Roy loves to run his goalies into the ground, and Varlamov has battled injuries in consecutive seasons. Pickard has proven to be a capable starter in the league, and he would be one of the better backup bets to approach being a reliable fantasy option if thrust into the No. 1 role. Pickard's an intriguing flier given his career .927 Sv% through his first 36 games.
Jonas Gustavsson, Edmonton: We know who Gustavsson is at this point. He's shown some flashes in stretches, but ultimately he sits with a .907 Sv% and 2.66 GAA over 66 games through four seasons since leaving Toronto. Heading to the Western Conference likely isn't ideal, either, and he'll see limited time with Cam Talbot pegged for over 60 starts barring injury.
Jeff Zatkoff, Los Angeles: There isn't a lot of fantasy value in 15 starts, but Zatkoff will likely squeeze everything he can out of them. Jonathan Quick has started 139 of 164 games over the past two seasons, so really, Zatkoff is more of a handcuff than anything. Zatkoff has a career .915 save percentage and 2.66 goals-against average through 35 games. It's pretty average stuff.
Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota: Another example of a better handcuff and flier, Kuemper is clearly behind Devan Dubnyk, and Kuemper has proven to be a mediocre tender with a .912 Sv% and 2.47 GAA for his career. In deep leagues, he could potentially pass as an own for busy stretches of the Minnesota schedule for non-Dubnyk owners.
Al Montoya, Montreal: With strong showings in two of his past three seasons, and now starting behind an improved Canadiens team, Montoya is likely one of the better backups to target in deep leagues. The obvious concern is Carey Price is going to gobble up 60-plus starts and leave just the trimmings for Montoya. One note, though, there are a handful of cushy opponents for Montoya to beat up on. He's likely a must-grab for Price owners who can afford the bench space.
Juuse Saros, Nashville: While Marek Mazanec is probably ahead, Saros is the fantasy own, likely. Mazanec had a stretch during the 2013-14 season and posted a .902 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average through 25 games. No. 1 Pekka Rinne is in a clear decline in the midst of the Predators making a run to be a perennial contender. Saros likely won't require a draft pick, as he'll likely start in the American Hockey League to ensure he's playing consistently. But a Rinne injury could open the door for Saros to take the No. 1 job for good.
Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey: There is no fantasy value here, even in the event of a Cory Schneider injury. Through 23 games last year, Kinkaid had nine wins with a .904 save percentage and a 2.81 goals-against average. The floor is low and so is the ceiling.
Antti Raanta, New York: With wins in 20 of his 34 starts and a career .914 Sv% and 2.36 GAA Raanta has proven to be a solid No. 2 and depth option for your fantasy squad. The Rangers had issues with defensively and in terms of possession last year, and Raanta proved valuable in limited action. Henrik Lundqvist should hand another 15 to 20 starts to Raanta next year.
Andrew Hammond, Ottawa: The Senators are not a fantasy-friendly environment. They were a mess defensively last season and have done nothing since to improve. Hammond won just seven of 21 starts last season and owned a mediocre .914 Sv% and 2.65 GAA. He'll likely still carry too much name value because of his 2014-15 run, too.
San Jose backup: As it stands, Troy Grosenick, Aaron Dell and Mantas Armalis will duke it out for dibs behind Martin Jones. Jhonas Enroth remains unsigned, though, so perhaps he is a more realistic fit. It's a wait-and-see game for now, though.
Carter Hutton, St. Louis: No. 1 Jake Allen started a career-high 44 games last season and has never carried the load on his own before. Hutton stands to see anywhere from 15 to 20 starts after really handling himself well in the backup role last year with better ratios — .918 Sv% and 2.33 GAA — than Pekka Rinne. Playing behind a solid club will also help Hutton. He's a nice late-round target as a low-end No. 3 or solid No. 4 goalie.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: A case could be made for this being a timeshare, and it might not be unreasonable to expect Ben Bishop to be traded to make way for the Vasilevskiy era to begin. All said, Vasilevskiy should be viewed as an excellent No. 3 fantasy goalie with the upside to be a No. 1 in the event of a Bishop trade or injury. Reaching a round early for Vasilevskiy is completely warranted.
Jonathan Bernier, Toronto: Frederik Andersen has some injury history, but Bernier has a history of weak performance with Toronto. Bernier has negatively regressed in consecutive seasons and bottomed out with just 12 wins through 36 starts, a .908 save percentage and a 2.88 goals-against average last year. A rebound showing is well within reach, but Bernier isn't going to receive more than 20 starts if things go according to plan for Toronto, and the Leafs are still rebuilding.
Philipp Grubauer, Washington: Behind a top-tier club, you would have expected more than eight wins through Grubauer's 16 starts. However, he does own a career .921 save percentage and a 2.38 goals-against average. Expect Washington to lighten the starting load for Braden Holtby slightly next year, which should give Grubauer an opportunity to grab closer to 20 starts this season. He's a Holtby handcuff and potential No. 4 goalie in all setups.
Arbitration time kicks off Tuesday.
66 players are eligible for arbitration tomorrow, some notable players are:
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 4, 2016
This will be interesting to track.
I was lucky enough to jump on Fantasy Sports Today for another FNTSY Network spot. The video should be available early Tuesday, and I'll link up again once it's freshly cooked.
In the meantime, here are my notes. I don't think there is a lot of new content within them, but I took the time to prep, so I'll share.
- After the deal to Los Angeles, I panned Lucic heavily. And there were very few scenarios and settings where I would have been equally pessimistic entering the 2016-17 season.
- Connor McDavid's wing isn't one of them. McDavid's four most common linemates at five-on-five all had a goals per 60 minutes at least two goals higher sharing the ice with McDavid last season than without him. You won't find another player who had that much impact on his linemates.
- And this is like a line from an Alanis Morisserte song, but only the ageless Jaromir Jagr had a higher points per 60 minutes at five-on-five than rookie Connor McDavid last year, except in this case, it actually is ironic. That ranking is among skaters with at least 500 minutes of five-on-five ice time.
- All said, Lucic's fantasy value skyrockets and a 30-goal season with excellent cross-category production is well within reach. Additionally, Edmonton has re-positioned themselves well enough that Lucic has a high floor even if he lands on a scoring line away from McDavid. He's back to being an early middle round pick.
- $5.75 million dollars says there isn't much of a fantasy risk here. People will compare Radulov to Alexander Semin and other low-priced, high-risk, high-reward moves Montreal has made recently. This is different. Radulov isn't going to go away at $5.75 million.
- Instead, Montreal now boasts one of the best one-two punches of goal scorers in the league, and what is one common characteristic about all the teams that went deep in the playoffs this spring? They'll all owned scoring depth, which is something Montreal now also has, you know, along with the best goalie in the world.
- This was a calculated risk. Radulov is an elite offensive player, and he should flirt with 35 goals and approach a point-per-game return. He's a mercenary, and he's a player worth reaching for in the early middle rounds. If we look back at Radulov's season a year from now, it wouldn't be surprising if he provided a first- or second-round fantasy return. I'm bullish.
- First, Eriksson is a far better real-world player than fantasy asset, but his run in Boston sort of skews his value because 2015-16 was the first season he was utilized fully in a top-six role. And he delivered 30 goals.
- Remember, from the 2008-09 season through the 2011-12 campaign, Eriksson scored 132 goals and 306 points over 355 games, which was high-end production that was approximately top-10 in the league, so after last year, Eriksson's proved he can still move the needle offensively.
- He should slide seamlessly into the top-line gig with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and the twins are still capable of driving a player's offense.
- Fantasy owners will want to separate themselves from the reality of Vancouver's on-the-fence approach between rebuilding and competing because there is a great opportunity for Eriksson next year. He stands to be one of the best returns on investment from the late middle rounds of drafts with an extremely high floor.
- Many believe Okposo's success has been driven by John Tavares, but last season, Okposo's most frequent five-on-five linemate was Frans Nielsen, and the Nielsen-Okposo combo scored substantially less than the Tavares-Okposo duo during both the 2014-15 season and last year.
- Going forward, Okposo will flank Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel who are both upgrades over Frans Nielsen, and Okposo should be a staple on the No. 1 power-play unit and a go-to scorer on an improving team.
- Don't expect significant offensive gains from Okposo, though. He's established himself as a potential 25-goal, 65-point producer with a high floor, and there is a lot to like about him as your No. 2 winger given he should be available into the middle rounds of most drafts.
- If your draft room isn't valuing Buffalo as the up-and-coming team they are, there could be even more profit potential in Okposo's stock.
- This is another example of a player who is better in the real game than the fake. Nielsen has sat of the fringe of fantasy relevance over the past three seasons and returned 59 goals and 153 points, or averages of just about 20 goals and 50 points.
- That's very mediocre production.
- Entering his age-32 season, there doesn't project to be a significant offensive jump in store. However, there is a top-six role with talented wingers for Nielsen, and he could fine himself on the No. 1 power-play unit.
- A conservative estimate would have him return similar numbers to what he's posted the past three seasons, but there is upside for more given his go-to status with his new club, which could even include being the No. 1 center, maybe.
- With winger eligibility, he's a much better fantasy asset, because as far as pivots go, he's well down the rankings, so his positional designation will have a significant impact on how valuable he is this fall.
- He is more of a fallback option than priority for me in the late rounds of drafts.
- Ramblings: Jost, Zucker, Steel, Chabot, Kreider, and Forsberg - July 17
- Ramblings: The Carolina Conundrum; Top 20 RFAs; Fantasy Impact of Contracts (July16)
- Top 10 value losses from offseason moves
- 20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts
- July Top 100 Roto Rankings
- Eastern Edge: Evaluating Skaters from the Buffalo Sabres
- Wild West Summer Series 2018: Colorado
- Ramblings: Player Signings, Potential 60-Point Players, Raanta the Real Deal (July 18)