Ramblings: Miller/Burakovsky Trades, Leaf RFA Signings, Kessel Angst In Pittsburgh (June 29)

by Ian Gooding on June 29, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Miller/Burakovsky Trades, Leaf RFA Signings, Kessel Angst In Pittsburgh (June 29)


Because there were two trades of note on Friday (Colin Miller and Andre Burakovsky), Mike Clifford wrote not one, but two, fantasy takes for you:

Colin Miller off to Buffalo

Andre Burakovsky sent to Colorado

I’m not surprised that either player was dealt. The Golden Knights were expected to make at least one more trade for cap reasons after dealing Erik Haula earlier in the week, and Miller was considered a target for several teams because of his decent cap hit ($3.875 million) and offensive upside (a 41-point season in Vegas in 2017-18). (Here in Vancouver, I’ve already heard 100 reasons why trading for Miller (Colin, not J.T.) is a better idea than signing Tyler Myers, but I digress.) I think this is a lateral move as far as his fantasy value goes (assuming Rasmus Ristolainen is in fact traded), although he may benefit from receiving more overall icetime in Buffalo than he did in either Vegas or Boston. The Miller acquisition also means the Sabres are one step closer to pulling the trigger on a rumored Ristolainen trade.

Meanwhile, Burakovsky seemed to be the odd man out in Washington in spite of being qualified earlier in the week. Even though the Avalanche appear to be a team on the rise, they are still perceived as a one-line team, which is why this is a worthwhile acquisition. Burakovsky averaged just 11 minutes of icetime last season with only a sniff of power-play time per game (and only one power-play point). If Burakovsky can find his way onto the Avs’ second line along with some second-unit power-play time, an improvement on his 12 goals and 25 points in 2018-19 seems inevitable. If you’ve been thinking about ditching Burakovsky from your keeper team after being patient with him all this time, you may want to wait one more year.

While we’re on the subject of player transactions, it’s going to be a busy long weekend for us here at Dobber Hockey. We’ll continue to post any fantasy takes resulting from any weekend trades, then of course July 1 when things go absolutely bananas here with player signings. Of course, that will be great for you, as you’ll learn about the potential fantasy impacts shortly after they happen. Programming note: Tom’s weekly Top 10 List will be posted a day early (Sunday), as Monday will be flooded with player signing articles.

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The Leafs signed both Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen on Friday – Johnsson to a four-year contract with a $3.4 million AAV, and Kapanen to a three-year contract with a $3.2 million AAV. It’s interesting that Johnsson was signed to the slightly bigger contract in terms of cap hit and term, although the two players seem to be very similar in terms of point production and upside. I believe it can be explained by the fact that this is Johnsson’s third contract and Kapanen’s second, and also because Johnsson is a UFA at the end of his contract and Kapanen is an RFA at the end of his. Lots to learn about the salary cap.

Of course, there are the obvious Mitch Marner implications. The good news for the Leafs is that Kyle Dubas can now focus on Marner and how to handle any offer sheets because they now have a much better idea of what they can afford. The obvious bad news, though, is that looming offer sheet threat while trying to squeeze his likely double-digit AAV under very limited cap room. July 1 will be worth watching just so we can find out whether any team out there values Marner enough to cough up four first-round picks. On the other hand, will the GM guild still avoid the offer sheet route because they don’t want to step on the toes of their fellow GMs? Personally, I think is the real reason is that they don’t want to give up the first-round picks.

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If you have a subscription to The Athletic, this article by Rob Rossi on the Phil Kessel situation is worth a read. Needless to say, a potential Kessel trade would have massive fantasy implications. If you don’t have a subscription, here are the takeaways from the article that stood out to me:

Kessel does control a lot about his future. His contract, which runs for three more seasons, contains a clause that allows him to veto any trade, unless it is to one of eight teams Kessel has pre-approved… Sources said they believed Kessel’s list includes at least five clubs to which he was confident the Penguins would never trade him (likely in-division teams) and others that could not afford either his salary or cap hit.

Kessel is clearly comfortable in Pittsburgh, even if there are others (eg. Mike Sullivan) who seem uncomfortable with him. As I’ve said before, Kessel is a much better fantasy player than real-life player. They can keep trying to trade Kessel, but if that becomes impossible, then firing Sullivan becomes a more legitimate option. If there’s a feud between a star player and the coach, how often is the player traded while the coach gets to keep his job? Teams have figured out that coaches are easier to replace than star players. And the Pens have gone through several coaches during the Crosby/Malkin era.

Kessel has been adamant he not be a third-line winger. His preference is to play on a second line centered by Evgeni Malkin, sources said… Sullivan, along with a few coaches and several members of management, believes Malkin no longer wants to play on the same line with Kessel, the sources said… Last season, Malkin confided to friends outside the organization that he was uncomfortable being “stuck” between Sullivan and Kessel. Malkin’s longest-tenured teammates believed his discomfort being “the middle guy” contributed to his inexplicable decline in production after a strong opening month, the sources said.

Malkin from October 4 – November 1: 11 GP, 20 PTS (7 G, 13 A), plus-3 ranking

Malkin after that: 57 GP, 52 PTS (14 G, 38 A), minus-28 ranking

I wouldn’t call a drop to near point-per-game production an “inexplicable decline”, though a minus-28 ranking from a player like Malkin is certainly not the norm for him. The article also mentions that Kessel’s lackadaisical attitude toward defense has rubbed off on Malkin, which might also explain the awful plus/minus. There’s no denying the chemistry that Kessel and Malkin have offensively, though, as over half of Malkin’s even-strength icetime and even-strength points came with Kessel on his line. On the other hand, Kessel was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2016 when he played on the so-called third line with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin.

This seems like a very awkward situation in Pittsburgh. There may be some scoring inflation here, but Kessel has averaged 75 points over his four seasons in Pittsburgh compared to 71 points during his previous four full seasons in Toronto. Remarkably, he has not missed a game in nine seasons, which could be a positive effect of shying away from physical play. This unsettled situation won’t make it easy to project his point total for next season, as there could be arguments made from both sides whether Kessel continuing his career in a city where he hasn’t worn out his welcome would help or hurt his production.

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As I am preparing for the free agent frenzy of July 1, I found some fun facts about a few impending free agents (who can be found in the Top 100 Roto Rankings):

Over the past three seasons, no goalie has more wins than Sergei Bobrovsky (115). He is also the only goalie to win at least 37 games over each of the last three seasons. If he signs with Florida as what has been strongly rumored for quite some time, something to consider from a fantasy perspective would be how his win total will be affected. Of course, that number will be positively impacted if the Panthers can pull both Bobrovsky and fellow countryman Artemi Panarin from the Blue Jackets.

Only seven players have scored more points than Panarin (322 points) over the four seasons he has played in the NHL. The fact that he has been extremely durable has helped the Bread Man’s cause, as he has missed only six games throughout his four-year career. We don’t often compare games played totals in fantasy like we do other stats, but Panarin is in the top 50 in GP over that span. Perhaps we should, if you consider the productivity loss and general inconvenience of having an injured star.

Over the past six seasons (since 2013-14), only five players have scored more goals than Joe Pavelski (205). Of those five players, only one (Alex Ovechkin) has scored more than three more goals than Joey Pavs. Pavelski has done so with a higher shooting percentage (15.1%) than any of those five players, which has the double-edged sword of making him an effective shooter while lowering his shot total in multicategory fantasy leagues.

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.