Ramblings: More post-mortems, my thoughts on where free agency is going this summer, and more (May 13)
Three teams were eliminated last week. Here are my thoughts the team, the players, and what the future holds…
Man, Cale Makar. This team really stepped it up a notch once this guy was added to the lineup. No pro experience, fresh off the plane, here please join our NHL team. That Makar piled up six points in 10 games is impressive. But even more so when you consider that another young prospect, Samuel Girard, touted for his offensive potential almost as much, has yet to even scratch the surface two years in. Some guys require patience, some guys hit immediately. Girard averaged 1:44 per game of PP time, while Makar averaged 1:38. Girard overall saw 18:42, Makar 17:22. So this wasn’t about ice time or opportunity. Was it about luck? Nope. Makar’s 5on5 S% was 8.3% versus Girard at 10.5%, so if anything it was Girard getting the bounces in the admittedly small sample size. Makar just created the offense plain and simple, in on 85.7% of the goals scored while he was on the ice (IPP). Girard was at just 25%. There is a reason why Makar jumped to No.1 on the Fantasy Prospects List (defensemen here, forwards here).
Colin Wilson’s eight points is interesting. He also had a strong final quarter that saw increased ice time in the regular season. But the guy can’t stay healthy for more than 65 or 70 games so I’m not sure how much a 0.6 or 0.67 points-per-game average can really do for most leagues. But he was always this potential that was never reached, long ago given up on. In fact, I had wondered if he was still even an NHL player heading into the season. Obviously he can still serve in a second/third line tweener role.
The Avs will be interesting heading into this offseason because they have so much cap flexibility. They will have over $35 million in space, though I’m sure after signing Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Zadorov, JT Compher and Alexander Kerfoot that will get knocked down $8 or $10 million. That would be used to replace the aforementioned Wilson (I’m sure they could keep him for a very cheap rate) and Derick Brassard (I’m sure they have no desire at all whatsoever to keep), Semyon Varlamov and Patrick Nemeth.
Alexander Kerfoot is an important player for the Avalanche. He’s been a good secondary option on the power play with at least 15 PPPts in each of his two NHL seasons. But he also did very well at the faceoff circle this year, taking 56.0% of his draws. Strange that he wasn’t used for this very much in the postseason. He was put out there a lot when the Avs needed a goal, and that’s even stranger. Kerfoot had just 22 points in his last 52 games. He’s an RFA this summer and if he plans on getting paid based on production, he’ll be disappointed.
So did acquiring Brassard hurt the Avalanche more than it helped? Think about. Carl Soderberg was having the season of his life, and then he had just eight points in the final 20 games. Know what else happened during the final 20 games? The Avs had Brassard on their team. So Brassard was busy stealing Soderberg’s PP and ice time so that he could get a whole four points in 20 games…and in the postseason, same thing.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The rentals led the team in scoring – Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene with 11 and 10 points in 10 games respectively. And now they’re gone. Although I have a feeling Duchene could be persuaded to stay, especially with the situation that’s about to come (see my thoughts on UFAs below). I have a feeling that when he doesn’t get the money he wants after a few weeks, he goes with the highest bidder – which could be Columbus. And then, of course, he’ll tell all the reporters it was where he wanted to be all along.
I was disappointed in how Oliver Bjorkstrand was shut down by the Bruins, held to just one point in six games. I had just finished writing about how he’d finally arrived – four points in four games against Tampa on the heels of 11 points in 10 games to finish the season, as well as a 32- goal pace in the second half. And it wasn’t for lack of chances. In the playoffs he mostly played with Panarin and P-L Dubois before eventually being knocked to the second line alongside Duchene.
Sergei Bobrovsky has won two Vezinas and his fourth-quarter performance along with what he did in the playoffs just knocked his value right back up again. I think he may find that the best fit for him is right where he is.
The Jackets will have about $33 million in cap space, depending on where the cap is set. And they will need to fill 12 spots, including key ones – replace (or re-sign) Bobrovsky, Panarin, Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. They will need a backup (Elvis Merzlikins will compete for this) and key RFAs Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray need contracts. Signing the latter two will determine how well they can go after players on July 1, so I would make that Priority 1 right now. The goal would be to keep enough money free to re-sign Bobrovsky or, failing that, go after Robin Lehner or Semyon Varlamov.
Mats Zuccarello boosted his UFA value even further. To me he was the only player that struck me as dangerous each and every shift. His legacy with Dallas: 11 points in 13 playoff games and 14 points in 15 games…period. Judging by the way UFA salaries have increased each and every year and pro-rating based on what happened last year…he’s getting $8 million. And yes, that’s nuts. But UFA Day is nuts. However, judging what I have to say about UFAs below – I think he gets $6 million.
The emergence of Roope Hintz is something to put on your radar for this offseason. He had 13 points in the final quarter (20 games) and then tallied eight points in 13 games. He was kept on a scoring line throughout, which speaks volumes about where the Stars see him down the road. I had always figured Hintz as a third-line scorer, with second-line upside. Now I’m thinking second-liner with first-line upside. I don’t think this team can add a scoring winger as a free agent, and I don’t believe in Denis Gurianov. So Hintz’s competition in two years will come from Jason Robertson and Ty Dellandrea. More Dellandrea because he’s a centerman and it appears the Stars are leaning toward keeping Hintz at center. I generally see a lot of rookies struggle at the faceoff circle but Hintz won 217 of 400 faceoffs (54.3%).
What is Dallas going to do with Valeri Nichushkin and how could this year have been such a failure for him? I’m usually full of thoughts and ideas on things like this, but not this time. Initially he was getting 13 minutes a game and secondary PP time. A dozen games in this shifted to 12 minutes and his PP time was cut out completely. By midseason: 11 minutes ATOI. He never earned it back. He still makes $2.95 million for next season.
Ben Bishop was amazing in the postseason and he started being “locked in” at midseason. The problem was, he only played sporadically due to injuries – it made it difficult for us in terms of timing when to play him. But in his final 34 games he was 21-10-2, 1.86 and 0.940.
The Stars will have about $22.5 million in cap space in the summer, mainly thanks to losing Jason Spezza’s $7.5. They will need to sign Esa Lindell, Mattias Janmark, Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka and Brett Ritchie. They can actually afford to keep Zuccarello as long as his ask isn’t too high. He may circle back to them after testing the market (see my thoughts below).
There are some great players still available heading into free agency, but I’m starting to think their price might be held down due to cap constraints. I think agents of restricted free agents did a nice job blowing their team’s budget in keeping the player, and a crazy amount of teams will be scrambling to re-sign their elite RFA’s. Where does this leave UFA’s? I mean, this won’t affect a guy like Erik Karlsson in terms of salary amount, but how many teams can afford him? And once he gets paid, plus a guy like Sergei Bobrovsky and perhaps Artemi Panarin, how many teams will that leave?
Here are some of the key RFA’s to sign who will command a lot (over $6 million AAV): William Karlsson (VGK), Matt Tkachuk (CGY), Patrik Laine, Jacob Trouba and maybe Kyle Connor (WPG), Rantanen and Zadorov (COL), Mitch Marner (TOR), maybe Esa Lindell (DAL), Sebastian Aho (CAR), Brayden Point (TBL). Eight more teams that will be blowing their budget right there. What will teams have left to “waste” on unrestricted free agents? I guess what I’m saying is that I think other than the aforementioned three big guns, the other UFAs may actually be signed to a reasonable number. I also think July 1st won’t be as exciting because there will be a lot of UFAs who wait weeks before their price comes down enough to get a contract. I think we’re there, folks. Not only is it a buyer’s market, but I think the fading ability to get players to sign a bridge contract and RFA’s getting signed to huge deals is straining the cap space. The result will be more delayed, cheaper signings.
As in real life, the middle class group of players is separating. Big bucks or minimum contracts.
Charlie Coyle: six points in 20 regular season games after joining the Bruins, and then 12 points in 15 games in the postseason, including three on Sunday. Between what Columbus did, and what Coyle is doing, I have a feeling next year’s Trade Deadline is going to be wild. I can’t remember players acquired at the deadline having such an impact. And that includes the Doug Weight/Mark Recchi thing for Carolina back in the day.
Matt Grzelcyk has my attention in these playoffs, and when he scored his second goal on Sunday he had me pouring through his stats and scouting reports again. He’s up to seven points in 15 playoff games, including five (!) power-play points. This is with secondary PP time. Grzelcyk is actually a former Boston University captain, and he became just the sixth Boston defenseman in the last 35 years to score multiple goals in a playoff game.
Nineteen different Boston players have scored in the playoffs this year. The record is 21 by Philadelphia in 1987 when they went to the Final.
Oh Bradley, you dog!
Brent Burns is two points shy of hitting 100 combined regular season and playoffs.
Now up in the shop – you can pre-order all of this year’s products, including the Keeper League Fantasy Pack and the Ultimate Fantasy Pack. The first item – The Fantasy Prospects Report – will be out on June 1 at 3pm.
See you next Monday.
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