Ramblings: More Stars Injuries, Murray’s Contract, Wild/Hurricanes Undervalued (Oct 21)

by steve laidlaw on October 21, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: More Stars Injuries, Murray’s Contract, Wild/Hurricanes Undervalued (Oct 21)

The Stars are facing more injuries, Matt Murray's contract extension, the undervalued top lines in Minnesota and Carolina and more.

Marc-Andre Fleury made his fifth start of the season. With Matt Murray out the Penguins are riding Fleury, who has played well in his return as starter. Mike Condon was claimed as a backup option but the Penguins don’t seem to have much interest in using him, at least not with Fleury playing well.

This situation does smell a bit like when an NFL club rides a running back into the dirt, especially when you consider the new contract the Penguins signed with Murray yesterday. Murray is now under contract for three years beyond this season for nearly $3.75M per season. We all knew Murray was due for a new deal this offseason and that the Penguins were going to face a tough situation with the expansion looming.

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is adamant that this deal doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Fleury’s time in Pittsburgh:

Maybe so but ONE of these guys is going to be playing elsewhere next season, if not earlier. A contender has no business tying up nearly $10M in cap space on the goaltending position when backup talent is fungible. This is especially problematic given the way that goalie talent fluctuates. The Penguins could potentially wind up where the Stars are with two immovable expensive goalie options. The Stars would probably love to have an extra $5M to spend on their skaters, given the return they are getting from their expensive and inconsistent duo.

You have to take Rutherford at his word though. As mentioned, goaltending fluctuates like crazy. The new contract for Murray, in particular the timing of it when they could have waited to sign him next summer, is an indication that the Penguins really like the player. But Murray could bomb, or get seriously hurt. There’s no point in the Penguins painting themselves into a corner by committing to one goalie when they don’t have to. The Penguins will need Fleury this season to contend again so they have to keep their options open.

Murray, by the way, has been practicing but is still a couple of weeks away from returning to action.

*

Big win for Fleury last night given how banged up the Penguins are. They were without Kris Letang who is thankfully only day-to-day. Letang is arguably their most important player:

The Penguins also lost Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta to injury last night. No update on their condition at the time of publication.

*

Louis Domingue was roasted for four goals on 19 shots, leading to Justin Peters being brought on in relief. Domingue had a nice run of relevance last season but I wonder if he can do it for a full season. The Arizona lineup is awfully young and will certainly test him like they did tonight. I’m not messing with Domingue on any of my fantasy squads.

Jakob Chychrun scored his first NHL goal but didn’t skate any power play time. I have a tough time finding fantasy value in defensemen who don’t skate on the PP. Of course, it’s going to be difficult to find PP time for Chychrun when you have Oliver Ekman-Larsson available to play the full two minutes of every PP.

*

The injuries keep mounting for the Stars:

It’s tough to say exactly who will step into the minutes for Patrick Eaves and Patrick Sharp. Hopefully Jiri Hudler can get back from his illness because there is now a spot on the top PP unit available for him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like that will be the case:

The Stars were down a goal in the third period so they pushed Jason Spezza onto a loaded top line. It ultimately paid off with Spezza scoring the tying goal to force overtime. I doubt they use Spezza with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin outside of a desperation situation however. More likely someone like Curtis MacKenzie jumps up, as he did briefly last night.

Devin Shore was also on the ice with the net empty to end the game and got an assist on Spezza’s goal. He looks awfully intriguing though the Stars may need him to remain at the center position.

Radek Faksa is another interesting option but I see him sticking more on line two with Spezza. That combo clicked for a Faksa goal in the first period.

Kari Lehtonen took the loss and allowed four goals but probably played well enough to warrant another start for the Stars.

*

On the other side, Peter Budaj stopped 17 of 20 shots but it was good for the win. How long until the Kings make a trade for a goalie? I suppose if they can keep holding offensive juggernauts to 20 shots, they won’t need to but that’ll be a challenge.

Tanner Pearson is hot after returning from a suspension. He has three goals and an assist in two games. He’s still mostly seeing second line and second PP duties, which is a real limiting factor on what he can produce long term. Short term? Go nuts. I haven’t grabbed him in any pools because the Kings have just one game left in this matchup period but I am using him in daily fantasy as a cheaper option to fill out my lineup.

*

The two top lines in the league that can most be mined for fantasy value are easily the Minnesota Wild’s and the Carolina Hurricanes’:

Zach Parise (97% owned on Yahoo) – Eric Staal (22% owned) – Charlie Coyle (16% owned)

Jeff Skinner (71% owned on Yahoo) – Victor Rask (13% owned) – Lee Stempniak (22% owned)

Odds are you aren’t getting either of the big shooters on the left side of these lines unless you drafted them but the rest of these lines are up for grabs. You can likely snag these guys as a streaming option whenever it is favourable to do so.

I made Coyle my streaming option for this weekend as the Wild had three games between Thursday and Sunday. He’s already paid off with an assist and he has two more games of action remaining.

Hopefully your league has a limit on the number of moves that you can make but odds are that limit is somewhere between two to four moves per week. I find that making a couple of moves per week strictly involving the players on the end of my bench to stream in hot options and/or players with a dense schedule is the way to go.

Simple math tells you that you are more likely to get a point out of a 40-point player playing two games than you are from a 50-point playing one. Treat the waiver wire like an extension of your bench.

Mike Schmidt’s Looking Ahead columns do a great job of breaking down the upcoming schedule every week. He’ll have another one coming out later today.

*

Matt Dumba was originally slated to be a healthy scratch last night but Marco Scandella had to miss the game due to illness so Dumba drew into the lineup. He wound up skating over 22 minutes and notched an assist. The minutes really piled up after Jared Spurgeon went down with an injury.

This could be the big break that Dumba needs as Spurgeon is standing between him and top unit PP time. Spurgeon is currently day-to-day with an upper body injury.

*

Patrice Bergeron returned for the Bruins and scored a goal. He resumed his spot on the top line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. That pushed David Backes down the lineup. Check out the lines:

20.07%  EV           BERGERON,PATRICE – MARCHAND,BRAD – PASTRNAK,DAVID

19.37%  EV           BACKES,DAVID – HEINEN,DANTON – KREJCI,DAVID

16.9%    EV           BELESKEY,MATT – HAYES,JIMMY – NASH,RILEY

15.85%  EV           ACCIARI,NOEL – MOORE,DOMINIC – SCHALLER,TIM

4.58%    PP           BACKES,DAVID – BERGERON,PATRICE – HEINEN,DANTON – KREJCI,DAVID

2.82%    PP           BELESKEY,MATT – MARCHAND,BRAD – PASTRNAK,DAVID

Unfortunately, this still isn’t the Bruins at full strength as Ryan Spooner was a healthy scratch. He should slide in as the third line center but also should displace Danton Heinen on the top PP unit.

With Bergeron back, Austin Czarnik was sent back to the AHL.

*

Carey Price finally made his return to the Montreal crease stopping 27 of 29 shots for a tidy victory. I still have Price as my #1 fantasy goalie. This is a nice start.

*

Lots of folks asking questions about Michael Matheson, the Panthers defenseman with two goals and an assist through four games, as well as 12 SOG. I like Matheson and think he’s talented but while he is skating 20 minutes a night he is barely seeing any PP time and is firmly behind Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad in the pecking order. As mentioned previously, I just don’t have time for defensemen not seeing PP time.

Contrast Matheson with Noah Hanifin, who had three assists last night, and is skating only 15:40 per game, 2:32 of which coming on the PP. I’d rather have Hanifin getting second unit PP time, and third pairing minutes at evens than Matheson seeing no PP time but second pairing minutes at evens. Plus, Hanifin has better pedigree.

*

Jaden Schwartz returned from injury for the Blues. Check out the lines:

18.12%  EV           FABBRI,ROBBY – PERRON,DAVID – STASTNY,PAUL

17.07%  EV           BERGLUND,PATRIK – JASKIN,DMITRIJ – YAKUPOV,NAIL

13.24%  EV           SCHWARTZ,JADEN – STEEN,ALEXANDER – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

10.1%    EV           FABBRI,ROBBY – STASTNY,PAUL – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

9.06%    EV           BRODZIAK,KYLE – REAVES,RYAN – UPSHALL,SCOTTIE

4.53%    PP           SCHWARTZ,JADEN – STASTNY,PAUL – STEEN,ALEXANDER – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

As expected, with Jori Lehtera out Alex Steen was forced to move to center. Not bad being flanked by Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko though. Steen got hammered on faceoffs winning just two of 19. When he took draws in the past it was only in favourable spots while interchanging with Backes. Going full time center may be a stretch. Faceoffs aren’t overly valuable so don’t make too much of that tidbit.

It’s also worth noting that Schwartz displaced Alex Pietrangelo on the Blues’ top PP unit. That’s no good for Pietrangelo’s fantasy value but you can probably count on a Kevin Shattenkirk injury at some point.

*

Jacob Markstrom is now 3-0 with a GAA below 2.00. He is available in 82% of Yahoo leagues. Markstrom being fantasy relevant isn’t the craziest thing in the world.

*

Marian Hossa will miss tonight’s game due to injury.

Brian Campbell is also expected to be out but as a healthy scratch.

*

Interesting discussion here from the writers at DFS Datalytics on the strategies they employ for picking their goaltender in daily fantasy hockey. I have to confess that my strategy isn’t nearly as intensive, which is probably why I suck at DFS. I typically go by feel and grab the cheapest goalie I can that I think will win. But I stink at picking winners so this strategy is flawed from the jump.

*

Here’s a pretty hilarious discussion of Joe Thornton’s fondness for getting naked.

*

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.