Ramblings: Petry, Klefbom and Vatanen are Undervalued Blue Line Options (Feb 23)

by steve laidlaw on February 23, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Petry, Klefbom and Vatanen are Undervalued Blue Line Options (Feb 23)

 

Shea Weber has been ruled out for the season and Carey Price is now out with a concussion. The tank is on in Montreal! It would be nonsense to say this is intentional on the Canadiens’ part. They have way too much money invested in these two to play games. They are out because they are really hurt.

In Price’s case, a concussion might somehow be more appealing than another knee injury. The last thing you want is your 30-year-old goaltender, who’s eight-year $84M deal hasn’t even kicked in yet, to start suffering chronic injuries. It’s also not good. Silver lining: we get the Niemi-ssance!

Antti Niemi has actually played well for the Canadiens, but if you’re going to lose your top two players, it’s nice to have such a volatile option in net to thrust you into the tanking race. So no, I cannot recommend using Niemi. If you do it, you are bolder than I. Also, Charlie Lindgren is back in the mix. Read more about him here.

As for Weber, we’re looking at either a misdiagnosis of his injury, or a poor rehabilitation plan. Either way, he’s headed for surgery and won’t be back until next season. I wonder if heads will roll over this one. The good news, they’ll be able to jump on the surgery earlier than had this occurred during a playoff run, which increases the odds of him being ready to start next season. The bad news, what does foot surgery do to an already testudinal defenseman?

With Weber out we’ll see Jeff Petry continue to be a lively option as Montreal’s number one defenseman. Since Weber went down Petry is averaging 25 minutes a night and has put up seven goals, 18 points, nine PPP and 85 SOG in 27 games. He’s also a minus-13 in that stretch, but I’m a believer in the “punt plus/minus” strategy.

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You know it’s trade season when teams are holding players out of the lineup. Both Rick Nash and Michael Grabner were benched to keep them healthy in advance of the trade deadline. And indeed, Grabner ended up being dealt late last night. You can find the fantasy impact of that here. With those two out we’ve got a decent snapshot of what lines will look like down the stretch:

#1           23.7%    HAYES,KEVIN – MILLER,J.T. – ZUCCARELLO,MATS

#2           22.8%    BUCHNEVICH,PAVEL – VESEY,JIMMY – ZIBANEJAD,MIKA

#3           21.9%    CAREY,PAUL – DESHARNAIS,DAVID – FAST,JESPER

#4           16.7%    HOLLAND,PETER – LETTIERI,VINNI – MCLEOD,CODY

 

That lineup could be worse. They are also expected to get Chris Kreider back on the top line with Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad soon. That line can remain a hub for fantasy owners even if the rest of the squad drowns.

Brady Skjei has been gobbling up top power play minutes without much success. Does Tony DeAngelo get a spin here? He’s only 22 but is on his third franchise.

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Kevin Fiala pulls off the Kucherov in traffic:

 

I’m not convinced that he meant to do that, but holy hell if he did! Fiala has slowed down again with four points in the past nine games. He is comfortably trending towards that tweener 55-point zone, where he’s on the borderline of fantasy relevance. He’ll get hot for a bit, and then cool off to waiver wire zone. The size of your league will determine whether he’s worth keeping around.

Fiala’s linemate, Craig Smith, might be the better own. He gets the second line minutes with Fiala and Kyle Turris, but also sees time as the net-front man on the top PP unit with the big guns. Smith has points in six straight. He’s also on track for a higher shot volume (235) than Fiala (188). I still lean Fiala, but Smith is making a case.

Viktor Arvidsson is having a big second half. Since the bye week he has 15 points in 16 games and is pumping his usually obscene shot volume.

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Petr Mrazek with a solid Flyer debut stopping 19 of 20 against the Blue Jackets. Mind you, part of the appeal of Mrazek was that he wouldn’t have to do quite so much for a Flyers club playing good hockey in the second half.

No Travis Konecny for the Flyers. He’s day-to-day with a foot injury after taking a shot to the foot the other night. Shouldn’t cost him much time but is it enough to derail what has been a breakout second half clicking on the top line? Michael Raffl skated in his spot but was held off the board. Good sign for Konecny.

With Konecny out, the Flyers are now down their top two RW with Simmonds also out 2-3 weeks. Nolan Patrick has power-play goals in back-to-back games since Simmonds went down. I’ve jumped on Patrick in one league and am considering doing it in all my leagues.

Keeper leaguers have to be particularly excited about what Patrick is flashing in that net-front role. Is it something he could fill in years to come? Simmonds has one more year on his steal of a deal, and then hits unrestricted free agency at 30. The Flyers should move on at that point and let someone else pay for his twilight years. Simmonds is already showing signs of wear. He remains the league’s premiere net-front man, but guys who play as he does break down quickly. This season’s injuries are an indication of that. Someone is going to give Simmonds a boatload of money, and much like the Lucic deal, it will be regrettable before the ink has even dried.

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Speaking of regrettable deals, word is that the Islanders are nearing a contract extension with Josh Bailey in the neighbourhood of $5M annually for six seasons. What excellent timing for Bailey to have a career year. How many guys has John Tavares gotten paid?

PA Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo. What a list! It doesn’t even include Thomas Vanek who was:

A) established as a star before Tavares.

B) didn’t even last long enough with the Islanders for them to walk away from him in free agency.

None of those guys lived up to their deals, although most of them were productive in the first season or two. The point is, long-term pacts for support players entering their 30’s don’t usually work out! Didn’t they learn this lesson from their signing of Andrew Ladd?

Bailey will be 29 at the start of next season, meaning the cliff is rapidly approaching. Bailey is clearly talented and has flashed top line potential in the past, but his career 5-on-5 scoring rate of 1.63 is one indicative of a mid-line player. It’s likely he is a decent player building off chemistry with a superstar, some hot shooting and a huge bump in power-play production (he has 28 PP points already!)

Don’t pay Bailey, find the next Bailey. You’ve done it before! And with varying types of players You have intriguing winger prospects like Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, and Kieffer Bellows. Build yourself another one! You can’t use the argument that Bailey’s contract is the tax to keep Tavares. Wasn’t that the point of giving Cal Clutterbuck an exorbitant deal?  There’s no way they can know if this will make a difference or not.

Far be it for me to suggest taking money out of a player’s pocket. Ideally, there would be no cap and teams could spend money frivolously. In a cap system, you have to make ruthless decisions. Frankly, unfair decisions.

Where does this lead for fantasy owners? If you connect the dots, I’m suggesting that Bailey’s production is going to fall off in coming years. Maybe Tavares will be enough to buoy him into his 30’s but we’ve already seen Bailey’s numbers regress. He has 12 points in 18 games since the start of January. He’s shooting only 7.9% in those two months. This is much closer to the player we expected Bailey to be and should going forward.  

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Uh oh, Auston Matthews left late in last night’s game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. No updates on his condition yet. Here is the suspected injury:

 

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Leon Draisaitl abused the Avalanche last night:

 

And then on the OT winner:

 

Oscar Klefbom is showing more signs of life. Everything seems to indicate he has been playing hurt all year, except for the time he sat out with injury. Just call this season a write off and approach next season with optimism. Remember, we (at least I) thought he could be a 50-point defenseman this season. Obviously, that was a pipe dream. Perhaps next season, if healthy. Klefbom has six points and 30 SOG in the last 10 games.

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Sami Vatanen has displaced Will Butcher on the top PP unit in New Jersey the past few weeks. The results have gone exactly as you’d expect. Vatanen has seven points in the last seven games, while Butcher has one point in the last 11 games.

I highly recommend using Vatanen in the near term, especially with Taylor Hall as hot as he is. The star forward has points in each of his last 20 games. We’re talking MVP level play. Vatanen is available in over 80% of Yahoo leagues.

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Mark Stone has 10 points in eight games since returning from injury. He remains on pace for over 75 points despite missing nine games. The tire fire in Ottawa is distracting from the absurd season he is having.

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Aaron Dell has allowed 23 goals in his last five games. Maybe take a pass on those Dell upgrades.

Tomas Hertl skated over 21 minutes in his return to the Sharks lineup, firing six SOG. I really like the line with Hertl, Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc, though they went quiet with Hertl out. Perhaps now that he’s back they get going again. Hertl has been maligned by a low on-ice shooting percentage in need of some regression too.

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Jon Gillies moved to 2-0 as a starter, winning his first of the season with a 35-save performance against the Coyotes. Safe to say he will get another look if Mike Smith remains out.

Sam Bennett had a two-point night displacing Micheal Ferland on the top line. Can this get Bennett going? Maybe. After all, Gaudreau is the league’s second leading scorer. I won’t hold my breath. Bennett hasn’t shown much as a pro, though to be fair, he is only 21.

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Minor deal for the Bruins and Panthers sending Frank Vatrano to Florida in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick.

Boston recoups a draft pick in the same round as they gave up to acquire Nick Holden, so they essentially trade Vatrano and Rob O’Gara for a rental of Holden. That may still be an overpay.

In Florida, Vatrano gets a fresh start. It’s impossible to understate how excited we were about him just a couple of seasons ago. As a 21-year-old rookie pro, Vatrano scored 36 goals and 55 points in 36 AHL games, splitting time between the AHL and NHL. He didn’t have the same success at the NHL level posting only eight goals and 11 points 39 NHL games, skating limited minutes, but he did demonstrate a penchant for shot volume averaging 2.5 SOG per game. He ran into injuries the past two seasons and eventually got surpassed on the depth chart by an exciting group of rookies including Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork. You can’t totally blame Vatrano for struggling given the circumstances.

There’s some upside for Vatrano if he can find chemistry on a scoring line. We’ll see how much of a shot he gets. Even on a shallow Florida team regularly rolling out an enforcer in Michael Haley there isn’t much room for Vatrano. They are in the midst of giving chances to youngsters like Connor Brickley, Denis Malgin, Maxim Mamin and Jared McCann. None of those players are insurmountable, but they offer competition. It’s also likely that Vatrano would have at least one of those guys as a linemate if he were to stick, which doesn’t exactly enhance his situation. Still, he escapes the press box in Boston and could find himself with Jonathan Huberdeau or Sasha Barkov feeding him pucks.

It’s worth noting that the Panthers have signed a couple of European tweeners in Henrik Haapala and Sebastian Repo only to send them back overseas when they couldn’t make room for them. Adding another forward into the mix is another hurdle for getting these guys back over. The Panthers did succeed with Evgeni Dadonov though.

Vatrano is a nice low-cost bet for Florida. It’s one more reminiscent of the Computer Boys era. You can’t help but bring up how they had two parts of one of the league’s best lines in Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault and literally gave them away in order to protect Alex Petrovic. Woof. Would they have been in on Vatrano had they kept Marchessault and/or Smith?

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.