The silly season is upon us. Nikita Kucherov, Aleksander Barkov and Erik Karlsson were all out last night, among others. Sure, each of these taken on their own make sense (especially Kucherov who was out sick for a team with maybe five healthy forwards) but cumulatively it is a sign that we’ve reached the point where teams/players are packing things in. Players are either resting for the playoffs or just don’t have the need to push through an injury. Can you rely on anyone to play on any given night? Not if a team has clinched or been eliminated.
On the flip side, it now appears that both Steven Stamkos AND Tyler Johnson may return on Saturday, which is a shocking turn of events. This is a boon for the Lightning but also makes it exceedingly unlikely that Brayden Point will hang onto his cushy spot alongside Kucherov. Ondrej Palat’s status is much safer but stay tuned. For what it's worth, I'm not dropping Point just yet, probably because I don't have the moves to burn but also because he could remain productive even if shuffled to the third line. He's good.
By the way, Point and Palat still managed to score without Kucherov last night, combining for three points in a win against the Red Wings.
With Barkov out, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr were centered by Denis Malgin with disastrous results. Huberdeau has 23 points in 26 games since returning and is clearly a stud but he loses something with Barkov out. Jagr wasn’t even relevant with both these guys around so he remains a fringe option.
Not much information on Barkov’s injury other than it is upper-body in nature. I don’t want to bring about panic but I wouldn’t be shocked if Barkov didn’t play again this season. He is a notorious Band-Aid Boy and it’s that time of year.
Vincent Trocheck owners like Yours Truly are secretly rooting for Barkov to be done because Trocheck has done so much better when Barkov has missed time. Trocheck scored 18 points in 16 games, while Barkov was out and has 18 in 25 since he returned. The latter run is not bad but I think we all enjoyed his point-per-game pace for over a month.
With Karlsson out, following a blocked shot, the Senators managed just 19 shots against the Wild. They scored one goal on Alex Stalock, in an absolute drubbing that Minnesota needed to build some confidence.
Karlsson was hurt blocking a shot, ending his consecutive games streak at 324. Every fantasy owner was terrified that the extra shot blocking (Karlsson leads the league) would result in this exact situation. And it happened in the fantasy finals. A nightmare!
Without their engine you couldn’t expect much from the Senators but Mike Hoffman scored their lone goal. He has 19 points in the last 20 games.
Mark Stone notched his first point in three games since returning from injury. He was supposed to power my fantasy teams to a championship with another strong second half but that poorly timed injury derailed things. Keep in mind Stone’s second-half prowess for next season, however.
A four-point night for Brendan Gallagher brings him up to 10 points in 20 games since returning from injury but subtract last night’s explosion and you get the sense of what a miserable back half it has been for Gallagher. His ice time and power play usage have both been slipping hard but these signs of life are huge for the Canadiens going into the playoffs.
Paul Byron scored a pair of goals giving him eight in 13 games this month. He is shooting 23.7% on the season. The way he scores goals you don’t totally want to call it a fluke but then you remember the example of Michael Grabner, another counter-attack goal scorer you just can’t trust with such erratic shooting percentages. It is worth mentioning this is Byron’s second straight season above 20% shooting. The longer he does it, the more you are forced to believe.
Big win for the Leafs keeping pace ahead of the Hurricanes, Bruins and Lightning who were all victorious. Frederik Andersen was masterful in his return stopping 29 of 30 for the win. That’s a confidence-boosting win for fantasy owners who no doubt had questions about Andersen returning to form after questions of a concussion.
The big news in Leaf-land is a proposed extension for Nikita Zaitsev:
As was reported earlier by @TSNBobMcKenzie, Nikita Zaitsev is closing on seven-year extension with TOR. AAV would be $4.5, from what I hear— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 31, 2017
Naturally, this was a hotly debated topic in hockey circles. I don’t get what the big deal is. This is pretty well the standard extension for an RFA defenseman who can skate and chew gum at the same time. We saw the prices for guys like Hampus Lindholm, Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Ristolainen venture higher last summer but these guys have supposed star upside. Your palate for applying that label will vary on each individual but the point is that there is an EXTENSIVE list of good young defensemen who have signed similar deals in recent years.
I guess because we haven’t seen one of these signed in the past few months people have forgotten that EVERY decent young defenseman gets one of these deals. It’s how the asking price for Adam Larsson winds up being Taylor Hall. No one wants to let a decent young defenseman hit the market.
The track record of these contracts is fantastic, with the majority of hiccups being that teams didn’t give players enough term, like St. Louis with Kevin Shattenkirk. When these contracts work out well, the back years wind up being bargains like Roman Josi’s contract in Nashville. Zaitsev is older to be signing this sort of deal but he’ll be in his early 30’s when it expires. There’s a good bet they are buying up all of his productive years with this contract and then getting out just as he’s declining beyond usefulness.
Filip Forsberg scored his 30th goal of the season. This is a phenomenal total after a slow start to the season but we should recognize what a slow finish he has had as well. Forsberg has just seven points in 14 games this month. He’s still four points shy of the 60-point mark and may not get there. If he does, it’ll be the most frustrating 60-point performance of anyone this season.
The quietest 60-point season goes to Nikolaj Ehlers. Lots of reasons why his breakout has floated under the radar. I’m not sure he even registers as a topic of conversation when bringing up the Jets.
If you ask how those primes are being wasted then you’ll no doubt bring up their miserable goaltending and how Connor Hellebuyck has failed to breakout or perhaps you’ll ask why the coaching staff isn’t getting more out of this roster.
But those questions lead you to point out how banged up the Jets have been all season missing out on defenders like Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers for huge chunks of the season. And of course, there was also the holdout of Jacob Trouba and how long it took for him to get up to speed when he finally returned.
Maybe at this point you mention Ehlers along with the talent marinating on the farm when discussing the great future for this club but that basically makes him a footnote. A 60-point guy probably shouldn’t be a footnote. I know that dedicated fantasy owners aren’t sleeping on Ehlers but he is only owned in 72% of Yahoo leagues. I’ll bet he continues flying under the radar come fantasy drafts next season but should be pushing to be picked in the top 50 depending on your settings.
By the way, Laine was held scoreless for the eighth time in the last 10 games. He’s losing that Calder trophy.
Tuukka Rask has allowed one goal in two games since returning from a one-game injury absence. Good to see that he found himself because his second half has been terrible. It’s only two games so we cannot call it a streak yet but everyone in the East should watch out if this is legit.
The Flyers steamrolled the Islanders in the first period jumping out to a 5-0 lead, chasing Thomas Greiss for three goals on eight shots before getting a couple more on Jaroslav Halak. Halak would eventually settle things down and can be expected to start tonight – and perhaps the rest of the way.
Reminder: the Islanders gave Greiss a three-year $10M extension this season. His numbers since signing that extension: 11-11-2, 3.19 GAA, 0.895 SV%.
I’m not saying that the contract is a factor in his decline or that the deal is even that bad. Greiss is just over-extended as a workhorse #1. Use him as a 1A and he’s fine. Hell, $3.3M annually for a 1B option isn’t even bad. That might be where Greiss winds up. But whatever certainty Islanders fans hoped to have found when that contract was signed is clearly non-existent. They still have goalie questions this summer.
When is Ilya Sorokin’s contract up? Not until next summer.
Travis Hamonic’s season appears to be over:
Hamonic with a cast on his left hand outside #Isles room. Would imagine his season is done.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 31, 2017
For what it’s worth, the Flyers nearly handed their five-goal lead back to the Islanders, giving up three straight before scoring an empty-netter.
Steve Mason’s second half hasn’t been without hiccups but he’s been damn good for a month straight with a 9-4-1 record, a 2.17 GAA and a 0.926 SV%, including four straight wins. I know most folks are sour on Mason after the rollercoaster ride but his last month has re-invigorated my interest. We’ll see where he lands this summer but Mason feels like a steal at next year’s draft.
DeBoer said Couture will not join the Sharks on the road trip #SJSharks— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) March 30, 2017
Logan Couture may return for the final three games next week but don’t expect him to help you if your season ends on Sunday.
Connor McDavid with his first career shorthanded goal:
OMG McDavid. pic.twitter.com/Lns7pRz89J— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) March 31, 2017
It appears that Anthony Mantha’s season is over after he left last night’s game with a broken finger. *Sigh* Yet another example of good young players missing games because of fighting.
Huge news for the Senators as they have signed top goaltending prospect Marcus Hogberg to a two-year deal. He is set to come over immediately and play at the AHL level on a tryout, which will help him gain valuable North American experience.
Hogberg is one of the better goaltending prospects out there after a season in which he posted a 0.932 save percentage in the top Swedish league. That he’s 23 and heading to the AHL next season means there shouldn’t be much of a wait before he makes an impact. We’ll know more after seeing his performance at the AHL level.
Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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