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The big news out of the NHL yesterday had nothing to do with fantasy hockey but is really significant nonetheless. Chicago Blackhawks legend and Hall of Famer Stan Mikita passed away at the age of 78.
Mikita had one Stanley Cup, two Hart Trophies, and four Art Ross Trophies to his name. From age 21 to age 30, he had 321 goals and 525 assists, the only player in that span (1961-71) to amass at least 300 goals and 500 assists.
He was one of the best of his generation on the ice and a great ambassador for the team and the game off the ice. One thing I did not know about him, pointed out in this tribute from Greg Wyshynski at ESPN, is that he requested to have his brain donated for research on CTE. That’s just a small measure of the type of person he was.
There will be a lot of tributes in the coming days from people who knew him, played with him, or played against him in the coming days. They can much better express what he meant to the game and to the Blackhawks. Condolences to his friends and family.
For anyone concerned about Vladamir Tarasenko’s off-season surgery, there was some news that came out late Monday night in that regard. Long story short, there shouldn’t be much to worry about from one of the league’s elite snipers.
Months ago, I wrote in these Ramblings about how he could be a bounce-back candidate. That was before the shoulder injury, but I still stand by it. His ADP, as it does with all players, will ultimately determine how much value he can return, but the revamped lineup with some natural progression from last year makes me a believer.
As with all returning injured players, though, there’s always risk attached. It’s up to the individual fantasy player how much, or how little, risk you want to assume in the draft. Every player has injury potential but one of the better indicators of future injury is prior injury. Tarasenko coming off long-term shoulder injury obviously fits that bill. If you’re really concerned about a second- or third-round pick only playing 65 games then he can be avoided. Again, each fantasy owner is unique so the decision is ultimately up to the individual owner.
I’ve been away for the better part of a week on vacation (I also got to meet Dobber for the first time so that was pretty cool) so I haven’t been around to give some thoughts on a couple big news items that have come out in that time. I know in yesterday’s Ramblings I said I’d talk about power play this week but I’d like to take the chance to discuss the big news items now.
First is the John Gibson signing.
The thing that initially jumped out at me was just how unique his new contract is. Not necessarily in structure or anything but just the age of the goaltender. He’s one of just five goalies in Hockey Reference’s database to manage at least 110 starts through his age-23 season (which was 2016-17). The others were Carey Price, Steve Mason, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Ondrej Pavelec. That makes it a relatively new phenomenon. Vasilevskiy has two years left on his current deal, Pavelec’s largest contract was five years with an AAV of $3.9-million, and Mason’s largest contract in the cap era was three years with an AAV of $4.1-million. When considering age, games started and cap percentage, Price’s contract that just finished is probably the closest we’ve seen and that was technically signed before the new CBA.
Giving any goalie such a long and hefty contract as the one Gibson just signed should generally be viewed as a concern. I suppose, though, if you’re going to do it, signing it before a goalie’s age-25 season is preferable than waiting until he becomes a UFA.
This doesn’t really change much for fantasy unless you’re in a cap league but for cap leaguers, this is a very big deal. The Ducks are an aging team with uncertainty down the middle, a loss of depth on the blue line over the last year or so, and the team as a whole seemed to take a step back defensively last year. Now consider all that knowing that it’ll be another year until this Gibson contract kicks in. All these issues might just get worse over the next 12 months.
Goaltender is a position with a lot of uncertainty but the Ducks have a roster laden with expensive players that will be in their early- to mid-thirties by August 2019. If you own him in a cap league, it’s a dangerous game to play. Does this team go the way of the Blackhawks soon? It certainly seems possible. What to do with him probably depends on the state of your cap league roster going into 2018-19. The Gibson owner may not want an expensive contract and could look to trade him now. The Gibson owner may want to keep him for another year. Were I want to make a run for a championship this year and needed a goalie, it’s conceivable to want to trade for him.
There are a handful of trades we had been waiting for, namely out of Carolina and Ottawa. We got one of them when Jeff Skinner was sent to Buffalo for Cliff Pu and a handful of draft picks. I suppose the drafting of Andrei Svechnikov should help replace the offensive production but even if he manages to do that, Carolina’s is a team that has struggled to score for years. They needed to add more, not just balance things out.
I will say that I guess I diverge from Cam’s assessment and that of a lot of people I’ve seen on social media is where he slots on the team. I don’t think this was a trade made with the intention of playing him with Jack Eichel. Of course he’ll see some time there but I don’t think he plays the majority of the time on the top line (he will play top PP minutes though). This was a trade meant to help lengthen the scoring in the lineup. There is a lot that can be said about the construction of Buffalo’s rosters for the better part of a decade and one of them is that they didn’t really have much depth up front. Their third and fourth lines were always a problem.
Skinner won’t be on the third or fourth line but I do think he lines up for most of the year on the second line which could help push someone like Vladimir Sobotka to the third line, which is where he’s probably best-suited. They can keep Conor Sheary on the top line and that would give them a decent top-9.
As a selfish fantasy owner, believe me, I want nothing more than to see Skinner on the top line playing 20 minutes a night. He’s been a very good goal scorer in the NHL since his first day on the job and getting a great young player for his centre would be a welcomed change of pace. But they don’t need more top-tier offensive players on the top line, they need them everywhere else in the lineup. Maybe I’m wrong but I’m not drafting Skinner with the intention that he plays solely on the top line. I’m drafting him with the expectation that he plays on the second line. That probably means I won’t get him in many leagues and I’m fine with that.
Vegas signed William Karlsson to a one-year deal. I really thought they would give him a long-term contract but I guess when you have no track record and an unbelievable scoring binge, the team would like to see it repeated for another season. He’ll be going into his age-27 season if they sign him long-term next off season.
For cap league owners, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You get him one more year at a very reasonable price. If he can come anywhere close to repeating what he did, it’s a steal anyway. I guess it would depend on the setup though because there isn’t much here for peripherals outside of face-off wins. Even if he falls off to 25 goals and 60 points, in a points-only league, that’s fine. But if he falls off to 25 goals and 60 points in leagues that count penalty minutes, hits, shots, and blocked shots, there isn’t much value here.
Really interesting article yesterday from Travis Yost at TSN covering the increasing number of contracts laden with signing bonuses and teams that choose to structure contracts that way. It really is shocking at the disparity of the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom. It’s not supposed to work this way in a league with a hard cap but if there is ever a loophole to be exploited, be sure people will work their hardest to exploit it.
That’s all for today. I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
- Ramblings: Yes Giordano Norris blah blah, Tarasenko’s slump, under-the-radar players and more (Dec 17)
- Ramblings: Hart Called Up; Hakstol Fired; Dumba Injury; Disappointments - December 18
- Top 10 Surprises of 2018-19
- 20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts
- Eastern Edge: Reviewing Recent Turnaround Predictions
- Geek of the Week: Matt Dumba
- Lining Up: Top-Performing Lines in the East - December 18
- Fantasy Hockey Podcast - Hayes Of Our Lives