Ramblings: RFA Signings and Non-Signings, Will Ghost Reappear? (Aug 4)

by Ian Gooding on August 4, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: RFA Signings and Non-Signings, Will Ghost Reappear? (Aug 4)


The Buffalo Sabres have avoided salary arbitration with goalie Linus Ullmark, signing him to a one-year, $1.325 million contract. Ullmark posted a 15-14-5 record with a 3.11 GAA and .905 SV% in 37 games for the Sabres last season, which was fairly similar to that of starter Carter Hutton.

This one-year deal is another example of a “prove it” contract, as Ullmark is now at an age where goalies start to peak (26). He will probably need more than the 60 games he has played at the NHL level in order to reach his prime, though. He will also need to put a weak second half behind him, where he went 6-13-2 with an abysmal 3.36 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage. He wasn’t the only Buffalo goalie to struggle in the second half, as Hutton went 4-13-2 with an even worse 3.65 GAA and .894 SV%.

With upgrades on the Sabres’ defense, it’s possible that one of these goalies could be in line for better numbers. For now, this should be viewed as a goaltending competition and possible timeshare throughout the season. I wouldn’t target either goalie right now, but that could change if one of these goalies can take the job and run with it.

The Sabres also took care of all of their remaining UFAs, also signing defenseman Jake McCabe to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.85 million. McCabe, who scored four goals and 14 points in 59 games in 2018-19, was fifth among Sabres’ defensemen in average icetime with just under 19 minutes per game. With offseason acquisitions Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju, McCabe may be bumped down the pecking order. However, since injuries are fairly common among blueliners, McCabe should still find his way into the lineup fairly often. He shouldn’t be considered much of a scoring threat, as he sees very little power-play time.

Buffalo is now about $1 million over the salary cap and will need to clear space before the season starts.

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The Arizona Coyotes have reportedly also taken care of their RFAs, as goalie Adin Hill has reportedly accepted his qualifying offer for one year. Hill spent the majority of his time in 2018-19 in the NHL, but he filled in for awhile while Antti Raanta was on the shelf. Remember that Hill was a desired waiver-wire add after he allowed just two goals in his first three starts of the season (all wins) in late November/early December. Then he allowed at least three goals in seven of his next eight games and was back in the AHL not long after. By then Darcy Kuemper was starting just about every game for the Yotes.

Hill is considered the Coyotes’ goalie of the future and could be in the NHL full-time as early as next season. Kuemper has just one more year left on his contract, while Raanta has two more years left. By the way, the Coyotes’ goaltending competition will be another interesting one to watch. Kuemper helped one of my teams immensely last season, while Raanta helped another team considerably the season before. At the moment, I’m much more inclined to add a Coyotes’ goalie in the late rounds of a draft than I am a Sabres’ goalie.

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If you’re waiting for some of the bigger-name RFAs to sign, you could be waiting a while. The Leafs need to create more cap space before they can sign Mitch Marner. Ditto for the Canucks and Brock Boeser. Both Boeser and Charlie McAvoy can’t be offer sheeted because of their contract status, which isn’t putting pressure on their teams to sign them. In McAvoy’s case, the Bruins are preparing for the possibility that he won’t start training camp with the team. Meanwhile, the Flames hope that Matthew Tkachuk will sign before training camp. I also acknowledge that there are more names than these.

It’s possible that the Marner contract is holding everything up and the dominos will start to fall once he is signed, but there are four teams that are already over the cap and about half the teams are within $5 million of it. Never mind this being the year of the offer sheet – could this be the year of multiple RFA holdouts? And how is that going to affect pre-draft rankings? Especially with how long it took William Nylander to get to midseason form after his last-second signing. I'm not suggesting anyone will hold out that long, but there could be production implications anyway. 

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Here’s your daily reminder that the 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide is now available! Inside you’ll find the usual projections for each player by team, plus sleeper picks, draft review and Calder nominees, advanced stats, breakdown of the 2019-20 schedule, and more! As well, I should mention that the Fantasy Guide is updated as more signings, trades, injuries, and other events affect player projections. In fact, Dobber has already made updates on it.
 


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The Shayne Gostisbehere trade rumors seem to have cooled off. At least I haven’t heard his name mentioned as often lately, but that could be because we’re in the middle of a dead period when it comes to hockey news. It probably wouldn’t be in the Flyers’ best interests to trade a player whose value has dropped like his production from 2017-18 (65 points) to 2018-19 (37 points).

Gostisbehere admitted after the season that a knee injury from early in the season affected him for most of the rest of the year. If so, that injury must have impeded his play considerably, as he went from 33 PPP in 2017-18 to just 14 in 2018-19. That in spite of continuing to receive first-unit power-play minutes (3:29 PPTOI), and it wasn’t even close (Ivan Provorov was the next highest defenseman with 1:33 PPTOI).

Ghost is an important part of the power play since he’s the PP1 QB, but the power play is a team effort. After much promise, the Flyers’ power-play disappointed in 2018-19 (23rd in NHL with a 17.1% conversion rate). A power play that features Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Gostisbehere is capable of more. Digging deeper for Gostisbehere specifically, he recorded just four secondary power-play assists in 2018-19 while receiving credit for 15 secondary power-play assists in 2017-18.

It wasn’t just the power-play where Gostisbehere lost ground in 2018-19. He took nearly 40 fewer shots in 2018-19, which if you also factor in a slightly reduced shooting percentage resulted in four fewer goals. For the sake of his multicategory fantasy value, Ghost owners should hope for at least 200 shots.
 

 

Points

Plus/minus

2015-16

46

+8

2016-17

39

-21

2017-18

65

10

2018-19

37

-20


A much simpler explanation is that Ghost has alternated between good season and bad season throughout his four NHL seasons, assuming his plus/minus reflects his overall play. If that pattern continues, then Ghost should be in line for some kind of rebound in 2019-20. Better than 37 points for sure, but 65 points is probably a reach. 50 points should be attainable, though. At least he should be aided by better puck luck.

With competition such as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov also in the mix, Ghost will need to improve that production in order to retain that PP1 QB role that is all-important to his fantasy value.

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I just loved the goalie’s stunned look of how this Cole Caufield shot got in. Montreal fans have to be psyched about this guy.
 


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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.