Ramblings: Sundqvist signs; minor Leafs-Blues trade; more bubble week keeper questions – July 26

by Michael Clifford on July 26, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Sundqvist signs; minor Leafs-Blues trade; more bubble week keeper questions – July 26

 

Now it’s officially official: the St. Louis Blues signed 25-year old centre Oscar Sundqvist to a four-year deal. It carries an average annual value of $2.75M.

Sundqvist had a career year in 2018-19 with 74 games played and 31 points, plus nine more points during the Cup run, averaging over 16 minutes a night.

Sundqvist could never consistently crack the Penguins lineup but has fared much better in St. Louis. He brings enough hits that he can be relevant in leagues counting hits if he posts 30 points again, but he’ll likely be in the bottom-6 assuming everyone is healthy. It’ll be hard to build much beyond the 31 points; if he can get to 40, that’s a big win.

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St. Louis wasn’t done as they dealt AHL defenceman Jordan Schmaltz to the Leafs for defenceman Andreas Borgman.

You can read the prospect profiles for Schmaltz here and Borgman here.

Schmaltz was a guy who, a few years ago, I thought would be the future of the St. Louis blueline along with Vince Dunn. While Dunn has flourished, Schmaltz has not. He turns 26 in October and has managed just 42 NHL games. He is a right shot defenceman, though, and that’s a position that the Leafs have struggled to fill over the years. It’s not implausible to see him crack the lineup at some point this season but there won’t be enough for fantasy interest.

Borgman, being a left shot, found it hard to get in the NHL lineup with guys like Rielly, Dermott, and eventually Muzzin on the roster. They also have Martin Marincin who can fill in, so Borgman wasn’t really needed in the organization beyond depth. But he goes to a team with Carl Gunnarsson, Vince Dunn, Jay Bouwmeester, and Derrick Pouliot all under contract with Joel Edmundson to be signed, all on the left side. It seems like they’re just swapping AHL depth for AHL depth here.

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An arbitrator awarded Buffalo forward Evan Rodrigues a one-year, $2M contract. It’ll be interesting to see where he slots in the lineup now that they’ve kind of stocked up.

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The Avs avoided arbitration with centre Sheldon Dries, signing him to a one-year, two-way deal worth $735K.

The 25-year old centre split time between the AHL and NHL last year and the trade of Carl Soderberg could have perhaps opened a spot for him. The acquisition of Nazem Kadri makes this unlikely, though. He’s, at best, a fourth liner for now.

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We have more bubble keeper questions to get to and let's not waste time. 

 

 

I certainly understand the desire to keep Byfuglien, as we’ve seen enormous highs from him over the last six years, particularly from 2015-2017. As you mentioned, he can be a monster when he’s healthy but over those six seasons, he has as many years under 70 games played as over. It’s kind of the issue we run into with Letang; when healthy, he’s a beast. If he can play a full season, he’s probably a top-5 defenceman. But relying on 80 games is a lot to ask.

Here’s something to consider: since 1999, when TOI started to be tracked, there have been 10 wingers to amass at least 40 even strength goals in under 3000 total minutes played through their age-21 and age-22 seasons combined. Those 10 wingers are as follows: Marian Hossa, Bobby Ryan, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Johnny Gaudreau, David Pastrnak, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, and Timo Meier. Aside from Ryan – and he did have some great years early in his career – and Ehlers – his problem has been usage, not his talent – that list is a veritable who’s-who of fantasy goodness.

Meier’s underlying numbers are out-of-this-world good. He was in the 98th percentile in driving both shot attempts and expected goals in 2018-19 (independent of teammates), a year after being in the 98th percentile of driving expected goals. Over his two full seasons, he’s in the 99th percentile of shots per 60 minutes and 88th percentile of zone entries with possession. Those numbers scream “elite offensive player.”

Meier’s breakout came last year but he’ll cement himself as one of the best offensive players in the league this year. None of his percentages were really out of line and if he can get some more power play production, 70 points is well within reach. My answer is Meier independent of your situation, but if you need to rebuild, it’s Meier without a doubt.

 

 

I expect a rebound from Talbot but the issue in Calgary, as the question alludes to, is a split-start situation. It’s not as if the Flames have Talbot on some long contract where they need to extract value like Martin Jones in San Jose. If Talbot doesn’t play well and Rittich does, Talbot could be stapled to the bench, and vice-versa.

That kind of uncertainty is definitely a worry, but so, too, is the quality of the Minnesota team in front of Dubnyk.

Where Dubnyk has derived a lot of value since being acquired by the Wild is how Minnesota played in front of him. Over his first three full seasons with the Wild, Minnesota had the lowest expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5 in the league, despite allowing the 12th-most unblocked shot attempts. That indicates a lot of low-quality shots against. When we look at low-danger shots against at 5v5 over Dubnyk’s first three full seasons in Minnesota, he faced (2372) over 300 more than the next closest goalie (Pekka Rinne, 2061). Despite comparable minutes played to Martin Jones in that span – separated by about 130 minutes where Dubnyk played nearly 9000 – the Wild netminder faced nearly 600 more low-danger shots. Conversely, Jones faced over 170 more high-danger shots.

Minnesota once again allowed the lowest xGA/60 in 2018-19 but what does the team look like moving forward? This will be a full season without Nino Niederreiter, while Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, and Ryan Suter are all going to be at least in their age-35 season.

In a nutshell, I’d still take Dubnyk. Minnesota still showed extremely well defensively post-Nino trade last year and as long as their older players can avoid falling off a cliff, there’s no reason to think that they can’t be solid defensively again. I’ll take the guy with one roster spot who can give me 65 starts on a great defensive team over two guys in two roster spots who can give me 80 starts on a good defensive team.

 

 

This is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek question from Jay Willemse as he knows how much I hated the Subban/Weber trade, as a Habs fan. Nonetheless, it’s a question that certainly warrants a deeper dive.

Subban was bad, at least for him, in 2018-19, even when considering the injury. But don’t forget he’s just a year removed from being the number-3 defenceman in standard Yahoo! leagues, so we know how good he can be.

One issue is that Subban just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Sure, he had a great 2017-18 when he finished as the third overall defenceman, but it’s also the only season in the last four years where he played at least 70 games. It’s weird, because he was a very healthy player earlier in his career, missing just 12 games over his first five full seasons. Projecting a player for 80 games rather than 67 games is a big difference in expectations.

Subban also saw a big decline in TOI last year, losing nearly 1:30 per game. That was on a team that had probably the best top-4 in hockey. He’ll be going to New Jersey, the threats for ice time are Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson, not Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. He should be back over 24 minutes a game.

On the flipside, since the move to Montreal, Shea Weber has been pretty good for fantasy when he’s in the lineup. His 82-game paces since donning a Habs uniform: 18.7 goals, 27.3 assists, 214.6 shots, 16.7 PPPs, 169.6 hits, 165 blocks, plus-13.7. If he can post close to that in 2019-20, he’ll be a top-10 fantasy defenceman, if not top-5.

Weber, though, hasn’t played 82 games in a season with the Habs. He hasn’t played 80 (he hasn’t played 80 games in a season since 2010-11, by the by). Out of three seasons in Montreal, he’s missed over a full year with injury, the bulk of those coming in 2017-18 due to a foot injury.

There was also an ice time decrease for Weber in 2018-19. He hadn’t played under 25 minutes per game in a season since 2009-10 until last year, when he averaged 23:29. It’s not a huge impact as it might cost him two or three points at most, but it’s noteworthy as he enters his age-34 season.

We have two Norris-calibre defencemen in their 30s who shown the ability to stay healthy earlier in their career before falling to the injury bug over the last few seasons. Both are ostensibly the PPQB for their respective teams and both have shown the ability for elite fantasy seasons.

My current projections, based on 82-game seasons, have Weber carrying about five percent more value than Subban in standard Yahoo! leagues, but I have Subban at 45.5 points with Weber at 39.9. So, roto leagues I’d go Weber, points-only leagues I’d go Subban. Deal? Deal.  

 

 

We’ve got a two-fer.

As for the goalie question, I don’t have my goalie projections done. My initial lean right now would be Bishop, but I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another.

The question about the two wingers is a lot more fun and here’s why: by the Standings Gained Points measure I mentioned in yesterday’s Ramblings, I have Panarin and Wheeler separated by 0.1 SGP in favour of Panarin. In other words, right now, my projections see them as basically the same option for 2019-20.

My projections have the Russian with a decided edge in goals, the American a decided edge in hits, and everything else pretty similar. It’s why I have these two players projected for relatively the same value.

This is a case where whether your fantasy league has plus/minus is going to be important. The Rangers are probably going to be a very exciting offence to watch, but they’ll likely be pretty bad defensively. This is a team that was bad defensively last year as they traded anything that wasn’t nailed down, is going to be laden with rookies/young players, and the only NHL-proven defenceman they added was Jacob Trouba, who is much better offensively than defensively. A team rolling out Marc Staal, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brady Skjei every night on the blueline is going to struggle defensively.

I hate picking one or the other here because I do see them as virtually the same player for 2019-20, with one bringing more goals and the other bringing more hits. Leagues that don’t count hits then it’s likely Panarin. Leagues that count plus/minus, it’s likely Wheeler. If the goal is to make a run for a championship in the next year or two, it’s Wheeler. If the goal is to take a longer view and look for a championship a few years down the road, it’s Panarin. That’s the best answer I can give.