My condolences and the condolences of this entire community go out to the family of Ray Emery, who passed away Sunday when he drowned while swimming in Hamilton. He had not yet turned 36 years old, my goodness.
Emery had a friendly but fiery personality that was a welcome change from the usual blandness of carefully PR-trained NHL players. He played 287 NHL games and was 145-86-28. His best season was in 2006-07 with Ottawa when he started 58 games and was 33-16-6 with a 0.918 SV% and 2.47 GAA. At the time he was 24 and the world really was his oyster. But injuries derailed him – specifically a serious hip ailment – and he could never find a rhythm, never playing 35 NHL games in a season again. But just coming back at all from this particular hip injury was by many accounts a miracle. His last NHL team was the Flyers in 2015, but he did play for the Marlies two years ago. In 2013 he won the William Jennings Trophy along with Corey Crawford, and he’s a two-time finalist for the Bill Masterton – and he got to raise the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013.
Working hard on the Fantasy Guide. It’s out on August 1 but you can always pre-order it!
Going over Carolina for the Guide and this lineup may be the most fluent of all of them when it comes to the group of forwards. The wildcards here are twofold. First off are the players who need to clear waivers in order to be sent down, but they won’t get through. Valentin Zykov and Lucas Wallmark. Second, is Martin Necas. The Canes don’t have a No.1 center and it’s wrong of them to throw Necas there at 19 years of age. But he’s ready to make the team and they need him. Wallmark, arguably Charlotte’s best player and a former fourth-round pick, is ready to make the jump. Zykov, who led the AHL with 33 goals and had seven points in 10 games during his NHL audition, is also ready. Andrei Svechnikov is also ready. Other factors to consider is the fact that Sebastian Aho was tried out at center for the final three or four weeks of the season. Of the current Carolina roster, the players who took the most faceoffs last season were, in order: Jordan Staal (1338), Victor Rask (716), Aho (172). So you almost have to put Wallmark in there. Can’t waive him and it would be stupid to sit him.
But what if Necas is absolutely lights-out in training camp? He’s already clicking with Svechnikov in prospects camp – what if he leaves Carolina no choice?
Here’s what I know: Staal is the team’s best defensive forward; Wallmark could make the team but is not ready for anything beyond the third line; Necas is probably ready for the second line but it would be too much to ask of him to take over the top line; Staal is only one guy – he can’t be their No.1 center and their shutdown guy; Rask was in over his head last year and I don’t think he is even a top sixer. Third liner, to me.
I guess if Necas doesn’t make the team, you could have Aho at center and lines looking like this:
Teravainen – Aho – Svechnikov
Skinner – Rask – Williams
McGinn – Staal – Ferland
Martinook – Wallmark – Di Guiseppe
Zykov is the 13th forward.
And if Necas does make the team, you could see:
Teravainen – Staal – Aho
Skinner – Necas – Svechnikov
McGinn – Rask – Williams
Ferland – Wallmark – Martinook
And Di Giuseppe becomes the 13th forward. Zykov 14th – which is another way of saying he’ll be Josh-Leivo’ed. There is a domino effect with either scenario. Staal is a 40-point player in one scenario, a 55-point player in another. Necas is a prospect in one scenario, and a Calder contender in another. Rask bounces back to 45 points in one, or his value continues to dip in the other. Skinner was stuck with weak linemates last year and in the first scenario here that doesn’t change. In the second scenario – it does. This is what I consider, review, analyze with each team. And being wrong on one thing messes with a lot of other things. Maybe a Carolina die-hard fan has further thoughts on this in the comments below.
On a side note, Wallmark’s contract that he signed last week is a two-way deal this year, one way deal next year. More on this stuff below.
Some contract news, only the fantasy notables:
Phillip Danault signs a three-year deal with the Habs for just over $3 million per season.
Oliver Bjorkstrand signs a three-year deal with the Jackets for $2.5 million per season.
Michael Kapla signed a one-year deal with the Devils, Taylor Leier signed with the Flyers, Daniel O’Regan with the Sabres and Michael Bunting/Hudson Fasching/Laurent Dauphin with Arizona, Andreas Johnsson signed with the Leafs, Morgan Klimchuk with the Flames – each for one year.
Of note, Leier’s contract is a one-way deal. However, it’s a couple of the two-way deals I want to point out. Johnsson with the Leafs and O’Regan with the Sabres. Johnsson has to clear waivers in order to be sent down and he’s already proven time and again that he’s NHL-ready. I already have him as a lock to make the team. Why he signed his two-way qualifying offer was strategic – he’s banking on a full NHL season so that he can cash in next year. Meanwhile, my hunch is that Kyle Dubas was thinking about how to get him to sign for two or three years – and I wonder if Johnsson signing his qualifying offer caught him off guard. The Leafs will never – never – waive him no matter how horrible his training camp is. I like his thinking there.
O’Regan would have been in tough to make the Sabres and he can still be sent down without clearing waivers. So he’s as good as off the team to start the year. But he has nothing left to prove in the AHL.
Another interesting one was on Saturday when Nicholas Baptiste signed a two-way deal with the Sabres. He has to clear waivers and I was having trouble fitting him into the Buffalo lineup (much like Carolina, as I noted above). He played 33 games for the Sabres last year but the team is significantly more crowded this time around. And I think he’s behind Justin Bailey in terms of the depth chart – Bailey also has to clear to be sent down, is also a right shot, is bigger (6-3, 214) and was drafted higher (52nd overall versus 69th overall) and I think those things make a difference when teams prioritize who they want to see succeed more. And soon after I wrote the above blurb – Justin Bailey signs and it’s a two-way contract. So he’s in the same boat as Baptiste.
Anyway, for bubble players this is stuff I look at. Thought I’d share.
Top 20 Restricted Free Agents still left to sign, from a fantasy-hockey interest standpoint:
2. Mark Stone
3. Matt Dumba
6. Sam Reinhart
7. Dylan Larkin
8. Jacob Trouba
9. Noah Hanifin
10. Brandon Montour
11. Jason Zucker
12. Shea Theodore
13. Ryan Pulock
14. Ryan Spooner
15. Juuse Saros
16. Kevin Hayes
17. Tom Wilson
18. Ondrej Kase
19. David Rittich/Jon Gillies
20. Nick Ritchie
And here are the Top 8 contracts I will be watching for when it comes to the “one-way” versus “two-way” issue. If they sign a one-way deal I will also be looking at the amount, to determine how nice a chance they’ll be given. I expect two-way deals…and I’ll raise an eyebrow if I see “one-way”. I’ll raise that eyebrow to “The Rock” levels if it’s a one-way and in excess of $1.2 million.
1. Jordan Schmaltz
2. Nic Petan
3. Jon Gillies
5. Kevin Roy – Whoops! Look at that! As I wrote this, the announcement came through – a two-way contract was signed later Sunday.
6. Kalle Kossila
7. C.J. Smith
8. Andy Welinski
This year for the Fantasy Guide's "lowdown" (i.e. feature player) for each team, I'm taking it to the masses. In the Forum (here – and you don't have to be logged in to vote) you can vote on each player. Twice per day I've been posting a poll of about 10 players. The top two in total votes get up on Facebook for the final vote – and that winner is the guy I dig deep on in the Guide. It's been a lot of fun and great success. The Facebook readers are getting a kick out of it too.
See you next Monday
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- Ramblings: Updates on Monahan, Palmieri, and Pageau; Zucker; Toffoli; Radulov - March 22