Ramblings: Thomas surgery; Sanheim and Hunt re-sign; More draft talk – June 25

by Michael Clifford on June 25, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Thomas surgery; Sanheim and Hunt re-sign; More draft talk – June 25

 

Blues rookie Robert Thomas underwent left wrist surgery, the team announced. There is no timeline given right now other than he will rehab over the summer and be re-evaluated ahead of training camp. He really showed well over the final couple months of the season and into the playoffs. Hopefully this doesn’t derail his development.

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Looking back on the two major trades that took place Saturday, they both have one thing in common: the player being acquired will need top PP minutes on the teams that traded for them.

Both teams have four established players that will likely earn top power play time right out of the gate. It will be Boeser, Pettersson, Horvat, and Edler in Vancouver and Hall, Hischier, Palmieri, and Hughes. (I know Hughes isn’t technically an established player, but if he lives up to the hype out of the gate, he’ll be on the first PP quintet.) The question is whether Miller is the fifth guy in Vancouver and whether Subban is the same in New Jersey.

There is, of course, still more changes to come to both teams. Vancouver has been linked to significant free agents, New Jersey has lots of cap space themselves, and that means both franchises may not be done adding difference-makers. All the same, both guys look to be primed for top PP minutes out of the gate. That’s bad news fantasy-wise for guys like Sven Baertschi and Will Butcher.

Just a gut feeling: Butcher takes over the PP at some point this year for reasons other than injury.

One nice aspect of the Subban deal is that his contract runs out the same year Jack Hughes needs a new one. That’s a pretty good way to leverage what should be a high-impact entry-level contract.

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On the Nashville side of things, this has to mean assured top PP minutes for Roman Josi, right? Subban (73:36) spent more time on the top PP unit than both Ryan Ellis (20:33) and Mattias Ekholm (23:31) combined. I suppose there’s always the chance they use one of Ellis or Ekholm but with the way that PP sputtered last year, if it didn’t happen then, it doesn’t seem reasonable that it’d happen now. I’m sure Josi won’t mind getting all those PP minutes in his final season before free agency.

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The Flyers are kicking the can down the road by signing defenceman Travis Sanheim to a two-year deal with a $3.25M AAV. Sanheim had a breakout season, amassing 35 points in 82 games while playing fewer than 20 minutes a night. It’ll be a great deal for the Flyers for the next couple of years but if Sanheim continues on his current trajectory, they’re going to end up paying a lot more down the road.

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Brad Hunt re-signed with Minnesota for two years at a total of $1.4-million. He had just five points in 29 games after being traded to the Wild from the Golden Knights but was used all over the place. He’s probably a guy daily fantasy players would be more interested in than season-long ones.

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In a one-for-one deal, Ryan Hartman was traded from Philadelphia to Dallas in exchange for Tyler Pitlick.

I’ll be honest and say that Hartman is a guy I’ve been intrigued by in the fantasy game for years. He had a breakout of sorts in his rookie 2016-17 season with 19 goals playing fewer than 13 minutes a night. He has just 23 goals since and hasn’t been able to establish himself as the middle-six grinder/scorer some of us thought he could be.

The thing is, he’s still had solid underlying numbers in the two years since. Both his entry and exit possession percentages are 70th percentile over the last two campaigns, his shot rate is in the 80th percentile, and he draws a lot of penalties (though he takes his fair share, too). In other words, I think he’s better than what he’s shown the last two years.

If he can play to his ability, Hartman should be in the top-6 for Dallas. If not, he’ll be in the bottom-6. He’s a guy who can contribute across the board in the fantasy game so even 20 goals and 40 points could mean a big roto year. I’m optimistic but I understand why other people may not be.

I don’t have much hope for Pitlick’s fantasy value given the forward depth in Philly. At best, he’ll be on the third line.

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Vegas still has to get rid of a contract or two and though a number of names have been bounced around, the guy that makes the most sense to me is Reilly Smith. He does have a modified no-trade where he can submit an eight-team no-trade list, but that’s not overly prohibitive. We just saw what J.T. Miller got on the trade market, and Smith has had similar production. The Golden Knights can’t rely on getting the exact same return but even a second rounder would help the team out of a bind here. This would allow Alex Tuch to move up the lineup and open some roster spots for the in the bottom-6. Maybe just wishful thinking on my part.

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One team we’re not hearing a lot from in free agency is Colorado. That’s despite the fact that they have over $35M in cap space right now. They do have a lot of players to sign, but outside of Mikko Rantanen, there are a lot of players that will probably command under $2M in AAV each. With the influx of young players coming, there should continue to be cap space on this team. Going after a mid-level free agent winger makes some sense, a player like Mats Zuccarello or Gustav Nyquist. Or maybe they want to keep as much cap flexibility as possible with Sam Girard, Cale Makar, and Gabriel Landeskog all needing contracts in the next two years.

It seems quiet on the Colorado front but they have the ability to change that if they choose. I hope they do.

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The Draft may be behind us but there’s no better time to get to know all the prospects in our Dobber Hockey Prospects Report, available now in the Dobber Shop. It has team-by-team breakdowns, lesser-known prospects, fantasy analysis, profiles, and more. Get the edge you need on the up-and-coming stars.

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Hayden Soboleski did a good breakdown of the NHL Draft by nationality and leagues over at Dobber Prospects. If you want to get a different look on the players taken on Friday and Saturday, I recommend giving it a read.

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Speaking of quiet, there hasn’t been much rumouring going on around Jake Gardiner. We’ve seen a lot of reports with regards to Tyler Myers, but not so much with Gardiner. Maybe this is a situation where he really wants to take his time before making a commitment that may last the rest of his NHL career. Buffalo is somewhere that makes a bit of sense but if they’re going to stick with Marco Scandella past the 2019-20 season, then there may not be as much of a need. Regardless, Gardiner probably ends up signing for a more reasonable contract than Myers. That’s my prediction.

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Back on the topic of Colorado, I agree with Dobber’s assessment of the Tyson Barrie situation in light of them drafting Bowen Byram. Unless there is a trade in place that is so lopsided they’d be fools to refuse, keeping Barrie for this year makes a lot of sense. As Dobber notes, it leaves Byram another year for development, provides some security and a mentor for Makar, and gives them really good depth in case of injuries. If they trade Barrie, and any of their top remaining blue liners is injured, this team goes from good defensive depth to a one-pair team in a hurry.

They’re a franchise on the rise in a division where the likes of Winnipeg and Nashville may not be as strong in the next few years as they’ve been in the last few years. Maybe everything goes wrong and the Avalanche are nine points out of a playoff spot at the trade deadline and can then move Barrie. Or maybe this team has another really good year and could use him in a playoff run.

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There’s a lot of talk about Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both signing in Florida. That would make 2019-20 very interesting for the team. If they sign those two players, that means they’ll have about $16M in cap space for 2020-21, and both Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are free agents after this coming season. There’s no chance they’d be able to sign both, or even one of them, without moving a lot of money. We could see a season where the Panthers push all in, and then kind of reset themselves, like Columbus did in 2018-19, only with more offensive talent locked up.

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Alex Galchenyuk’s name has been popping up as possible trade bait from the Coyotes. He was acquired last year for Max Domi and had 19 goals and 41 points. That might seem like a bad season, but he tied for the team lead in goals. We have to remember the context of the team here.

I’m kind of torn on what they should do. Even at the age of 25, it’s looking like Galchenyuk will be more of a depth scoring/PP option than a true first liner or top-6 guy. If that’s all he can be, that’s probably not enough for the Coyotes to worry about extending him long-term. At the same time, they won’t recoup anywhere close to the assets that they gave away in order to acquire him, so maybe they try to wring some value out of him this year. It might be time to just cut losses though, and I’m sure Galchenyuk will be motivated in a new locale with a new contract on the horizon.

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I want to talk about the Cole Caufield pick.

Like I mentioned in a Ramblings last week, I think teams should bet on talent. Drafting Caufield after he posted the seasons he did for the USNTDP is certainly betting on talent.

I also wonder what this changes for the Habs. They missed the playoffs this season but they finished with more points than three playoff teams from the West and probably would have been in the postseason were it not for an abysmal power play. There is a good mix of veterans like Weber, Petry, Tatar, Byron, and Danault, younger established players like Drouin, Gallagher, and Domi, and burgeoning impact players like Kotkaneimi and Mete. There are stellar prospects like Poehling and Suzuki still to come, and now we can add Caufield to the list.

Is it possible for the prospects to push the envelope come September? It’s theoretically possible that Poehling, Suzuki, and Caufield are all in the lineup for the Habs on opening night, though I’m certainly not banking on it. But it does mean there is an influx of good young forwards coming, so does this change what they might do (or might have done) in free agency? Are they going to give the prospects another year or two while they wait for contracts to run out or are they going to give them a legit chance?

Free agency will probably tell us a lot about the direction of the team. If they go through with a relatively quiet free agent frenzy, signing some depth pieces, it could be an indication they’re going to wait on their prospects. But the clock is ticking on both Weber and Carey Price, so the Habs have to find a balance here. The franchise is in a good shape for now, but timing everything is going to be a delicate balancing act.