We are a little under two weeks away from the release of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! Be sure to grab your copy early. There are articles and projections as far as the eye can see, and it will be updated to reflect new information.
As a small aside on my personal work, I have started my own projections for this season. They definitely will not be ready anytime near the release of the Dobber guide. More towards the end of August.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with them. Likely, I’ll be posting some findings in my Ramblings as I go through the process. Not sure if I’ll post them all at some point or just the interesting ones; the ones where my projections deviate significantly from the consensus of the community.
Regardless, work on the 2018-19 is in full swing. There is no off season.
The quote that stuck out was from one team executive who said, “It’s one of the things owners don’t do to each other.” This is what fans, bloggers, and writers have long suspected: teams don’t want to rock the boat.
It’s a shame. Offer sheets would make the NHL off season far more interesting and would force general managers to improve their cap and asset management.
There were some reasonably significant signings from the last week that we should discuss. This is more for those in cap leagues but it’s good for a refresher on these players as some had lesser roles that don’t always get the limelight. Cap information is from Cap Friendly.
Ian touched on a few of these signings yesterday but I wanted to give my own perspective on those and a few others.
Chris Tierney signed for two more years with San Jose carrying an average annual value just over $2.9-million. The now-24-year old had 40 points last year for the Sharks.
With Joe Thornton returning, Joe Pavelski still in the fold, and Logan Couture around for the better part of a decade, Tierney will be locked into that third-line role for at least one more year. That, combined with the lack of power-play time, means improving substantially on 40 points is difficult.
That doesn’t mean he can’t repeat, though. There is a lot of winger talent on this team, starting with Pavleski (though he’s really a centre) and Evander Kane, then Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi, and an emerging star in Timo Meier. Regardless of how the lineup shakes out, Tierney will have at least one talented winger to skate with so putting up 40 points again is possible.
Pavelski has one year left on his deal and it’s uncertain whether he’ll return. If he doesn’t, Tierney could be bumped up the lineup in a year’s time. But for 2018-19, expect more or less the same as 2017-18.
Adam Henrique signed a five-year extension with an AAV of $5.85-million set to kick in for the 2019-2020 season. That extension will carry him through his age-33 season.
Henrique has two 50-point seasons in the last three years.
Some people may be wondering about the timing of this extension, but it makes some sense. Ryan Kesler may miss the 2018-19 season, in which case Henrique would be the second-line centre, including top power-play minutes. There is potential for a career-best season should he have to play a role similar to Kesler’s 2016-17 season. Were that career season materialize, the price would only go up.
Whether that career season materializes will depend on his line mates. If he just replaces Kesler on the second line, he’ll likely skate with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. Neither has a 25-goal season, though we expect it from Silfverberg at some point.
A lot of Henrique’s outlook will depend on Kesler’s health. Should Kesler’s rehab go as planned, it’s possible Henrique is on the third line playing 16-17 minutes a night with little power-play time. If Kesler is forced to have surgery and misses the year, Henrique could play 19 minutes a night with heavy top PP minutes. That’s a broad range of outcomes. Just wait for Kesler’s health updates, I suppose.
The Calgary Flames gave the long-term deal Elias Lindholm had been looking for, inking him for six years with an AAV of $4.85-million. This contract will carry him to his age-30 season.
How Lindholm will be used will ultimately determine whether this contract gives the appearance of fair value or a great value. He has four full seasons under his belt, averaging 17:38 per game in that span, and managed 14 goals per 82 games over those four seasons. To say that it’s just because he played in Carolina, Justin Faulk scored more often in fewer games played. Lindholm somehow developing into a perennial 25-goal scorer seems like a bridge too far.
Some may point to Jiri Hudler putting up 31 goals and 76 points seemingly out of nowhere when slotting with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. His previous career-highs were 25 goals and 57 points, which makes Lindholm’s situation a bit different.
What if Lindholm isn’t on the top line all year? Or most of the year? Or even half the year? If he plays 17 minutes a game in the middle-six, why would we expect more than 15 goals and 45 points? I don’t doubt that Lindholm gets minutes on the top line, it’s just a matter of how many and for how long. There’s a good chance his ADP gets too high for a reasonable profit.
I’m not going to spoil the contents of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey Guide, but I did work on a piece on penalty minutes that contained Ryan Hartman. He had 142 penalty minutes from 2016-2018, which is why his name was found in my article. The Predators signed him for one year and $875K.
The signing caught me off-guard. I had been expecting at the least a true bridge deal. My guess: they want Pekka Rinne’s deal to run out before adding significant AAVs so they have some flexibility this year.
Anyway, when Hartman isn’t racking up the penalty minutes, he’s a pretty good player: over the last two seasons, his primary points/60 minutes at five-on-five is 1.41. That mark ties him with the following players: Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, JT Miller, and Jason Pominville.
This is how he compares to JT Miller in shot rates, shot contributions, shot assists, and possession exits/entries (from CJ Turtoro's tableau):
Different players, sure, but Hartman is younger and Miller just got a $26.25M contract.
My hope is that Hartman eventually takes over the second-line right wing role from Craig Smith, garnering some power-play time along the way. With proper ice time, Hartman can be a 25-goal, 50-point player with very good peripherals. It’s a matter of how the team uses him.
Montreal signed Phillip Danault for three more years with a cap hit just over $3-million per season.
There is a lot of uncertainty with the Habs right now, particularly at the centre position. Let’s just forget the status of Max Pacioretty, the injury to Shea Weber, and the long-term outlook for Carey Price. Just look at the centres:
- They drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall, likely a reach but done to fill an ‘organizational need.’ He may not even play in the NHL this year.
- They have Ryan Poehling knocking on the door of the NHL but may be a year away from being a regular.
- Jonathan Drouin is supposed to be their top-line centre but could end up their second-line left winger.
- The team re-signed Tomas Plekanec, who had a pretty good year for the Habs lining up with Brendan Gallagher.
Long story short: the centre position, as it stands in the middle of July for fantasy purposes, is a mess.
Danault has shown chemistry with Pacioretty in recent seasons but the captain doesn’t seem likely to start the year in a Habs uniform, pending a trade. If Plekanec is reunited with Gallagher, that doesn’t leave much for wingers to line up with Danault.
Even with top-six minutes, Danault doesn’t contribute in peripheral categories outside of face-off wins. Unless it’s a deep points league or a league with face-offs, he can be left on the waiver wire. It’s a fine real-life signing, but the fantasy hockey impact is marginal.
Columbus agreed to terms with Oliver Bjorkstrand on a three-year deal with a $2.5-million AAV. The 23-year old had 11 goals and 40 points in 2017-18.
Though technically his third season in the NHL, 2017-18 was Bjorkstrand’s first full season. Like most forwards on the roster, his role fluctuated greatly, though he didn’t find himself on the top line with any sort of regularity. He often skated with Nick Foligno, Sonny Milano, Alex Wennberg, or Boone Jenner.
If that’s to be Bjorkstrand’s role this year, improving significantly on 40 points doesn’t seem likely. Bouncing around the middle-six with secondary PP minutes doesn’t bode well for a huge boost in production.
That it doesn’t bode well for a bump in points doesn’t mean one isn’t coming. Bjorkstrand is turning into a top-end playmaker to go along with solid shot rates. Had he not shot 6.7 percent last year, if he shoots just 10 percent, he has 16 goals and a 45-point season and maybe he’s viewed with some consensus as a rising star.
Bjorkstrand’s problem is a good one for Columbus in that they have solid depth on the right side. Josh Anderson had a breakout season despite the injuries, and following a slow start, Cam Atkinson reminded us he’s a very good, and very consistent, goal scorer. Bjorkstrand has the look of a top-6 winger but due to their depth, he might not see many more minutes per game than he did last year.
Ryan Pulock extended his stay with the Islanders for another two years with an average annual value of $2-million.
I have written a fair bit on Pulock over the last few months. Rather than just regurgitating everything again, you can check out his offensive contributions in comparison to Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a brief review of his 2017-18 season. There’s more so you can just search his name on the site.
Pulock looks to be stuck behind Nick Leddy for top power-play minutes for the foreseeable future. That will limit his upside. He can still post very solid peripherals, at least in shots and real-time stats, while providing 35 points. It’ll be difficult to improve much beyond that without those prime offensive minutes.
Nashville locked up their goaltender of the future by signing Juuse Saros for three years with an AAV of $1.5-million. Pekka Rinne’s contract runs out at the end of this year, which presumably gives Saros two years as the unquestioned starter for his age-24 and age-25 seasons.
Through 48 career NHL games, Saros has a .923 overall save percentage with a .921 save percentage in 62 career AHL games.
This accomplishes things for both sides. It gives the Predators a cheap goaltending option after Rinne’s deal expires. It also gives Saros two years to prove himself as a starter, and if he does, he’ll be just 25 years old and due for a big contract extension.
There are always questions with goaltenders but Saros has had about as good a start to a career as possible without being inserted as a starter. His goals saved above average per 30 minutes at five-on-five over the last two years is the same as John Gibson, though obviously the sample to work with is much smaller. He’s performed similarly to Rinne, though, and provided they can extend Ryan Ellis, the same defence will be around when Saros takes over in 2019-20.
If Saros performs moving forward as he has in his first couple years, this has the potential to be one of the best goaltending contracts in the league. If not, it’s cheap enough where they can go out and get some help. I’m a Saros fan, and you should be as well.
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- Dobber's Offseason Fantasy Grades 2018: Edmonton Oilers
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- Ramblings: League Scoring and Settings, Is The Price Wrong? (Aug 19)