Kyle Okposo returned to the lineup for the Sabres on Monday night following his recovery from a concussion suffered in a fight. This is significant because Okposo’s concussion history is very well documented and there were fears this would be a long-term issue. You can’t help but be fearful for a player with his kind of history returning to action so soon but if he feels good and the doctors clear him, there’s not much that can be done. Let’s just hope that he decides to keep his gloves on his hands from now on.
Corey Crawford has been activated off the injured reserve by the Blackhawks having recovered from his concussion. His injury history, like Kyle Okposo’s, is grossly concerning. Let’s just hope he can finish his career without further issue. Fingers crossed.
After the injuries suffered over the weekend, both Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are not expected to suit up in Pittsburgh’s game tonight against Columbus. There’s some thought that Letang’s injury is minor but details right now are sketchy. All the same, if it’s only a game or two, Letang fantasy owners can breathe a big sigh of relief. When we get further updates on either player (which may not happen given the time of year), we’ll pass them on.
Perhaps lost in the trade deadline shuffle on Monday afternoon was this news about Andreas Athanasiou:
Andreas Athanasiou is going to center for the rest of the year— Max Bultman (@m_bultman) February 25, 2019
The immediate plan seems to be lining Athanasiou with Filip Zadina to see if they can develop some chemistry for next season. That gives AA some additional fantasy value in face-off leagues but I’m really more interested to see how he and Zadina mesh together. It gives people a reason to watch the Wings over the final six weeks.
My last Ramblings was Thursday prior which means I’ve missed out writing on much of the goings-on in the NHL over the last several days. I was able to weigh in on the Matt Duchene trade but that’s about it. I want to go through the deals again just to offer my opinion.
To review some things I’ve written on Nyquist in the last year, you can read about his lack of secondary assists here and need for power-play minutes here. His secondary assist rate has indeed rebounded from a poor 2017-18 rate to the second-highest of his six full-ish seasons. Though he hasn’t earned more PP ice time, Dylan Larkin’s shooting percentage at five-on-four rebounded from a disastrous 2017-18 mark and that has helped Nyquist add some more PP assists. Those are a couple reasons he’s having the season he’s having.
As far as the move to San Jose goes, this is likely a downgrade for him. I disagree with Dobber on one thing and that’s where he slots on the team. There are only two right-handed shots currently in the team’s top two lines, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi. It’s possible they go with three lefties on the second line, pushing Donskoi to the third line, but I think it makes more sense for Nyquist to replace Marcus Sorensen on Thornton’s line. We’ll see how that shakes out.
Nyquist’s fantasy fortunes hinge on his placement. Currently, five of the six forwards in San Jose’s top-6 is averaging at least 17 minutes a game and four are over 18 minutes. Meanwhile, the bottom-6, naturally, is about 15 minutes or fewer. Nyquist has moved to a better team but it’s not necessarily a better situation fantasy-wise.
The hubbub was largely around whether Montour’s poor 2018-19 season is a reflection of him, his team, his coach, or some combination of the three. To be sure, Anaheim’s injuries have negatively affected almost everyone on that roster. All the same, Randy Carlyle was the coach for Montour’s entire NHL career to date. Laying this year at Carlyle’s feet while disregarding the previous two seasons is disingenuous at best.
Though he’ll have time to develop his defensive game, at this point, he’s a much better offensive defenceman than a defensive one. His blue line defence has been subpar for his career and he doesn’t do a good job limiting shots from the dangerous areas (from Hockey Viz):
There’s a very real possibility that Montour performs similarly to new teammate Rasmus Ristolainen: passable offensively but poor defensively, and the offence doesn’t make up for the lack of defence. It’s a question, then, of whether Montour can flourish under a new coach on a new team.
The gamble is sending prospect defenceman Brendan Guhle and the first-rounder for Montour. I’ve always liked Guhle’s ability at both ends and was seemingly coming into his own in the AHL the last year or so. He’ll get an immediate shot in the NHL with Anaheim, though that’s obviously a very poor situation.
Fantasy-wise, this isn’t great for Montour. He goes to a team where he’ll definitely be behind Rasmus Dahlin on the power-play chart, and most likely also behind Ristolainen. Without power play minutes, there’s unlikely to be much offensive production playing for a mid-pack offensive team. The upside for Montour in these conditions is something like Mattias Ekholm has been for most of his career: 8-10 goals and 30-35 points. I know Ekholm has exceeded that this year but it seems more a career year-type thing than a new norm.
I’m going to dive a lot deeper on the Fiala/Granlund trade in my next Ramblings. As far as the players are concerned, I don’t think it’s quite fair to just look at surface stats and spend a couple hundred words on it. I really want to dig in so I’ll do that on Thursday. For now, I’ll say this is a lot more even than people will care to admit.
You can read Dobber’s angle on this swap here.
Though Hayes is on pace for some career bests, a lot of that is related to ice time. In fact, he’s not even sporting the highest points/60 minutes at five-on-five of his career (2.24), that actually came in his rookie year (2.33). This year isn’t really an aberration of production, either: from 2015-18, he was tied for 81st among 264 forwards with at least 2000 minutes in primary points/60 minutes. He was in the same range as names like Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Joe Pavelski, and Anze Kopitar. Now, he did that largely in a middle-six role and not playing huge minutes like this year, but that’ll be much the same case in Winnipeg. Only now, he’ll get to play with the likes of Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Hayes isn’t really a goal scorer. It’s not to say he can’t score, but he’s never averaged 2.5 shots per game, has cracked 20 goals once, and he may not get there this year. Winnipeg doesn’t need him to score, though. They have a plethora of goal scorers. They need players who can generate conditions conducive to scoring, and players to find their goal scorers. Hayes can do exactly that (from CJ Turtoro’s viz):
So, yeah, he’s not nearly as good as Anze Kopitar at exiting his zone or gaining the opposing blue line, but you can see a similar profile, if watered down.
Hayes is also a player who has developed his defensive ability as his career has matures as well. The viz below from Hockey Viz isolates an individual player’s impact offensively and defensively at five-on-five. Over the last two years, he’s helped generate a lot of dangerous chances for the Rangers while limiting them at the other end:
It does seem Hayes has really hit his stride over the last year or two. He was always solid offensively, but he’s really upped his defensive game of late. He is a good two-way centre who can be the playmaker that someone like Laine needs while covering responsibly, while not needing to play 18-19 minutes a night.
Though his scoring environment has improved, expectations for Hayes need to be kept in check. He’ll likely see 2-3 fewer minutes in ice time per night and that kind of loss is tough to make up, especially considering Hayes is already enjoying his highest on-ice team goal rate of his career. Fantasy owners should be happy with 12-14 points over the balance of the season.
Once the Blue Jackets acquired Matt Duchene, it was obvious they were pushing all in this year and Artemi Panarin was off the table. That meant Mark Stone was the clear-cut big fish, and he landed in Vegas in exchange for Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg, and a 2nd round pick. You can read Ian’s take here.
There’s not much to discuss here. We know how good Stone is; you’d only need Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand to count the number of right wingers in the NHL better than him. It’s a matter of where he slots, and as good as Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch are, Stone is now easily their best right winger.
Some people may see the return as light, but we don’t know what was going on behind the scenes. Calgary said they wouldn’t trade their top prospects or a first-round pick, Winnipeg traded a first-rounder for Kevin Hayes so trading more seemed unlikely, and the number of teams that A) are pushing for a Cup, and B) has a truly top-shelf prospect is limited. Maybe Nashville wasn’t willing to part with Eeli Tolvanen? If that were the case, we could cross San Jose, Calgary, Nashville, Winnipeg, and Tampa Bay (because they were standing pat) off the list. How many Cup contenders are left with the pieces necessary to acquire Stone? The Islanders could if they were willing to part with their first rounders from last year, which they may or may not have been. Possibly the Bruins? The list is short. So, while some people may view the return as light, the number of teams were a trade would be possible would similarly be light. Getting someone like Brannstrom, who has every look as a future top-pair guy, is a pretty good result.
I’ve long been a fan of Marcus Johansson but it’s more of a real-world thing than a fantasy thing. I imagine he’ll be lining up on the third line, which is fine, but he probably won’t be on the top PP unit. Third-line minutes as a two-way player with limited PP time doesn’t scream fantasy value to me. I think this is a decent deal for the Bruins to shore up an area of weakness for this year and for the next couple years, but it doesn’t move the needle fantasy-wise.
You can read Dobber’s take on the deal here.
Wayne Simmonds going to Nashville is a bit confusing to me. At this point, he’s a power-play specialist and I assumed that Brian Boyle was acquired for exactly that reason. I guess they have one for each PP unit now?
More interesting to me is Ryan Hartman going the other way. Hartman was a guy I was really excited about when he was traded from Chicago, thinking he could settle in the middle-six and provide some scoring both at even strength and on the PP.
Needless to say, it’s been a disaster.
I’m still a believer in Hartman. His shot rates are still good and considering he was playing third/fourth line minutes with no PP production, 10 goals and 20 points this year isn’t bad. He likely plays on the third line and second PP unit for the Flyers which means his fantasy value will be flimsy. This probably ends up being a better real-world deal than a fantasy deal, though.
You can read Cam’s take on the trade here.
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