Ramblings: Updates on Karlsson, Schultz, Zajac; Lineup Shuffling; Trade Bait – February 5

by Michael Clifford on February 5, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Updates on Karlsson, Schultz, Zajac; Lineup Shuffling; Trade Bait – February 5

 

We had a big shake-up in Buffalo as Jeff Skinner was moved down to the second line to play with Casey Mittelstadt and Jason Pominville. The top line now looks like Sheary-Eichel-Okposo. How long will this last? No telling, but the panic button has been smashed.

Mittelstadt is now also on the top PP unit with Rasmus Ristolainen being booted to the second unit.

They also called up C.J. Smith, a 24-year old collegiate signing with 85 points in 98 AHL games. You can read his Dobber profile here.

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Speaking of shake-ups, John Tortorella has bumped Artemi Panarin down to the second line with Nick Foligno on the top line with Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois. I assume the idea is to spread out the scoring but this could hurt Panarin’s trade value should they decide to go this route.

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Erik Karlsson was back in practice with the Sharks, though his time on the ice was brief. The team starts a four-game road trip on Tuesday in Winnipeg but the fact he’s with the team indicates he should return before the road trip wraps up next Monday night.

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As far as the line changes for both Buffalo and Columbus go, I wouldn’t expect either to last very long. Call it a hunch. Like with Colorado now going back to their old top line after just one game. 

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Still no Evgeni Malkin at practice for the Penguins.

In more optimistic Penguins news, Justin Schultz was in a regular jersey at practice for Pittsburgh on Monday. He’s steadily making his way back, but fantasy owners will need patience as he might need some time to get up to speed. Though he was practicing on the second PP unit so maybe his return will be quicker than I anticipated.

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Travis Zajac did not practice with the Devils after missing the team’s weekend game, and Marcus Johansson left said practice after talking to the trainers. Tough times for New Jersey right now.

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Sven Baertschi was out of the lineup on Monday night with an illness. Tim Schaller took his spot on Bo Horvat’s line. It’s not expected that Baertschi should miss much time.

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Pheonix Copley signed a three-year deal with the Washington Capitals, carrying an average annual value of $1.1-million. He’s going to look good in a Seattle uniform in a couple years.

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It appeared Alex Edler hit his face on the ice during the third period of Monday night’s game after getting tangled up in front of his net with Flyers forward Jakub Voracek. There was a lot of blood on the ice and he stayed down for a while, with the stretcher being summoned. He left on the stretcher but was sitting upright and apparently coherent. Let’s hope there is no long-term injury out of this.

Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier each scored a goal in the 2-1 win with Carter Hart stopping 41 of 42 shots. That makes back-to-back 40-plus save wins for Hart, his seventh consecutive victory. This kid might have a future!

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John Gibson was pulled in Toronto’s 6-1 win over Anaheim. This was the subsequent performance after their thrashing via the Jets. He didn’t seem very happy about the circumstances, either.

Andreas Johnsson had two goals and two assists from the fourth line while William Nylander had one of each. That makes six points in his last five games for young Nylander. Is he starting to finally heat up? Also, put Johnsson on that third line please.

The story was Jake Muzzin, though, with a goal and two assists in just his third game from the Leafs. He also had an awesome sequence where he crunched Corey Perry, drew a penalty, and scored on the subsequent power play. I think Leafs fans are going to like him.

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Jeff Carter left Los Angeles’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury (per the broadcast) and he did not return. We will post an update when there is one.

Adrian Kempe had a three-point night as the Kings beat the Rangers 4-3 in overtime with Tyler Toffoli marking the overtime winner. It’ll be interesting to see if Toffoli lands in a new locale within the next month.

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With the Super Bowl behind us (hopefully the hangover wasn’t too bad on Monday morning), the race to the NHL playoffs is on, especially in the Western Conference where there are five teams within Vancouver’s 54 points for the final playoff spot (as of Monday afternoon). It means we’re also just a few weeks away from the trade deadline, a very important time of the year for fantasy owners. Sometimes your player gets traded to a new team and does almost nothing (think of Rick Nash or Tomas Tatar last year), and sometimes it changes their season’s fortunes (think of J.T. Miller or Evander Kane).

I wanted to look at TSN’s trade bait board and go through a few players that are hopefully going to land more on the Miller/Kane side of things than the Nash/Tatar side.

 

Wayne Simmonds

It seems all but certain that Simmonds is gone, given his age, pending UFA status, and the team’s unlikelihood of reaching playoffs.

The 2017-18 season was a poor one for Simmonds, though he had a plethora of injuries that started from the very beginning of the year right through to the end. The hope was that he’d be healthy and back to his usual production in 2018-19, but that hasn’t been the case as his goals per game this year (0.31) is actually lower than it was last season (0.32). We know that he’s in the decline phase of his career and as a power forward, could age even worse (think of guys like Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, or Milan Lucic). The problem isn’t actually his five-on-five scoring – his 0.8 goals/60 minutes is a three-year high – but rather it’s the power play, where his shooting percentage (14.29 percent) has been cut nearly in half compared to 2016-17 (27.45 percent). This won’t come as a shock to most, but his conversion rate has been cut nearly in half despite his role not changing too much. Here are his shot locations at five-on-four in 2016-17 (from Hockey Viz):

And here are his shot locations at five-on-four this year:

It should be noted that his PP shot rate this year is consistent with his normal output, so his PP goal total (or lack thereof) is largely a function of shooting percentage and not shot volume.

Simmonds has never been known as a play driver, he’s always been known as a specialist; a power forward who can be a monster with the man advantage. I have to think that he can regain something resembling his form in another locale. The question is which playoff (or Cup) contender needs depth on the right wing in the form of a PP specialist? Two teams come to mind in San Jose and Montreal.

The Sharks are loaded on the left side. They have Evander Kane and Timo Meier (who can play both sides but has been on the left lately while lining up with Joe Pavelski), as well as Tomas Hertl when they don’t have him lined up as a centre (which has been often this year). The right side is a little more barren with only Pavelski to speak of. Joonas Donskoi is a fine play driver but I’m still unsure of his scoring upside. Simmonds would give them a guy to play in their middle-six as well as clean up the garbage around the net on the power play given Brent Burns’s shooting proclivity.

As for Montreal, they have the same issue as after Brendan Gallagher, things get a little thin on the right side. Right now, they have Paul Byron (who is injured), Joel Armia (who should be on the fourth line), and Nicolas Deslauriers (???). They also have one of the worst power plays in the NHL. The Habs are a very good five-on-five team and Carey Price is looking more like the old Carey Price over the last couple of months. If Price can maintain this level of play (which is a big IF), the power play is the glaring weak spot, and Simmonds can help. I wasn’t expecting the Habs to be this good this year but they are a top-5 team in the East and Simmonds shouldn’t be too expensive to acquire. In other words, they won’t have to mortgage their future to get some help this year.

 

Gustav Nyquist

It’s been quite the fascinating season for Nyquist. There were absolutely no expectations for him this year in Detroit, coming off three straight seasons producing under 50 points and never more than 21 goals. He’s currently on a 70-point pace, though, and has been dynamic on the top line with Dylan Larkin. With Larkin injured now, though, there isn’t much at centre for Nyquist to play with besides (perhaps) Andreas Athanasiou.

Teams looking for Nyquist wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a goal scorer, they’d be looking for someone to facilitate other goal scorers. A guy who can get out of his zone, and into the offensive zone, with possession of the puck to look for trailers, seam passes, or to start the cycle. Who fits that bill? Two teams from the Central.

It’s no big secret that Nashville needs more secondary scoring. Kevin Fiala hasn’t taken the next step as expected, especially in the goals department, Kyle Turris has been injured, Craig Smith hasn’t scored in a month, and so on. Being able to put Nyquist on the second line with Fiala and Turris (when he’s healthy, which may be very soon) could help them both going as playoffs start to roll around. 

Winnipeg has really struggled since the Nikolaj Ehlers injury and Patrik Laine has been mired in a brutal slump. Adding a rental like Nyquist would allow for one of Ehlers or Kyle Connor to slide to the third line and play with Mathieu Perreault, it would give Laine a legitimate playmaker at five-on-five and provide insurance in case of another injury like the one Ehlers suffered.

 

Brayden Schenn

One name that really stuck out to me is Brayden Schenn. He was acquired before the 2017-18 campaign and had a very good year with 28 goals and 70 points. His 2018-19 season hasn’t been a good one, but the same could be said for most of the Blues. But this team has really turned around its fortunes over the last month or so and Schenn has six points in his last four games.

Seeing as Schenn has another year left, a trade would have to come from a team that expects to contend both this year and next, and may need some insurance in case of free agents. One of these teams is San Jose (Pavelski is a pending UFA). Two others seem obvious: Dallas and Carolina.

It’s no secret that Dallas, like Nashville, needs more depth scoring (though the former is in a much worse position depth-wise than the latter). What Dallas also needs is players to take advantage of whatever remains of Tyler Seguin’s and Jamie Benn’s peak years. Next season will be Benn’s age-30 campaign, so the clock is ticking. I assume, however, that the Blues wouldn’t trade a player of Schenn’s calibre to a division opponent.

We’re left with Carolina. At time of writing, they’re tied for the final playoff spot in the East and the addition of Nino Niederreiter has provided the team with a much-needed boost. The long-awaited shooting regression has begun, and the team is winning while playing excellent hockey. They also have Jordan Staal hopefully recovering from his concussion. Schenn would give the team another scoring boost, and give them some added depth for next year. It also gives them some cover in case Martin Necas isn’t ready for a regular centre role in 2019-20.