Ramblings: Werenski signs; Bergeron’s health; Zacha’s future; Necas; Comtois – September 10

by Michael Clifford on September 10, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Werenski signs; Bergeron’s health; Zacha’s future; Necas; Comtois – September 10

 

The RFA dominos may be starting to fall as Zach Werenski signed a three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets carrying an average annual value of $5M. That helps to set the market for the big remaining RFA defencemen like Charlie McAvoy and Ivan Provorov.

Just in general, I don’t get this from Werenski’s end. He’ll still be an RFA when this new deal is up, at which point he’ll likely sign a long-term deal carrying him to his early 30s, and that’ll be the only big contract of his career. I know money isn’t everything to all pro athletes and other considerations are important, but if this were a five- or six-year deal, he’d be in his late 20s and an unrestricted free agent, and likely could get another five- or six-year deal. It seems like he’s potentially leaving tens of millions on the table.   

Anyway, this is still good value for cap leagues. He’s currently being drafted outside the top-30 defencemen on Yahoo! and that’s good value as well.

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Training camps begin in earnest this week and that means the Ramblings will look a bit different moving forward. The last two months has been largely devoid of real news but now the real news will start flowing, whether it’s rookies impressing, veterans injured, or whatever else pops up.

One bit of really important fantasy news we got on Monday pertains to the health of Patrice Bergeron:

 

 

That doesn’t sound good to me. I’m clearly not a doctor, obviously, but a soft tissue injury like this – which still hasn’t healed in three months – worries me a lot. We’ll see how things progress, but it seems hard to draft him inside the first few rounds right now.

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Somewhat large news for the Devils:

 

 

If we look down that Twitter thread, Mr. Eronko elaborates that KHL contracts do not include out clauses to return to the NHL, as in the case with Jesse Puljujarvi. It does indeed appear as though Zacha is heading for the KHL this year.

Zacha was a guy I was very high on when he was drafted – as were the Devils, evidenced by his sixth overall selection in 2015 – but he hasn’t exactly panned out. With the Devils loading up over the summer by adding Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, and Wayne Simmonds, it’s clear Zacha was destined for the bottom-6. He was also a pending RFA, so maybe the contract situation was nowhere close to being resolved. Regardless, the Devils are going to be short one forward they expected, but it also helps clear up the roster a bit for fantasy purposes. 

For the record: Devils GM Ray Shero says he’s still trying to sign Zacha.

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Last week, both Cam and I wrote about Jakub Vrana and how no matter how good he is, as long as his opportunity doesn’t improve – as long as he doesn’t get PP1 minutes – he won’t come close to fulfilling his fantasy potential. It’s just a simple fact: no matter how good a player is, they need the offensive opportunities to really succeed in the fantasy game. Vrana is an example of that, with Nikolaj Ehlers being another.

I thought it’d be worth looking at some players whose fantasy value this year relies on earning/being given the opportunity to succeed offensively. Now, that’s kind of vague, and in a way every player needs to earn/be given the opportunity to succeed offensively, but this will focus on players that will be drafted late. It’ll be players likely starting in the bottom-6, or maybe even the AHL, but who could work their way up because there is a path to get the minutes they need.

If I miss anyone you think is worth mentioning, please yell at me in the comments. I won’t be mentioning the obvious guys like Kakko or the Brothers Hughes.

 

Martin Necas

Outside of the RFAs, the future of Justin Williams was one of the big storylines of the offseason. We got some clarity last week as Williams announced that he won’t be joining the team to start the year, leaving the door open to possibly return later.

This was very important for Necas because as I pointed out when they signed Ryan Dzingel, without Williams, everyone in Carolina’s forward mix is left-handed. The only RH shots are minor leaguers. Assuming someone like Teuvo Teravainen or Nino Niederreiter plays the right side on the top line with the other on the left on the second line, that leaves a top-6 spot on the right side, and Necas is their only right shot.

Like another guy we’ll discuss later, it feels like Necas has been around a lot longer than he has, but he’s just 20 years old. He had a very successful AHL season in 2018-19 and if he hits the ground running at training camp, we could see him line up in the top-6 in a month’s time. He’s being virtually undrafted on Yahoo!, I did a 12-team draft on Fantrax last week where he went undrafted, and he wasn’t ranked inside ESPN’s top-250 at the end of July. He’ll easily be available outside the top-200 players and is a very real threat for 50 points.

One caveat: I don’t expect much for peripherals so he’s a much better option in points-only leagues.

 

Victor Olofsson

I usually don’t get excited by guys that take so long to develop but seeing as Olofsson was a seventh-round pick, I’ll cut him a bit of slack. It’s also hard not to get excited about a guy whose first season in the AHL saw him crack 30 goals, put up 63 points, and land nearly three shots per game. The guy is a shooter, and most teams need shooters, Buffalo being no exception.

The immediate issue is that Olofsson is a left shot and with Jeff Skinner around, it seems very unlikely that he ever gets to the top line with Jack Eichel. But outside of the top line, there is room for anyone to impress and wrangle a role on the second line, including guys like Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson.

This is a situation where I probably wouldn’t draft Olofsson outside of deep formats. That he’ll be coming into camp with very limited NHL experience and there are guys ahead of him with more experience is a hurdle to pass. However, I do think he’s capable of working his way up the lineup so he’s a guy to flag for waivers once the season gets going. If he can come close to putting up numbers like he did in the AHL, he’ll force the hand of the coaching staff.

 

Max Comtois

What really stands out about Comtois’s brief 10-game NHL stint is that he had 27 hits. I repeat: 27 hits in 10 games. He’s a player known for his sandpaper, but that works out to over 200 hits in a full season. That was be a colossal total. I’m not saying he’ll break 200 hits in a full season – that’s hard for any player, but I will say that I have him projected at 195 – but it does show his propensity for laying the body, and that’s a good base to build off.

Like Olofsson, the problem Comtois is going to run into is that Rickard Rakell is tied at the hip with Ryan Getzlaf on the top line. Unlike Olofsson, though, there aren’t a few veterans to beat out for a spot on the second line. With a good training camp, we could easily see Comtois as the LW2 at the start of October.

Not that playing on the second line for the Ducks bodes well for a lot of production; we’re talking playing with decent veterans or unproven rookies at best. But it does bode well for ice time, and we saw the hit volume he can put up playing 14-15 minutes a night last year. What does he do if he’s playing 16-17 minutes? He’s a guy I won’t be targeting in leagues that don’t count hits, but in leagues that do count hits, he might be worth a roster spot, even in shallower leagues. Think of Brandon Tanev: he didn’t even get to 30 points last year but was a top-125 player in standard Yahoo! leagues because he had a pile of hits. I don’t think Comtois puts up 278 hits like Tanev did, but I think Comtois can also put up more points than Tanev so there is upside here. That goes double for fantasy owners in cap leagues where his cap hit is $820K.

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There are other guys I’ve discussed at length this summer, so I won’t review everything. I will link where I’ve talked about them, though, and they also fit the pattern of players we’re describing.

 

Jesperi KotkaniemiAnthony Cirelli – Eeli Tolvanen

Let’s go through these one at a time. You can read the prior Ramblings discussing them here.

  • I mean this in all honesty: there’s a very real possibility that Kotkaniemi is the 1C for the Habs before the season is out. I’m very ready for the team not to rock the boat too much early on but it won’t take long for Kotkaniemi to show his worth above Phillip Danault (who is good and underrated in his own right). It could take a few months to get there, so being vigilant on the waiver wire is the key here.
  • What I said for Kotkaniemi as the 1C, ditto goes for Cirelli as the 2C in Tampa Bay. Of course, they could always keep running Steven Stamkos as the top centre (along with Brayden Point in a 1A/1B situation), but don’t discount the possibility of Stammer moving to the wing and Cirelli moving up.
  • Having Mikael Granlund on the roster muddles things for Tolvanen for 2019-20, so it does seem eminently possible he spends the year on the third line/second PP unit. But I’m a believer in the talent and if Tolvanen performs to his ability, it’ll be hard for the coaching staff to limit him to 13-14 minutes a night, especially with the pressure the franchise is facing to win.