Ramblings: Wrapping Up Bubble Keeper Week

by Ian Gooding on July 29, 2018

Before putting a wrap on Bubble Keeper Week, let’s start with some news items:

The Rangers have signed Brady Skjei to a six-year contract worth $5.25 million per season. Skjei receives a significant raise from the $925,000 that he was receiving on his entry-level contract the past three seasons, so this represents a major jump for his salary cap keeper owners.

After a 39-point season in 2016-17, Skjei dipped to just 25 points and a minus-27 in 2017-18. With that output, salary cap keeper owners would be justified in not keeping him. In fact, Skjei meets our criteria for being a bubble keeper. There is 40-plus point upside for Skjei, so an argument could be made about keeping him. Skjei’s power-play minutes also increased after the first quarter of the season. But remember that Kevin Shattenkirk will be back from injury, so Skjei will probably be back on the second unit. Coincidentally, Shattenkirk was Skjei’s most common defensive partner last season.  

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Quinn Hughes (Dobber Prospects profile here) won’t suit up for the Canucks in 2018-19, deciding to return to the University of Michigan instead. Although a tiny part of me would love to see him in a Canucks’ uniform this coming season, this is logically and completely the right move for both Hughes and the Canucks in the long run.

Bringing a teenager into the NHL can be risky. That risk is elevated when the player happens to be a defenseman, and the team happens to be a rebuilding one like the Canucks. Hughes was no guarantee to make the Canucks out of training camp, as the team already has eight defensemen under contract. Hughes will be in a much better position to make the squad in 2019-20, as both Alex Edler and Michael Del Zotto will be UFAs, and Chris Tanev could be traded by then. Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot will also be RFAs, and the Canucks could easily decide to move on from either if they do not take a step forward this coming season.

I just hope that the reportedly messy breakup between Trevor Linden and Canucks’ ownership hasn’t in any way affected Hughes’ desire to play for the Canucks. It’s becoming clear that the less that ownership is involved, the better that this rebuild will turn out for the Canucks. Running a successful hockey team does not follow the same prototype as running successful real estate investments. I understand that it’s the owner’s money and that an effective business owner doesn’t sit on his hands waiting for things to happen, but in hockey it’s best to let the hockey people that you hire make your hockey decisions.

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To wrap up Bubble Keeper Week (in bubble wrap?) I asked those of you on Twitter for some names of players that were not covered during the past week by either myself or other Dobber writers.

If I didn’t get to your response on Twitter, keep in mind that your player may not be a bubble keeper by definition. During Bubble Keeper Week, our focus was on players outside of the top 150 – players who aren’t obvious names as keepers but fantasy owners still may need to decide on. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be rambling (or is it Rambling) quite a bit next week, so I’ll try to get those players in since it won’t be Bubble Keeper Week any longer.  

Tom Wilson

I’ll start with this: All the money that the Capitals didn’t have to spend on Jay Beagle was freed up to pay Wilson. And Wilson definitely got paid. In case you missed it, Wilson was given a six-year contract with a cap hit of $5.17 million per season. But if you have heard about it, chances are that you have an opinion on it!

Players’ of Wilson’s skill set are becoming more rare, and those skills served the Capitals well in their Stanley Cup win. So a rare commodity deserves a premium, right? Not so fast. The argument on the other side that suggests that when Wilson is not on Alex Ovechkin’s line, he has the value of a third or fourth liner. Plus there is the matter of the penalties and untimely suspensions, which are collateral damage to a team employing someone who plays on the edge.  

Wilson was a better player offensively when he was on Ovechkin’s line – that much we could see last season. Wilson scored 35 points in 2017-18 while playing on Ovechkin’s line for about 63 percent of his even-strength minutes, while he scored just 19 points in 2016-17 while only on Ovechkin’s line about 8 percent of the time. Shifting to Ovechkin’s line also resulted in a three minute per game increase in icetime (practically all of it even strength).

Fantasy-wise, we need to separate Wilson’s value in points leagues from his value in multicategory leagues. To give you an idea, Wilson is ranked 236 in Dobber’s Top 300, where he is surrounded by the likes of Mattias Janmark and Joonas Donskoi. All could be 40-point players given the right circumstances. On the other hand, here’s Wilson’s value last season in a multicategory league that counts penalty minutes:
 

 

Yahoo Rank

G

A

+/-

PIM

PPP

SOG

Nikolaj Ehlers

70

29

31

14

26

13

231

Tom Wilson

71

14

21

10

187

1

123

Mikael Granlund

72

21

46

13

18

19

193


Ehlers and Granlund were 60-point players, so those penalty minutes provide Wilson with a huge boost. The scoring increase also helped, as penalty minutes alone will not vault a player this high.

And one that counts hits:
 

 

Yahoo Rank

G

A

+/-

PPP

SOG

HIT

BLK

Jordan Staal

130

19

27

-4

12

160

181

32

Tom Wilson

131

14

21

10

1

123

250

51

Jaden Schwartz

132

24

35

15

11

157

52

30

 

So there’s a huge swing in value for Wilson that is dependent on two factors: 1) Whether Wilson is on the Ovechkin line, and 2) Whether your league counts penalty minutes or hits. If Wilson plays significant minutes on the Ovechkin line again, I’d say he has a 50-point ceiling. If he’s primarily used on the third or fourth line, then he probably won’t clear 30 points. If the latter scenario occurs, the second-guessing of his contract will only increase.

I think what we can all agree on is that Wilson’s timing was perfect in receiving the contract that he did. Being as noticeable as he was in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has helped his cause significantly.

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Conor Sheary

Sheary is another player who has a vastly different floor and ceiling fantasy-wise – but for different reasons that Wilson. Dobber said it best in his Fantasy Take on the Sheary trade to Buffalo:

You won’t see Sheary get between 30 and 55 points if he plays 80 games – he’ll either click and top 55, or he’ll sputter and fall short of 30.

So just know that if you invest in Sheary that you’ll either hit a home run or you’ll strike out. No middle ground. But sometimes taking risks on these kinds of players are what you’ll need to win your fantasy league.

Sheary will have the opportunity to line up alongside up-and-coming Jack Eichel this season. But his most frequent center in Pittsburgh was no slouch either – his name is Sidney Crosby. In fact, nearly half of both his even-strength minutes and his even-strength points were on Crosby’s line.

Personally, I think there is significant risk in reaching for Sheary. Sure, there was the “breakout” 53-point season. But he struggled in the playoffs after that, scoring just seven points in 22 games and getting healthy scratched. If you’re curious about 2017-18’s playoffs, Sheary recorded just two assists in 12 games. So he’s really been in a funk for over a season. A new opportunity with a new team could be exactly what the doctor ordered. But since I’m more of a “believe it when I see it” type, I’ll admit that I’m more bearish on Sheary than bullish.

Ryan Spooner

We knew that Rick Nash would probably be a rental player for the Bruins, but do you think maybe the Bruins might want to have Spooner back? After joining the Rangers, Spooner was sizzling with 16 points in just 20 games. Add that up with his numbers in Boston and it resulted in 41 points (13g-28a) in 59 games, an average of 0.69 points per game. That placed him in line with the likes of Alex Pietrangelo, Evander Kane, Corey Perry, David Krejci, Bo Horvat, and Nazem Kadri.

That group above is where you could feel comfortable drafting Spooner in points-only leagues, but remember that in multicategory leagues, Spooner’s point totals are fairly assist-heavy, as he has never scored more than 13 goals in a season. Spooner’s non-scoring peripherals in particular are also very light. He had to receive Lady Byng consideration from someone, as he took just two minor penalties in all of 2017-18 and only took 24 hits in 2016-17. In spite of the scoring breakout with the Rangers, just two of his 16 points were on the man advantage, and his power-play time actually decreased with the Rangers.

One side note: Spooner is an RFA who remains unsigned and is scheduled for an August 4 arbitration hearing. According to Blueshirt Banter, the deal isn’t expected to be long-term, since the Rangers are on a rebuild and could move Spooner. But assuming he sticks with the Rangers for a full season, you could expect him to hold something like a second-line role with around 50 points. And remember that he’s better in pure points leagues than multicategory leagues.

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For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.