This week's Capped covers some names who are underperforming compared to their cap hit, determining who is in a slump and who may be overvalued.
Some managers are getting pretty desperate to save their fantasy seasons at this point, and there are varying degrees of panic. If you are one of those managers, then your players need a bit of a shakeup; that is unless you are one of those teams that has seen as many man games lost to injury as the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are leading the NHL at the moment in terms of both man games lost to injury, and the quality impact of the players lost for those games. Even Anaheim had to go out and make a trade for a couple replacement centres. Without that kind of built in excuse, then there is some work to do. For example, drafting Brent Burns, Cam Talbot and Joe Pavelski in the first three rounds this year really would have set you back. Conveniently enough, Tom Collins covered some bounce-back candidates on Monday as well, that can be found in his column here. I’ll try to cover a few different names, focusing on what the contract means as an extra layer of intrigue on top of the potential for a rebound.
Nicklas Backstrom (C) - Washington Capitals
Cap Hit - $6,700,000 with three years remaining
Nicklas Backstrom started the season away from running mate Alex Ovechkin, but they have been reunited and look to return to the production of years past. Backstrom was drafted in the early rounds this year, and rostered with his $6.7 million salary, because of his excellent consistency from year to year, averaging an 80-point pace over the last five years. For most, a 20-point showing in 27 games (through Tuesday night) wouldn’t be disappointing, but with Backstrom’s production lacking in many peripheral categories, owners can’t afford anything less than typical Backstrom.
The thing is, none of the Washington Centre’s underlying stats show that he is due for some improvement. In fact, his PDO is high, higher than it has been in any season in his career, and it is due to fall back down. Line-mate Alex Ovechkin’s numbers show that he is also due for a slight regression, so there isn’t much to be gained there either. A jump back to 80 points on the season is unlikely, and maybe the best we can expect is a continued 60-point pace the rest of the way.
Mitch Marner (RW) - Toronto Maple Leafs
Cap Hit - $925,000 with two years remaining
Marner has a long and extremely productive career ahead of him. However, he is currently working his way through a very well documented sophomore slump. Head coach Mike Babcock has been shifting him around different lines, and is giving him every opportunity to work through the struggles. It may not be this season that he finally breaks through, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be buying. On a rookie deal at the moment, Marner will out-produce it no matter what he has going on, but he has the potential to do so much more. Perhaps the last chance to get Marner below market value. He is a 70-point player that hasn’t actually hit the benchmark yet, and without a doubt he will hit it. For those in keeper leagues, don’t fret the long-term contract coming in a year and a half. He should even manage to out-produce that deal before getting his big pay-day a few years down the line.
Jeff Skinner (LW) - Carolina Hurricanes
Cap Hit - $5,725,000 with two years remaining
Quite a few questions on the forums over the last few days have been focusing on Jeff Skinner, wondering if he is worth writing off for the season and dumping to the free-agency pile. Skinner actually hasn’t been disappointing. He is on pace for just under 60 points, has already hit double digits in goals, and is averaging almost four shots per game. That is exactly what Skinner brings to the table. He is a shooter and a scorer, possibly the best one on the Hurricanes. His underlying stats show some room for positive regression, while his deployment is exactly what top scorers are set up with to succeed.
Comparing Skinner’s contract, his $5,725,000 cap hit is right at the median of 30-goal scorers from last season, and it looks even better with him on pace for 30 goals once again this season. Enjoy the last two years of his production at a solid price, understanding that this is exactly what you get with Skinner – find your assists elsewhere.
Rasmus Ristolainen (D) - Buffalo Sabres
Cap Hit - $5,400,000 with five years remaining
Between an upper-body injury costing him nine games, and a struggling team around him when he has been on the ice, the start of the season is one to forget for the big Buffalo defenceman. Ristolainen will be given every opportunity to turn that around, logging a hefty 25:23 minutes per game, with 3:31 on the power play. His shooting percentage is infinitely below his career average (sitting at zero right now – compared to 4.5%), while his PDO and 5on5 shooting percentage are also very low. There is nowhere to go but up, especially once the abysmal powerplay gets going. Ristolainen likely won’t match his 45 points from last season, but the numbers should pick up, and in multi-category leagues, his peripheral numbers are still good enough to warrant the $5.4 million cost.
Dougie Hamilton (D) - Calgary Flames
Cap Hit - $5,750,000 with four years remaining
Dougie Hamilton is a notoriously slow starter. Let’s take a look at his stats month by month:
That’s a pretty incredible jump towards the latter half of the season, especially looking at the points-per-game (P/GP) paces on a month by month basis. Right around the first of December is where he starts to turn things around. Hopefully this article isn’t coming out too late for you to get in on his stock before it shoots up once again. Even at this point in the year, he is on pace for 261 shots, which would mean cruising past his career high of 222 set just last season. The 24-year-old rearguard is also averaging a hit per game, and is on pace for 65+ blocks. He should be a buy in all formats, and will likely continue to provide exceptional value for the last four years of his current contract.
That caps off another Thursday. Thanks for reading! As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean where I post some of my other smaller musings that don’t make it into the articles.
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