I hope all of the Canadian readers had a great Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for the Americans, there is still over a month to wait before you will be eating more than your fair share of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. In the meantime, let’s recap a few players who have a lot more to be thankful for this time of year, due to their new contract extensions.
Jack Eichel (C) - Buffalo Sabres
Current Cap Hit – $925,000 with one year remaining
Extension Cap Hit – $10,000,000 with eight years remaining
Barring another massive contract to someone else around the league, Jack Eichel will enter the 2018-2019 season tied for the fifth-highest cap hit in the league. In the meantime, on the last year of his rookie deal, he is a massive bargain for what he produces, and as a result he will find himself on many fantasy championship teams. Unfortunately the same cannot be said in real life, as the Buffalo Sabres will be in tough to make the playoffs, let alone anything further.
Eichel, as a result, may be a little limited in his production until the team around him can catch up. So what can we expect from Eichel as he moves into his new contract? Well first off, we can expect shots. Lots of shots. Last season he was the only player in the league to average over four shots per game. Even accounting for a small step back as he improves his passing game, his overall production will not suffer. After last season, a point per game is now expected, and barring injury, he should find himself in the top 10 scorers in the league.
Is a top-10 scorer worth a top five price tag (goalies included)? That’s the real question at this point. As of next year, Eichel becomes much tougher to roster, likely pressing out a lot of a fantasy team’s depth. His contract sits at 13.3% of the current $75 million cap. This is fairly similar to what Patrick Kane’s contract and production has been like the last few years. Expect some similar value from Eichel in your leagues, except he will be a little pricier to acquire due to the youth. Make sure to temper these expectations though, as Eichel’s production in the peripheral stats is much lower, and his value takes a hit compared to Kane when their respective positional depths are taken into account (Eichel playing at the much deeper centre position).
Nikolaj Ehlers (LW) - Winnipeg Jets
Current Cap Hit – $894,167 with one year remaining
Extension Cap Hit – 6,000,000 with seven years remaining
Nikolaj Ehlers is also a scorer, and being able to watch him play, he has a silky control of the puck while using his speed to beat defenders. Therefore his scoring upside isn’t limited by his skills, but by which line he ends up on. Blake Wheeler, Patrick Laine and Ehlers make up the top three wingers on the Jets. They have been juggled around on the top two lines for the first few games, and Ehlers has so far been pushed off the first powerplay in favour of the bigger Adam Lowry (as a net-front presence). In short though, the two wingers that play with Mark Scheifele should see their scoring upside closer to the ceiling, while the third winger lags behind.
Ehlers has the talent to build off of last season’s 64 points, but without the linemates, he is more likely to take a small step back than a small step forward. In the long run, he certainly has the talent to hit 70 points on more than one occasion, and at only $6 million a season, that is a bargain price. That being said, don’t expect it this season. Owners may even grow a little impatient with Ehlers’ deployment, and sell at less than full price (especially with his entry-level deal expiring at the end of the season). Ehlers should remain a buy all year.
Michael Matheson (D) - Florida Panthers
Current Cap Hit – $925,000 with one year remaining
Extension Cap Hit – $4,875,000 with eight years remaining
Michael Matheson signed a major extension earlier this week, locking himself in as part of the Panthers’ long-term future. Unfortunately for Matheson’s upside, with Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle both locked in until at least the 2022-23 season, we may not see him really produce for a while yet. Ekblad had one of the highest shot rates among defencemen last season, while Yandle has been a staple on the powerplay for various teams throughout the years. As the third offensive option from the blueline, there will be much left to be desired from Matheson’s production over the next few years.
Matheson managed only 10 assists last season to go with his seven goals. The seven goals are repeatable, but his assist rate should increase slightly. However, without powerplay time and a solid number of offensive zone starts, his ability to be brought into the offence will be limited. His shot rates are nothing special, just under two per game. Good enough to be a depth option for your team, but not much more. His hits totals are lower than the average defenceman, however the blocked shot numbers bring some value back. Depending on your league settings there may be some more value to be found here. On the whole though, it will be a handful of years before Matheson fully plays himself into producing enough in fantasy to warrant his price tag.
Mark Borowiecki - Ottawa Senators
Current Cap Hit – $1,100,000 with one year remaining
Extension Cap Hit – $1,200,000 with two years remaining
Over the last three seasons, only one player (Matt Martin) has more hits than Mark Borowiecki, and none have more hits per game than his 4.42*. Borowiecki also has the fifth highest penalty minute total in that same span, along with a respectable amount of blocks. You know exactly what you are getting from him. In leagues where all three of those aforementioned categories are counted, Borowiecki is a must-own, as he can be the difference between winning and losing those categories. His new contract does not change much at all. Status quo here.
*With more than three games played.
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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