With the six-week buy and sell series complete, we covered two players from every team, but in doing so, we missed quite a few happenings in the hockey world. With fantasy draft season upon us, and only two more weeks until the season, let’s get caught up before leagues really start to shift into high gear.
For those wanting to catch up on the buy and sell series, it can be found here.
We are down to two, count ‘em TWO, restricted free agents left. Last year I had trouble covering the masses that were still unsigned.
Now, other than the professional tryouts, there aren’t really any fantasy teams sitting in wonder of what their player will be paid this season. That’s a nice place to be. Having David Pastrnak, Alexander Wennberg or Bryan Little locked in on a six-year deal at a fair price was a good development for all of their owners. If Pastrnak can replicate last year’s numbers with any kind of consistency, then he is obviously the biggest steal of the bunch. Meanwhile Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair and Nikita Zadorov have something to prove on their own short-term deals. Personally I like Bennett the most of the three, and he will outperform his contract by far, especially in year two.
With regards to the unsigned, Josh Anderson has been contacted by Hockey Canada about playing in the Olympics, so it sounds as though he may be serious about sitting out until he gets a number he likes. Andreas Athanasiou however, seems to have pushed the Red Wings too far, especially with his threat to bolt for the KHL. The Wings are sticking with their offer of $1.9 million for two years. Also, with their performance likely to land them closer to the cellar than the playoffs, there is no need for an overpayment at the moment. Both of these seem to still be a long way from a happy ending.
Mikku Koivu also signed a deal on Monday, extending his time with the Minnesota Wild for two more years. The team captain will be earning a nice $5.5 million a season once his current contract expires next summer. That is a very good price tag for a top-line centre that can produce upwards of 50 points, along with 1000 faceoff wins. Unfortunately, Koivu doesn’t stand out in other peripherals, so the value will fluctuate depending on the league setup. As long as his ice time stays consistent, especially on the power play, there shouldn’t be too much of a regression.
Speaking of the above stats, get used to using the frozen pool tool to research players on your own. It is absolutely the best spot to be able to get the full picture of a player’s stats, trends, and percentages.
One of the other headlines in the news from Monday was the comment of Joffrey Lupul about his treatment by the Toronto Maple Leafs. For those that didn’t hear about it, (you’re living under a rock, right?) Lupul called out the Maple Leafs organization for cheating the salary cap system. Lupul failed his physical exam, and was not cleared to play; as a result, his contract can now be put on the LTIR, giving the Maple Leafs some valuable cap relief.
However, Toronto doesn’t even need the cap relief. When Nathan Horton’s contract gets put on LTIR, the Leafs will be under the cap by almost $800,000. So it is a little surprising that if Lupul really were healthy, the Leafs wouldn’t want to at least see what they have in him. At 33, Lupul may be on the downside of his career, but he would likely still have something to offer. When healthy, between 2011-2013, he posted 85 points in 82 games. So why would the Leafs sign Marleau if they had a 60-point winger who is five years younger, $1 million cheaper, and a free-agent at the end of the season?
My thinking is that Lupul may be healthy, but he is not healthy enough to bear the brunt of an NHL season, and the Leafs (and their doctors) know it. Lupul’s outcry is to show him as being day-to-day healthy, and take the “broken” label off of his back. Meanwhile the Leafs just continue with the status quo, and it all becomes a moot point in a year.
Back to the fantasy stuff, and speaking of Patrick Marleau, he is in the running for the most surprising (overpaid) signing of the summer. One of the others is his old teammate Joe Thornton. Marleau’s contract just doesn’t make sense to me, but I have a
conspiracy theory as to why Thornton’s salary is so high on a one-year deal. Looking at San Jose’s roster, it is easy to see that their best window is right now, and closing in two years when core pieces Joe Pavelski & Logan Couture come off the books. So expect Thornton to be around for the next two years with the Sharks, leading to him either winning a cup and retiring there, or moving on to win one with someone else in 2019-2020.
Joe Thornton’s one-year contract could just be part of a bigger picture here. Taking a step back, waaay back to early January… of the year 2013. The half-season lockout just ended, and the NHL implemented a rule where the monetary value paid out for a player contract could not change by more than 35% from one year to the next. This would mean, that if Thornton had actually signed a two-year contract, the lowest that the second year could have been if he was being paid $8 million in the first year, is $5.93 million. Instead, what seems like a possibility is that Thornton has a handshake deal for the second year at a hugely discounted value, maybe around $2 million. With extensions to Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones kicking in next season, it would see San Jose with some similar cap flexibility the next two years. So for those of you with the ability to stash Thornton and wait for next year, he may be a very cheap option at that point.
Speaking of discount options, also coming in at $2 Million, Thomas Vanek is going to be playing on a Vancouver Canucks team that really just doesn’t have many top options for scoring lines. Like last year in Detroit, Vanek could produce more than expected in a sheltered role. In points only leagues he could be worth a later round flier.
Carolina had by far the most cap space at the end of last season with over $16 million (almost double New Jersey at just under $9 million). Wouldn’t it be great to see them actually spend some money to get the team back to the playoffs for the first time in too long? They’re my surprise-team pick on the season, and if some of their players could actually be on the positive side of the plus minus stat, then there is some good value to be found. Namely Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal in muli-category leagues, as well as Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, and Sebastian Aho in points-focused leagues.
With Ryan Ellis likely out until February, the Nashville defence core has seen the rest of the foursome – (new captain) Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm – on three different pairings. If this carries into the season, then it gives the opportunity for some value to be found in their depth defencemen, namely Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, and possibly even Alexei Emelin in the right league (currently paired with his old teammate Subban).
Circling back to my first point where I touched on the professional tryouts, is there a better player without a contract right now than Cody Franson? Currently at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp, it is tough to see a situation where he doesn’t get a contract, though it likely only comes after the season opens and the Blackhawks can put Marian Hossa on the LTIR to free up the cap space. That would probably put Franson on the second pairing, with a slice of powerplay time as well. He scored a goal in his preseason game on Tuesday night, along with adding four shots. Add in some decent hit totals, and there is some great value to be mined here if you’re able to wait on the new contract.
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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