Five players who could replace Andrew MacDonald as cap bargains on your team.
Yesterday many were shocked by the signing of defenseman Andrew MacDonald by the Philadelphia Flyers to a contract extension. The agreement will see him earn $30 million over the next six years which gives him a cap hit of $5 million. Regardless of whether or not the deal pays dividends for the Flyers on the ice, the news marks the end of MacDonald’s appeal in salary cap leagues.
Over the last few years MacDonald has emerged as a decent option in deeper leagues. While providing modest point totals and occasional power play contributions, he also became an elite shot-blocker. What put his value over the top in cap leagues was his cap hit of $550,000 over the last four years offered poolies excellent value at a minimal cost. He was especially valuable to contending teams that were forced to make budget cuts to maintain their star-studded rosters.
MacDonald’s extension shines light on the reality that the majority of fantasy hockey’s cap bargain players will not maintain this status forever. Generally, they are grossly underpaid for what they bring to their real-life teams. When their next contract renewal comes up they will usually be rewarded with a fair contract, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners.
When this happens, you will either have to bite the bullet and accept the contract provided that it is of fair value or jump ship to the next bargain player. Depending on the league, such a player may be available on the waiver wire or you may have to hit the trade market to find your fix.
In the latter case, the good news is that many of your rival owners have difficulty separating real-life value and hype from the pure numbers of fantasy hockey. There is a good chance that the other GM does not appreciate a player’s true value to your league and how important cap bargains are to building contending teams.
With that in mind, below are five current NHL depth defensemen that provide good all-around numbers at a cheap cost for at least one more year. These are just a few examples of alternatives that can help you recover from one of your players getting an unexpectedly-high pay raise.
Jordie Benn (DAL) - $700,000 / 2 years
The older and lesser-known Benn brother enjoyed a very successful first full NHL season. He achieved 20 points along with a plus-16 rating, 118 hits and 122 blocks. This is an excellent contribution given his price tag. The fact that he is rarely talked about besides being Jamie Benn’s brother plays into your hands if you are shopping for his services. While there may not be much upside here for additional production, you should be happy with more of the same from Benn.
Justin Braun (SJ) - $1,250,000 / 1 year
Following a few years of disappointing numbers across the board, Braun appears to have arrived as a competent secondary producer. His stat line is very similar to Benn’s – 17 points, plus-19, 77 hits and 146 blocked shots. The lower hit total is offset by 121 shots on goal.
While Braun’s higher cap hit makes him a bit less appealing than those that cost next to nothing, he may actually be more valuable to grab. His higher pay could make him easier to acquire and the potential departure of Dan Boyle this summer could lead to additional minutes in all situations for Braun. Lots of speculation here but the roll of the dice could be helpful for your squad.
Thomas Hickey (NYI) - $675,000 / 1 year
After waiting for what seems to be a decade, the former fourth-overall draft choice finally made the jump to the NHL after the end of the lockout. In just his second NHL season, Hickey posted numbers that merits putting him on your radar considering how many defensemen emerge at a later age. Not only was his 22-point effort the first sign of him potentially becoming a solid offensive contributor, his 72 hits, 132 blocks and 96 shots are signs that he possesses some all-around upside as well. Additionally, he posted a very respectable plus-5 rating considering he is an Islander.
Ben Lovejoy (ANH) - $1,100,000 / 2 years
Lovejoy has been showing signs for a few years of being a good depth producer in fantasy leagues. Unfortunately, injuries played a role in derailing his opportunity to take the next step in Pittsburgh. His move to Anaheim was exactly what the doctor ordered as he is now playing a more consistent role which has led to excellent statistical contributions across the board. Lovejoy produced about on par with Benn and Braun in points, plus-minus and blocks. Beyond that, he cleared the century mark in shots on goal and eclipsed 200 hits.
The danger in owning Lovejoy comes when his current contract expires. At that time he will be 32 years old and will probably get a significant raise if he continues this level of play. But even if he agrees to another discount deal, he will still be a risky investment at that point.
Michael Stone (PHX) - $1,150,000 / 2 years
After a slow start to the season, Stone came on strong and wrapped up a successful first full campaign in the NHL. He was essentially a poor man’s Lovejoy this year due to lower totals in hits, blocks and plus-minus. At just 23 years of age, he still has plenty of development ahead which gives him added value on top of being a productive cap bargain right now.
The biggest concern with Stone long-term is that the presence of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson makes it impossible to get a shot at the top power play unit barring injury. This may make Stone irrelevant in most points-only leagues despite his potential to be much better offensively. But in multi-category leagues owners can enjoy two more years of solid all-around numbers with an ability to put a few additional points on the board.
This year MacDonald led the league in blocked shots by a wide margin. His 242 beat second-place Chris Butler by 31. But MacDonald was not always this good at stopping pucks as prior to this year he had yet to crack 200 in any season. This shows that there was a progression in MacDonald’s game that led to his league-leading total. Nobody on this list topped Lovejoy’s 150 blocks but with an enhanced role or a change of system one of them could make the jump to the elite in this category.
Previously in Capped: