- Written by Eric Daoust
Looking at depth players that have signed unusually large contracts…
Building a successful team in a salary cap league usually involves a combination of highly-paid elite-level stars along with some cheap depth producers that make it possible to afford the elite while still offering a reasonable amount of production. The stars, while offering outstanding production, are also more likely to continue the trend in the coming years. On the other hand, the depth guys may one day get big raises of their own and in other cases their time eventually passes and the team can then find the next inexpensive solution.
In multi-category leagues, owners have the benefit of having access to some true bottom-six NHL talent that still offer excellent production. Their role indicates that they will generally be paid a lower dollar figure which will not change much unless the player in question rises up the depth chart.
This summer we have seen some examples of this trend perhaps changing. In some instances established depth players have been signing some unusually-large contracts that severely hurt their fantasy value. Here are a few cases:
- Lars Eller ($3,500,000)
- Deryk Engelland ($2,916,667)
- Leo Komarov ($2,950,000)
- Nick Spaling ($2,200,000)
- Brandon Sutter ($3,300,000)
The impact of these contracts is pretty substantial. For example, Engelland has been an excellent PIM/Hit/Blk combo player over the last couple years while Eller offers surprising all-around production despite his disappointing offensive numbers.
Some of these guys are more fantasy-relevant than others but the overall theme is the larger dollar figures. Even with the salary cap going up every year these are substantial raises. Even if their real-life value justifies the contract, in fantasy land it could make the player not worth owning.
Of course, there were many depth players that signed some very reasonable deals this summer and remain at a bargain level for the foreseeable future. Here are some examples:
- Matt Bartkowski ($1,250,000)
- Casey Cizikas ($1,000,000)
- Joe Colborne ($1,275,000)
- Jimmy Hayes ($925,000)
- Matthew Lombardi ($800,000)
Here we have an interesting group of players. Bartkowski instantly became an effective all-around fantasy contributor in part because of the strong team around him while Colborne and Hayes are newcomers that have finally shown signs of life. Rounding out the group are Cizikas and Lombardi, a pair of centers with good defensive abilities.
The key with these five names is that they have all shown promise over the past year. A case could be made that each of them could have earned more money this summer. But they did not and their smaller cap hits make them more valuable in leagues with scoring setups that suit them.
What does this mean?
While there have been some instances of bottom-six talent earning big contracts recently, there are still tons of players that sign the very affordable contracts that cap league owners are looking for. It may simply be a case of bottom-six talent being more prone to unusual raises in the future than they have been in the past.
In the end, during the free agency period players are simply looking to earn as much money as they can. With many of the league’s top stars already signed to long-term contracts, the lower tiers are left to fight for the remaining dollars. Under the right conditions a player can earn a lot of cash.
In fantasy hockey, this could mean that your cap bargain players will become more risky in the coming years. It could lead to you having to scramble more during the summer months to find replacements. If you do your homework ahead of time you may be able to get yourself out of trouble before it arrives.
Finding cap bargain alternatives
The easiest way to replace a departing player on your squad is to have the solution in-house already. In many keeper formats teams have prospect lists and farm teams that can be used to hold on to prospects and young NHL players. Generally there are age or career GP restrictions that determine a player’s eligibility for the farm and/or prospect rosters. Use these rules to your advantage.
Unless the prospect is so good that he cannot be kept down, keep him on the farm team for as long as possible. Find a more immediate veteran on the waiver wire or try to acquire one for scraps in a trade. This will improve your team’s depth by allowing you to hold on to more NHL-ready players which gives you options when your hand is forced and you have to make a move.
Most importantly, stay involved in your quest to discover new talent. If your league has been around for a few years, then most likely Radko Gudas and Antoine Roussel were on your league’s waiver wire at one point. If you can be the one that lands such a gem it can go a long way towards turning a good squad into a contender. Even if you hit a single instead of a home run, it can at least get you out of a mess if one of your depth players becomes overpaid and loses his cap-league appeal.
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