Who are some of the cap bargains available on the star-studded Penguins roster?
Over the last several years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most prolific sources of fantasy hockey numbers. Not only do they possess two of the world's elite centermen in Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, they also possess a number of players who have benefited from the presence of these centermen to post their own incredible fantasy numbers.
From a cap league perspective the allocation of payroll is very interesting. As of next year, Crosby and Malkin along with star defenseman Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will have a combined cap hit of more than $30 million. As a result, there are cap bargains throughout the roster, even in the Penguins' top-six up front. James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis benefit from sharing the ice with Crosby, Malkin and Letang and their cheaper contract make them very appealing to own.
Neal is fairly expensive for a player considered a cap bargain but the numbers back up this claim. Ever since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, he has 61 goals and 118 points in 122 games. As a comparison, fellow power winger Corey Perry, who has a cap hit of $8,625,000 until 2021, has 63 goals and 117 points in 144 contests over that same stretch of time. In a cap league the savings of $3.6 million is significant and by turning to Neal no sacrifice is made in terms of statistics.
Neal's numbers extend well beyond just points. Over the last three seasons he also has 113 PIM, 165 hits, 47 PPP, 10 game-winning goals and 469 shots on goal which makes him an excellent player in rotisserie leagues. Simply put, Neal thrives regardless of the league's scoring setup.
Neal missed 15 games this year with an upper-body injury. This has been a rare setback in a magical run since arriving in Pittsburgh. While he may get banged up from time to time, it appears that his production is safe.
While historically not as much of a point producer as Neal, Kunitz has really come into his own on Crosby's wing ever since the lockout ended. This stretch includes 30 goals and 68 points in 65 games. What may make Kunitz even more valuable than Neal is his new contract that pays him a mere $3.85 million until 2017. While the sample of games covering Kunitz's rise to the elite in terms of statistics is small, the contract makes the risk of owning him minimal. Even if his level of play drops he is still well worth the money in your fantasy league.
Like Neal, Kunitz is also an excellent rotisserie-league player. He has a long track record of being excellent in plus-minus, hits, power play points and shots on goal while also posting decent PIM totals. Regardless of the league setup Kunitz can be one of your most valuable players.
Dupuis is not on the level of Kunitz or Dupuis in terms of fantasy value for a number of reasons. Before rising to top-six status he spent many years as a bottom-six player and at 34 years of age you have to wonder how much longer he can repeat the strong fantasy numbers he has posted since the 2010-11 season.
Despite the concerns, Dupuis remains a valuable fantasy asset. While he has never scored more than 59 points in a season, his cap hit of $3.75 million makes the production fair value in points-only leagues. There are cap bargain point contributors that may hold more value but beyond those exceptional cases Dupuis still holds good value in these leagues.
Meanwhile, rotisserie leagues are where Dupuis thrives. In addition to his solid point production, he adds good totals in plus-minus hits, blocked shots, shorthanded points and shots on goal. This makes him a very balanced asset that offers production in some areas where other star players do not.
No doubt, these three forwards are highly-dependent on Crosby and Malkin. Without them they are very unlikely to produce at this level. But the fact remains that the Penguins need them because their cost is lower than most players produce similarly. The cap savings help them afford their elite players. Additionally, if you look at the Penguins' prospect pipeline they do not possess any future stars. Beau Bennett has made good progress but does not appear ready to push any vets out of town anytime soon.
Neal, Kunitz and Dupuis are all signed until at least 2017 and appear to have significant roles locked down for the foreseeable future. There is no reason not to expect the strong production to continue. Their value among most poolies is lower than it should be because of Crosby and Malkin being the engine that drives their point totals. This is easily countered by cap savings which allow you to invest more money elsewhere to improve your team.
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