Five future cap league bargins.
One of the most interesting aspects of multi-category leagues is the role of physical players in your league. They are not as well-known as the league's traditional stars since they are not putting up points with as much frequency. While they receive less overall coverage, their role in fantasy hockey could be as important as some of the game's "best players" because of their ability to provide high-end totals in PIM, hits and, for defensemen, blocked shots.
In cap leagues the majority these players hold even more value. Their lesser offensive totals often leave them with a lower cap hit. Having players on your fantasy squad that can dominate multiple categories while costing close to the league minimum can make or break your season. The more you save, the more you can invest elsewhere.
Over the past year Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas has received a lot of attention around these parts. His PIM and hit totals have been off the charts and he has also been very good in the shot-blocking department. On top of that, his offensive production has put him on pace for about 20 points over an 82-game season. Those in cap leagues have additional motivation to acquire Gudas as his cap hit of just under $1 million makes him one of the best multi-category cap bargains available.
The downside to cap bargains in keeper leagues is that many of them could be due for a big raise that will make them less appealing to own. Gudas himself will likely receive a much bigger contract after the 2015-16 season due to his emergence as a defenseman capable of playing 20 minutes per game while being a solid contributor killing penalties. Thus, things can be cyclical when it comes to cap bargains. Your best bet is to ride the wave and then make changes if the cost increases.
If your keeper league has farm positions you obviously want to invest in players that can become regular contributors in the near future. This includes potential future stud defensemen that will provide a ton of PIM, hits and blocked shots. Ideally, you will be able to uncover the next Gudas.
Below are five players that in the same mold as Gudas prodction-wise. Not all of them will make it in the NHL but if they do the physical part of their games will translate immediately. You just have to roll the dice where you see a potential opportunity for a promotion. The reward for owning the correct prospect is a difference-maker on your fantasy team.
Mark Borowiecki - OTT ($575,000 / RFA 2015)
Prior to the lockout ending Borowiecki appeared poised to make the jump to the Senators' lineup. His physical play appeared to be a good fit after Matt Carkner's departure. That spot ultimately went to Eric Gryba and Borowiecki has been limited to part-time duty in Ottawa.
Opportunity appears to be the biggest hurdle to overcome for Borowiecki. But if he can secure a full-time spot with the Sens or elsewhere he will have fantasy value right away. In 21 career NHL games he has 68 PIM, 71 hits and 18 blocks. He is certainly worth the risk in deep leagues.
Mark Cundari - CGY ($600,000 / RFA 2014)
Cundari was supposed to be in the NHL this year with the rebuilding Flames after being a key component of the trade that sent Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis. Unfortunately, he failed to force his way onto the Flames' roster and finds himself in the AHL again. After a slow start he is up to seven points and 32 PIM in 20 games with Abbotsford.
In addition to the toughness, Cundari has some offensive upside that could one day make him stand out as a top cap bargain blueliner. He is a restricted free agent this summer but his lack of presence in the NHL makes it very likely that his next contract will carry a small cap hit as well. Just be patient for now as he continues to develop.
Taylor Doherty - SJ - ($840,000 / RFA 2014)
Doherty is a mammoth (6'7 235) that uses his size well. While his skating is not great, he has learned how to take care of business in his own end. Doherty could be the long-term answer to replace the toughness currently brought by Scott Hannan and formerly by Douglas Murray.
In his third AHL season, Doherty has yet to contribute much offensively with just 22 career pro-level points. However, there may be some hidden upside as he produced some decent totals in the OHL. A strong San Jose club could help him bring out a few extra points.
Joel Edmundson - STL ($925,000 / RFA 2016)
At just 20 years of age Edmundson is still a couple years away from full-time NHL duty. Depending on your league's configuration this could make him less desirable. In any event, he should be on your radar because of his high level of physical play and a strong Blues club helping him along when his time does come.
With just two points in 23 games and mediocre numbers in the WHL it is unlikely that Edmundson does much offensively in the NHL. If all goes well he could produce numbers similar to Roman Polak, except with fewer points and more PIM. Do not expect much from him in terms of opportunity until 2015-16, the final year of his entry-level contract.
Oliver Lauridsen - PHI ($600,000 / RFA 2015)
Like Doherty, Lauridsen is a huge defenseman that has not brought much offensively as a pro but has certainly delivered in the physical department. Opportunity is a concern here because the Flyers have a ton of veteran bodies in their organization and their tendency to make impulsive decisions could create more roadblocks down the road.
Thankfully, we have already had a glimpse of what Lauridsen has to offer at the NHL level. He suited up for 15 games with the Flyers last year where he posted three points, 34 PIM, 36 hits and 24 blocked shots. Now all he needs to do is land a permanent roster spot to become a relevant fantasy contributor.
Next week we will look at five more candidates...
Previously in Capped: