Some big moves in early July completely changed the face of your fantasy squad. In part three of a four part series, let’s take a further look at where some of these guys fit in with their new teams and, by extension, your fantasy league.
While Roman Hamrlik has shown flashes of offensive talent at various times in his career, he will by no means replace the howitzer that Sheldon Souray held. He is a 40-point player, give or take, and that won’t change in his new uniform. As such, you can expect more from the other guys. For example, Andrei Markov’s goal totals will increase, as he will not be as tempted to feed Hamrlik as he was to feed Souray when manning the power play. As well, Mark Streit emerged as an offensive presence towards the end of last season and has a genuine shot at 40 or even 45 points this season.
Bryan Smolinski is a great all-around addition to this team, but from a fantasy perspective you know exactly what you’re getting and it isn’t much. His usual 45-points will apply again this time around.
The addition of Tom Kostopolous gives them a depth winger with some streaky offensive potential and surprising penalty minutes. Only roto leagues that count PIM’s would find value in him as a reserve winger. His numbers won’t change from what they were in Los Angeles.
Lastly, the departure of David Aebischer clears the way for Jaroslav Halak to step in as the backup goaltender. While Carey Price was nothing short of impressive – even dominant at times – in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs in the spring, he would be best served dominating the league for an entire season before making the jump. Besides, the Habs are in capable hands with Cristobal Huet and Halak.
One of my favorite topics this summer, as well as my controversial opinion about it, is the Nashville Predators and how they will remain in the top five in the Western Conference next season. Granted, the team lost Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg and Tomas Vokoun, but this well-coached team is still looking good. And all for a budget that is still short of the NHL’s salary floor by around $1.5 million!
Between the pipes they have Chris Mason, who is every bit as good as Vokoun was, but with a cleaner bill of health. Backing him up will be a battle between Pekka Rinne, Dan Ellis and newcomer Dov Grumet-Morris, a former college grad and Philadelphia draft pick who put up stellar American League numbers last season. Considering Rinne’s contract is two-way this season (and one-way next year), he’s likely the odd man out.
On the blue line, the Preds have added the services of Greg De Vries. Between his veteran experience, as well as expanded roles for future superstar Shea Weber and youngster Ryan Suter, the Preds are still the envy of many NHL squads from the back end.
Up front, I have two words for you – Alexander Radulov. He’ll start off on the second line, but by the end of the season the team will be revolving their entire offense around him. He can eat up at least six minutes per game more than he had last season, which will offset some of the loss of Kariya. Forberg’s presence in the lineup last season took away ice time from David Legwand and Jason Arnott. That wasn’t necessary. Yes, I’m saying that Forsberg’s arrival hurt the team more than it helped. With him out of the lineup, it will be addition through subtraction. Legwand can continue to develop into that steady 70-point centerman, while Arnott has already established to poolies what he can do - and he will be allowed to do it.
As for replacing Hartnell – that’s where Steve Sullivan comes in. While still a question mark in terms of recovering from offseason back surgery, it is expected that he will be back in the lineup with his soreness behind him.
New Jersey Devils
Somewhat unexpectedly, the Devils lost both Brian Rafalski and Scott Gomez – Rafalski being the surprise. They replaced Rafalski with Karel Rachunek. That’s a pretty big drop-off in talent and poolies should not expect Rachunek’s numbers to pop. You would be better off putting your money on the likes of homegrown talents such as Paul Martin and/or Andy Greene. In the end, you are probably looking at a team that will not have a 40-point player on the back end this year.
Gomez was replaced by Dainius Zubrus. While that certainly adds size and a little toughness, Zubrus is a far cry from Gomez and his offense will never be better than it was when he was playing with Alexander Ovechkin. The advice here is to skip out on drafting Zubrus altogether, as you will be disappointed. Patrick Elias, meanwhile, stands to suffer from the loss of Gomez. It says here, however, that he won’t. He can still be the same player without Gomez, because he’s not out there handling the offense alone. With Zach Parise poised for a breakout year and Brian Gionta putting his groin struggles behind him, Elias will have plenty of room next season to post 70-plus points again.
The signing of goalie Kevin Weekes makes a bit of a statement. Martin Brodeur has finally peaked at 78 games played. While this season he will still play 70 games, it will be less than last year’s 78 and it will be the start of a gradual rollback on his year-to-year workload. Don’t expect 48 wins again. Forty would be a better estimate.
New York Islanders
In another case of addition by subtraction, the Isles rid themselves of the major distraction known as Alexei Yashin when they bought out his contract. The Isles also lost Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, Randy Robitaille and Ryan Smyth to unrestricted free agency so it goes without saying that the team’s forward corps will take on a decidedly different look.
The additions of Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jon Sim will make up most of the drop off, but certainly not all. However, coach Ted Nolan will still keep the team in the playoff hunt.
Guerin and Comrie owners can be happy with the team that their player chose to sign with. Where else could they be first liners? This is Comrie’s last chance to prove that the 80-point talent we saw in him eight years ago wasn’t an illusion. A 65-point career year is probably in the cards for the 27-year-old, but the prospect of what Nolan can bring out of this guy has poolies pretty thrilled.
New York Rangers
Michal Nylander and Matt Cullen are gone, while Scott Gomez and Chris Drury have arrived. Call that a significant upgrade. The team needed clutch goal-scoring and playoff leadership and they got that in Drury. Gomez not only brings them a pair of Stanley Cup rings, but he is every bit the setup man that Nylander is and some would argue he is even better.
The return of Brendan Shanahan and a full season of a rejuvenated Sean Avery and an up-and-coming Ryan Callahan and suddenly this team is poised to go pretty deep into the playoffs. Drury won’t produce the offensive numbers that he did in Buffalo, but Gomez stands to set career highs if he finds chemistry with Jaromir Jagr and plays the full season on his line.
The Sens lost Tom Preissing, Mike Comrie and their general manager John Muckler. They replaced them with…Niko Dimitrakos.
Take heart – Comrie was not a big part of the squad last season and youngster Brian Lee, arguably the team’s top prospect, is expected to win a job as a No.4 or 5 defenseman in training camp. For all intents and purposes, this team will be the same one that got to the final in the spring, except this time it will be under the tutelage of coach John Paddock.
Under the new coach, you can expect similar stats from the big boys, plus a nice boost from Antoine Vermette, who excelled under Paddock in Binghamton of the AHL a few years back.
From last overall to a playoff spot? It’s been done before and it will happen again. With Martin Biron a steep upgrade to Robert Esche between the pipes and some added experience on the blue line in Jason Smith and Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers are immediately a contender just from addressing those weaknesses alone.
Toss in the arrival of Daniel Briere, who will feed sniper Simon Gagne with Forsberg-like accuracy (minus the injuries) and this team is on the move. Briere owners can be satisfied that his numbers will not decline any from the move, while Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell owners can be quite pleased with the change of venue. Hartnell will be counted on for more offense than he was in Nashville, while Lupul desperately needed a fresh start after a horrific season in Edmonton.
Philadelphia successfully improved their team without hurting their future. In fact, their future is brighter than ever. One last note for Jeff Carter owners – no, his role is not reduced as a result of these acquisitions. He is still the second line center and his career will continue to progress as expected. Look for 50 to 55 points this season and a breakout year next. The fourth year is the most frequent breakout season for offensive stars and I don’t see things being any different for Carter.