DobberHockey reader Austin Wallace goes in-depth to share his fantasy experiences with us.
In deep keeper leagues, from salary cap and dynasty leagues to the NHL, there will be a time for each team when the chances of winning with the current core is slim to none. Detroit Red Wings need not read. For most GMs, smart drafting and trading can only do so much in a competitive league.
A fantasy team can become derelict in a multitude of ways. A combination of poor trades, drafts gone wrong, and injuries can derail even the best of teams. Sometimes it is your fault for trading the obviously-declining Zdeno Chara, going all in for the win too early, or banking on a full season from Ryan Kesler. Assuming your league is competitive enough, a rebuild can just be the nature of your league. As I am sure you have heard around here, if you can’t win in the next three years without unusual movement and luck, it’s time to rebuild.
For the team that I was on, to win in three years would need more than luck. It would need Jakub Kindl becoming a top end defensemen. Two years ago. It would need Dwayne Roloson, Jose Theodore and Sergei Bobrovsky to all be top 20 goalies. Two years ago. With nonexistent goaltending, holes on defense and no immediate prospect help on the way, I took over the team with full knowledge of the depth of the rebuild that I had to engineer.
Edler’s Mind Tricks is a part of the East Coast Fantasy League which is in the prestigious Hockey Utopia Fantasy Association. Led by James Anderson, HUFA has five leagues (four paid, one free), its own website featuring a 20,000 post forum, a killer weekly spreadsheet, and awesome owners.
It is complete and well laid out and may give inspiration to current and future league managers.
The basics of our league:
- G, A, +/-, PIM, PPG, PPA, SHP, GWG, SOG, FOW and Hits
- W, SV%, Saves, GAA and SO
- Start 2 of each forward position, 4 d, 2 utilities, 2 goalies, 5 bench (may have one goalie on bench)
- Weekly head to head
- Salary Cap of 78.5 million (calculated using cap hits; before this year we used yearly salaries)
- 21 player varsity (main) roster, 30 player junior varsity roster (92 games played for skaters, 60 for goalies)
- Calling up a player costs 250,000, sending down costs nothing
You can pick up players any time during the season without penalty. To drop them any time before the end of their NHL contract, you either have to pay 50% salary each year until the end of the contract, or 40% of the total remaining salary on the contract for one year (your choice).
Players are kept until the end of their contract. If they become UFAs and are not signed 10 days before the start of free agency, they go into a re-draft pool. If the are signed before that time, the original team has the option of keeping the player.
For RFAs, it is more complicated but it is basically an offer sheet style system. Over three days, players are bid on (silent auction) with salary cap space (regardless of contract status), and if the owner matches the bid, the players first year (can also be spread over multiple years) of the contract has a “signing bonus” attached to it equal to the bid. If the owner doesn’t match the bid, the bidder gets the player with the same signing bonus, but also has to pay compensation based on salary to the original owner (either extra salary or draft picks).
With all the drudgery out of the way, let’s look at how I got where I am, with some insight into my thinking on the players and the process with which I made each important move.
During each offseason, with free agents and buyouts there are often three or four holes to be filled, often through the re-draft and prospects maturing. Maybe one goalie, a couple of forwards and a defenseman or two. The team I inherited after one season of play had zero goalies and nine spots to be filled overall.
Yup, in a league where one team had Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price... I didn’t have a single goalie. My best prospect tender? Harri Sateri.
To fully illustrate my team’s utter lack of.... well anything resembling defense or goaltending... I present Edler’s Mind Tricks, v1.0 (July 17th, 2011): http://goo.gl/uMWcE (PDF will open in new tab)
League Spreadsheet: http://goo.gl/Kyx6I (downloading and opening in openoffice/excel is recommended)
Roy, Nash, Kane, Vanek and Whitney: At the time, all were considered upper echelon players. I should have traded Whitney while I had the chance.
Karlsson: Just had a really good sophomore season, but was nowhere near the star he is now.
Gagne: Good for 40 points a year on a terrible team. Consistently decent.
Versteeg: A third liner who probably shouldn’t make the roster on a contending team.
Barker: Exhibit 1a for why I needed to rebuild.
Kindl: Exhibit 1b. Better off on junior roster.
Goalies: Exhibits 2, 3 and 4 are missing.
The only highlights were Grachev, Nyqvist and Tatar. Smith, Kreider, and Read weren’t as highly valued as they are now. Again, I had decent depth at forward but nothing at goalie and quite subpar at defense.
There were a few moves that really started this team on a downward spiral, even if the moves weren’t terrible at the time. It all started with the inaugural draft where Mason was chosen 39th over Bobby Ryan, and Hemsky was taken over Price a couple of picks later.
The backbreaker was probably trading Brad Richards, Methot and the first overall re-draft pick for Matthew Lombardi, Vanek, Babchuk, Nick Peterson, the 14th overall re-entry, and two late round picks. Back then, it was even worse as Bryzgalov was available with the first overall and he seemed a sure bet as a much needed top-tier goaltender.
My first order of business was to start trade discussions with all of my fellow league mates. No matter your situation when entering the league, this is always a good move. It lets you get an initial impression of what type of GM they are and how open they are to trades of different magnitudes, as well as potential trade targets — for both of you.
From those first conversations came the first four trades of my rebuild, along with some trades that I am glad didn’t happen (one in specific, involving Karlsson).
Here are all the significant trades that I have made to date:
My first trade:
My Hemsky and a 5th round re-entry for Hornqvist, Glennie and the 17th amateur (prospect) draft.
What I thought then: I liked Glennie as a long term prospect, and Hornqvist was entering his fourth season. With high hopes of flipping him mid season at higher value, I decided to buy low. Hemsky was the best player in the deal and was expected to put up decently big numbers that season.
What I think now: Don’t discount these these types of trades. Prospects (such as Beaulieu, who I picked 17th) are obviously key to a rebuild but any trade where you can buy low is just as valuable. Whether it is an aging veteran that you think may have a productive year left, or a high-cap hit player that gets cheaper, being in a rebuild offers you unusual flexibility in buying low with the aim of selling high. If you aren’t going to win this year, when someone goes on a hot streak (as Hornqvist is prone to doing) you will have less internal resistance to selling high.
My first blockbuster:
Vanek, Ferraro, Grant, Larsson and 2 million in cap for Bobrovsky, Scandella, Caron, T.J. Brennan, 13th overall pick amateur pick, 4th round amateur pick, 2012 3rd round amateur.
What I thought then: I needed goalies like no other (literally, I doubt any other team in HUFA has ever had zero goalies on the roster), and Bobrovsky fit the bill as someone who was a ways away but had high potential. I had no idea that his potential was Vezina-high, but I was willing to wait until he developed into a starter. Vanek was the star I was most willing to giv up. I didn’t like his future in our league. At his price, he would be valuable for the next couple of years, but I needed to jumpstart my rebuild. I really liked Scandella and Caron at the time and my three prospects were throw-ins.
What I think now: You can trade up to 15 million in cap space in my league and, while market prices vary, you can often get a first round amateur for three million. With the pick, I had a choice between Matt Puempel and Mark Scheifele. I chose wrong. On the plus side, I did get BOBROVSKY, and while he is an RFA now and single-handedly cost me a top-three pick, I am still very happy about that.
My first investment:
My Hornqvist, Frattin, 2012 second and fourth round amateur picks for Gionta, Kuznetsov, a fourth round amateur and a 2012 second round re-entry.
What I thought then: I loved this trade, and while it was only ten days after my first trade, I believed I was selling high on Hornqvist. I loved Kuznetsov and really didn’t see any way that he could still be in Russia by the time I was contending. Until then, I didn’t have to pay his cap hit and I would get better draft picks!
What I think now: Lo and behold, it is time for me to contend, and he is still in Russia! Still, when (and I am confident it is a when, not an if) he gets here, he will still be on a rookie deal and a massive asset. Even when rebuilding, always start your best players and never tank. If, however, you can make a legitimate move that gives you great long term assets, it doesn’t hurt you to have someone like Kuznetsov who won’t contribute for a couple of years. Frattin was a bit of a throw-in and, while he did better than expected, I am ok with the loss.
My first steal:
My Roy, Byron, Caron, and a million in cap for Voracek, Hodgson and Lack.
What I thought then: While I try not to target Canucks, I am a fan and I liked Hodgson and Lack from both fantasy and Canucks perspectives. Voracek, I thought, was going to do very well that year with Carter and Nash (in fact, I did my best to get Carter and acquire what I thought would be a massive, dominating line for years to come). Also, in all my other leagues I acquired Voracek. I felt like I was selling low on a 70+ point player and a couple of good prospects, but I was comfortable giving up the best player in the deal. Good trade, but nothing crazy.
What I think now: Datsyukian level steal! I gave away a player that was the number one center on the Sabers, Caron who has really fallen off the map, and Paul Byron. I got the best player in the deal (who, by the way, has three years at a very friendly 4.5 million per), a top-notch goalie prospect and a former number three center in Vancouver that happened to trade places with Roy and become the number one center in Buffalo. I don’t mind that switch, fantasy-wise!
If you have a really good feeling about a player (and a decent track-record with such things), don’t be afraid to go for that player in all your leagues. I did it a few years ago with Malkin, when he was injured, again with Edler before he broke out, and more recently with Voracek (though it was one more year than I thought before his breakout). Don’t let market value (or the team they play for) deter you from targeting the players you like.
My first cap dump:
My Kindl, Zuccarello-Aasen and 2.5 million in cap for Brassard and Kubina.
What I thought then: Brassard is inconsistent, but by the time I am contending he should have things figured out as a top six centerman. Kindl was running out of JV eligibility and really had no place on my roster. I like MZA, but wasn’t overly high on him. Kubina was a cap dump pure and simple, and while the 2.5 million was a bit pricey, I was ok with that when I got Brassard.
What I think now: Brassard has been lighting it up in New York, and while it is too early to say whether he has things figured out, I am liking the direction that he is heading. Kindl and MZA were both restricted free agents this year, and I put MZA back on my farm and added Kindl to my main roster for a bit. I ended up with both sides of the deal at once! While I had doubts about Brassard, I am happy with the way this turned out.
If you are in a rebuild, don’t be afraid to bet on some young, inconsistent players on bad teams. When I got them, neither Voracek nor Brassard were in the best situation but I knew they were value picks because, chances are, their situation would improve either through the club getting better, or via trade. Luckily for me, they were both traded. If you are in this situation now, take a look at potentially good young players on bad teams, they are often valued differently by you, who is looking at 2+ years from now, than by your leaguemates, who often see a bad situation and no guarantees for this year. Both valuations can be correct, and take advantage of that.
Trading cap in earnest:
2nd round re-entry, 3.5 million in cap for Coyle and Goncharov
What I thought then: I used my cap space for a high-upside prospect on a good timeline for my team as well as a risky longshot.
What I think now: Coyle is a great multi-category player and I will be able to reap the benefits of this right on time, as he will be a valuable addition next year. If you can trade away cap space in your league, trade every cent you can manage. It can really give you benefits for years to come.
My first real mistake:
Matt Read and $2 million in cap for a first round amateur
What I thought then: A good value for a first rounder. I didn’t think that Read was going to make the Flyers and usually first round picks were more expensive than this.
What I think now: Crap! This trade was done right before the season began and Read had a rookie season to remember. Even if I had traded him a few weeks later, I would have gotten immensely more value. I traded the first rounder in an upcoming trade. Hindsight aside, don’t be afraid to make trades because of situations like this. For every Read, there are five Shirokovs (if you are asking “Who?”, that is my point).
My biggest trade:
Neal, Versteeg, Karlsson, Brennan and 3.8 million in cap for Eberle, A. Kostitsyn, Lehner, Colin Greening, Duncan Siemens, Xavier Ouellet, first round amateur, first round re-entry, 2013 first round re-entry, 2nd round re-entry
What I thought then: Elated! I was selling high on Neal, who was on a tear that I thought wouldn’t last. I was getting a top-notch young player back in Eberle, as well as one of the best goalie prospects, a cheap rookie playing on the first line and a crap-tonne (metric unit) of good picks. Part of this deal was that we would trade Siemens, the first re-entry and a bit of cap back for Karlsson at the end of the year. This was effectively a rental trade and since many find them distasteful for totally valid reasons, we were open with the administrator and ran it by league manager and the executive committee.
What I think now: Not as great as I thought, but still happy I got Eberle and Lehner. I was wrong about Neal slowing down anytime soon, and sold low when I really thought I was selling high. The league was okay with the tradebook as it did not violate any rules (or the spirit of any rules) and benefitted both teams. He won the league and I got help rebuilding.
IF you are considering doing a rental deal, always okay it with everyone else. While there were no issues, our league banned re-trading for a player a calendar year after trading him away as a result of this. It is a great benefit to both teams, but tread extremely lightly.
After this, most of my trades were pretty commonplace. Feel free to look in the spreadsheet as they are all listed there. I was one short of the league lead in trades that year with 14, and have really fallen off since.
Next time, I will talk about where I plan to go from here. I will detail the players on my current team and what I plan on doing to bring home the championship and ensure contention for years to come. If you have any advice or questions, feel free to ask below and I will be sure to answer.