I've been flipping through it this week and have been massively impressed by Dobber's 2013-14 Fantasy Guide. The Dobber crew absolutely crushed it this year, and it's tough to imagine a more useful fantasy primer for poolies frankly.
Also worth your time if you're sitting pool side this August and want something hockey-related to read: Rob Vollman's hockey abtract. Vollman has done an awful lot over the years - like inventing player usage charts - to make hockey analytics more accessible to mainstream hockey fans, and this book furthers that work. Extraordinarily insightful stuff here.
I love the panic that fanbases work themselves into every summer as their best ineligible for arbitration RFA remains unsigned into August. My favorite was the Blues fans reacting to the J-Bo and Paajarvi extensions with "what about Pietrangelo?" even though their club has only one RFA left to sign (and it is Pietrangelo) and nearly eight million in cap-space.
While Pietrangelo and the Blues don't appear to be close to an extension, that's probably because a bridge deal isn't even being seriously discussed. Pietrangelo's next contract will probably lock him up into his thirties and those sorts of deals take time, especially because the Blues should be looking to buy out a couple of Pietrangelo's UFA years.
Over the past few years most of the arbitration ineligible restricted free-agents signed their deals with teams in the week before training camp opened in September (or in Subban and Doughty's cases, shortly after). Once players begin to report the leverage swings back into the teams favour and that's when they do their deals. So Blues fans have nothing to worry about re: Pietrangelo, Canucks fans have nothing to worry about re: Tanev and on down the list. That is until we get to Toronto...
The Maple Leafs' second buyout window closed this morning, and while it's possible the news just hasn't broken yet, it seems likely that John-Michael Liles will not be bought out. Toronto doesn't have a lot of cap space - a bit less than five million - remaining to lockup two critical RFA pieces in Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri. To complicate matters for the Leafs: Franson and Kadri both had percentage driven offensive breakout seasons, making it pretty difficult to reliably peg their value.
Cody Franson is said to be looking for something in the neighbourhood of four million, and that seems about right to me considering what defenceman were going for on the market this summer.
As for Kadri, the Leafs are pencilling him in as a top-six centreman and he was in the top-25 in scoring last season. Yeah the underlying numbers were ugly, but I'd have to think Kadri is worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3.5 Million per season as an RFA...
So yeah, even if the Leafs buyout Liles (and I'm skeptical that they will), this might be a tough fit.
If Liles remains on the roster than Dave Nonis is essentially out of options in my view. He either trades Franson or tries to wait Franson and Kadri out and grind them down using the always compliant media in Toronto. You have to say this for the Leafs: at least there's never a dull moment.
Seeing a lot of stories profiling and previewing the upcoming "battle" between Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur for the starters mantle in New Jersey. This fight might be a bit lopsided. Not that sanity necessarily rules the day in NHL roster moves, but if Cory Schneider doesn't start 55 games (or, over 54.5 games) I will be shocked.
The same goes for Reimer in Toronto.
So many people disagree with me - especially those who watch the Leafs and not enough of the rest of the league - but I'm very confident that Reimer is an above average NHL starter.
The arguments I get against Reimer in Toronto usually centre on his puck handling abilities (weak, but also not a big deal) and his slow glove hand. The thing about Reimer's glove hand is hot nonsense in my view, and a perfect example of where the "watch the games" crowd could stand to be sensitive to the notion that perception and reality sometimes don't match up.
The thing about glove hands is that glove side high is where all NHL goalies get beat most often at this point. With technical and technological innovations, it's tougher to sneak a puck through along the ice so shooters aim high, they know that's where the goals are being scored.
Anyway here's a partial list of goaltenders I've heard criticized for their weak glove-hand over the past four seasons: Jonathan Quick, Antii Niemi, Corey Crawford. They all seem to be doing okay...
I actually think Bernier is a pretty good bet to be an average NHL starter going forward - I just have a good deal of confidence that Reimer is better than that. I expect that Reimer's going to dust his hands with this particular positional battle by November.
I was surprised to see Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad left off of Canada's WJC summer development camp roster, but I probably shouldn't have been since Canada's U20 blue-line pretty rarely consists of draft eligibles.
Ekblad gets some mixed reviews from scouts and others in the industry, probably because people expect too much of him. The fact is, however, that Ekblad is about the safest prospect I've seen in years. With his wheels, hands and size he's clearly going to be an everyday NHL player by his early twenties at the latest, and probably a very good top-four defenceman.
The knock on Ekblad is that it's not clear whether or not he's a power-play quarterback type and has some limited offensively ceiling. Having watched Ekblad a fair bit over the past couple of seasons I think that's fair, though I don't think he takes anything off the table offensively.