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Update: Cody Franson has re-signed for one year at $2 million.
The Leafs say that if Morgan Rielly earns a spot on his own merits that he will make the team but I don’t see how he can after this signing.
Viktor Stalberg is out 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. Shoulder injuries can linger for well beyond the amount of time it keeps a player out of the lineup. Stalberg’s upside is limited as is and this injury may reduce his fantasy value from limited to non-existent.
I have been wondering about Chicago’s decision to let Stalberg go this summer and instead re-signing Bryan Bickell. Stalberg signed in Nashville for $1 million less annually than Bickell despite being the same age (27 years old) and possessing similar upside (about 45 points a year give or take 10).
Of course, Bickell had the huge playoffs for Chicago and probably needed to be rewarded. He brings a physical dynamic that Stalberg (no slouch himself) cannot match. Perhaps Chicago simply values that “playoff warrior” aspect that some players seemingly have and with two Cups in four years it would seem that the playoffs are what Chicago is all about.
Or Chicago just overreacted and paid a premium for Bickell’s work in an incredibly small sample size. Consider that for 48 games last season the Blackhawks trusted Stalberg for about a minute more per game of ice time than Bickell only to flip that during the playoffs trusting Bickell for almost five minutes more per game than Stalberg over 23 games. When were they wrong?
Those who like advanced stats will note that by virtually any measure Bickell and Stalberg were very similar players last season but that over the past few years Stalberg has been consistently a more effective player.
I am not prepared to say that one of these guys is better than the other one. I have seen both of them be very dominant in games and at other times be completely invisible. I don't know if the Blackhawks made the wrong decision, nor do I know if they even had a say in the matter. Perhaps Stalberg simply wanted to leave.
I do think that these are questions worth asking. Will signing Bickell for that extra million cost the Blackhawks the chance to add someone (or an improvement on the someone they do add) at the deadline this year? Will it make it more difficult to re-sign someone like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Brandon Saad in the future with less cap space to work with?
Those are the hard decisions I don’t envy NHL GMs for. Do you think they made the right call?
Kris Versteeg will make his pre-season debut tonight.
Versteeg is definitely a sleeper for this season. I am not certain how ready he will be for the season so you will require patience with Versteeg but by the start of November he could be ready to start producing. Keep that in mind whether you draft him or not.
If you do not draft Versteeg could be grabbed on the cheap either by trade or off the waiver wire before he does start producing. If you do draft Versteeg, you will just have to be patient. The key will be monitoring his ice time. If the Panthers cut his minutes it means they don’t trust him and neither should you.
No surprises among the nine cuts made by the Rangers on Wednesday although it’s worth noting Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath were among them.
Cameron Gaunce was cut by the Stars.
Calgary sent six to Abbotsford including John Ramage, Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon. All were long shots to make the Flames and with only modest upside but still notable.
Chicago cut Theo Peckham, who had some sleeper value but only for deep leagues that include PIM and Hits.
Darnell Nurse, Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick were among the cuts for the Oilers on Wednesday.
The big but not overly shocking news here is Nurse, the Oilers’ first round pick this year. Even in the capped NHL it’s difficult for defensemen to make the jump from junior to the NHL as an 18-year-old. I figured Nurse would get the Alex Pietrangelo treatment though.
If you recall, Pietrangelo stuck around for eight games in each of his first two years after being drafted by the St. Louis Blues before finally making the team outright in 2010-11. I don’t know that this is the right way to bring along a defenseman but you have to think that if there was any doubt about Nurse’s NHL readiness that the Oilers made the right decision here. You cannot really make a mistake sending a player down, especially when the Oilers probably are not going to compete anyway.
Still, it is interesting to see the Oilers make this decision after their previous three top picks made the jump straight from junior to the NHL. Obviously those guys were all first overall selections and it’s damn hard to keep them out of the NHL especially when there is pressure to let the fans see them right away but there is an argument to be made that all of them, even Taylor Hall, could have benefitted from some more time before making their NHL debuts if for no other reason than to delay their free agency clock. This argument is, of course, being made retroactively but it would not have taken rocket science to predict that the Oilers would not compete in any of the rookie years for Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Nail Yakupov, so in a sense, their rookie contracts have been wasted (assuming you think that they would have developed at a similar rate playing an extra year of junior).
What enabled the Oilers to make this decision is that they finally went out and established real depth at the NHL level that forced Nurse to not just be good enough to make the squad but to in fact beat out other professionals for the spot. The Oilers didn’t create that sort of competition for any of their other rookies in previous years. Essentially they were battling against themselves for roster spots and so long as they didn’t embarrass they had a spot on the team.
That right there is an excellent explanation for why the Oilers stunk the past few years and why they should hopefully be more competitive in the future. Injuries up front have probably crippled their chances this season, or at least will prevent the possibility of a hot start but they finally have real professional depth on the blue line and that will help to keep them competitive even if a few injuries strike their defensemen as well. The Oilers do not have that minutes-eating defenseman that every NHL team hopes to have but what they do have is several defensemen capable of playing a regular shift and not being complete turnstiles
Stefan Elliott was cut by Colorado. I hate to give up on a prospect but if you are in a shallow league there is little point in clinging to Elliott. In today’s capped NHL even defensemen are making the jump to the league pretty quickly. Elliott has had cups of coffee each of the past two seasons but ultimately been unproductive.
If Elliott can’t even make a team as hurting on defense as the Avalanche, I don’t know where he could make it. Maybe all he needs is a change of scenery. It’s possible the Avalanche just are not very good at developing defensemen but even Elliott’s AHL numbers are disappointing. I would be using my roster space on someone else.
Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Stefan Matteau were all cut by New Jersey along with several others. Matteau definitely isn’t ready for the NHL just yet but both Merrill and Gelinas are defensemen with pro experience and definite upside should they find themselves in the NHL this season.
Gelinas is probably more NHL ready given two seasons of play at the AHL level, while Merrill has more upside.
Still with the club is Alexander Urbom. He may not ultimately make the final roster but having beaten out Merrill and Gelinas thus far is a good sign for Urbom, though he does not have upside out of PIM/Hits leagues.
The Devils are simply too deep on defense to fit more than one youngster in right away, which is kind of insane considering there isn’t a single star in the group they employ. The Devils’ blue line is simply stocked with solid veteran talent and Adam Larsson who probably still isn’t ready for a breakout season despite his solid production at the AHL level last year.
If you are looking for a defenseman for your fantasy roster on the Devils it has to be Marek Zidlicky. Don’t forget, Zidlicky put up 40+ points for three straight seasons playing for the offensively challenged Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild.
Injuries and the lockout have limited Zidlicky to just 135 games over the past three years and he’s scored just 57 points in that span (35-point pace for an 82-game season) but if he can stay healthy he still has 45-point upside. Someone will have to man the point on the power play with Ilya Kovalchuk gone and Zidlicky figures to be a good bet, so long as he stays healthy.
The Bruins power play units as projected by the Boston Globe:
A major part of that has been Chara, who has said that he doesn’t mind being stationed in front of the net. He also doesn’t mind being back at the point. He — like everyone else on the Bruins bench — just wants to see some results from the hard work on the power play.
First unit: Jarome Iginla, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug
Second unit: Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg, Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton
I don’t know how long playing Chara in front of the net can last but if it does Chara could be in for his first 20-goal season. I doubt it lasts though.
What is encouraging is the presence of Krug and Soderberg on the power play units. These two are the big sleepers to keep in mind this season although I am not sure how much of a sleeper Krug is after his playoff run last spring.
It is also worth mentioning how much Claude Julien has typically balanced out the power play time. Last season no Bruin (who played more than 10 games) skated more than Chara’s 2:27 per game on the power play but also 12 different Bruins skated at least one minute per game with the man advantage. So until you see otherwise the labels “first unit” and “second unit” do not mean much as everyone will get a chance to play and that is why everyone on the Bruins seems to find that soft middle for production between 40 and 60 points.
Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:
A few teams are circling around Jets defenceman Paul Postma, wondering what is their plan for him. He's caught in a numbers game, especially with Jacob Trouba making a push at the big club. What they do know is there is no way Postma clears waivers. He's got too much talent and a good-value contract (two years, $712,500 average). If Winnipeg does decide to deal him, there will be interest.
I think Postma has some serious fantasy value if he can ever find the right team but as Friedman indicates the Jets have no room for him as a right-hand-shooting defenseman. My solution would be to move Byfuglien up to forward. It is something I mentioned in a Cage Match earlier this summer and I continue to think that it makes great sense.
Of course, the Jets brought in Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi to compete for the fourth wing position in the top six (Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are all entrenched). The problem is that neither one has succeeded for an extended stretch despite possessing solid skills and pedigree. Furthermore, you could always make Byfuglien a third line forward but give him top power play minutes.
That way the Jets could use their talent optimally by increasing the workload of Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba, while also finding a spot for an NHL ready defenseman. Some people don’t love the idea of moving a big money defenseman up to forward but the Sharks did it last year and it helped to save their season.
It is worth considering that Byfuglien may just be a natural forward even though he is definitely dynamic as a defenseman.
Moving Byfuglien up to forward could have major fantasy implications. It would likely hurt Frolik and Setoguchi but would also help Bogosian, Postma and Trouba by shifting them up in the lineup.
Furthermore, Byfuglien as a forward probably scores 5-10 more points and since he already has defense eligibility he could be an even greater asset than before. Finally, if Byfuglien’s move to forward did improve the team as a whole then that could make Pavelec’s numbers better but also improve team scoring and help guys like Mark Scheifele, Kane, etc.
That’s all hypothetical of course but it’s something I would try were I the Jets head coach.
The Carolina Hurricanes lead the NHL in pre-season goals allowed. I tend not to look too much into pre-season results but this cannot be ignored because it confirms what we already know, the Hurricanes are a bad hockey team. They were miserable last season (second most goals allowed), are miserable on paper and now have been miserable in the pre-season. If you are counting on Cam Ward this season, may God have mercy on your soul.
Also, is it too early to start the #FreeJustinFaulk movement? Because that needs to happen.
A rundown on some of the suspensions and pre-season happenings from TSN’s Insider Trading.
Of note in that piece; apparently Dustin Penner is already wearing out his welcome in Anaheim and it’s only the pre-season. The Ducks should have known that Penner wouldn’t come to camp ready to play. They also should have remembered that Penner really only produces for short stretches. If they do keep him around though, he’ll be a good for the playoffs (assuming they make it). Penner always steps up come playoff time for whatever reason. He is certainly built for playoff hockey because his size is incredibly difficult to deal with.
Also worth mentioning from that piece; Jake Allen has been the most impressive goaltender for St. Louis thus far. Allen is, if nothing else, a great sleeper to sit on if you have the roster space. It is hard to see him making the team outright because Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott both have one-way deals but Halak has been injury prone and Elliott is like Jekyll and Hyde in goal. So it’s only a matter of time before Allen gets the call and he definitely has the talent to be a valuable fantasy goalie playing behind this Blues team.
Don’t rule out the possibility that one of Elliott or Halak gets either waived or traded soon. If Allen really is playing this well then the Blues should certainly consider handing him the reigns. Both Elliott and Halak are on one-year deals, which makes them fairly movable.
There are not too many teams in the market for a goaltender (especially not at the beginning of the season) but a team like Edmonton or Winnipeg with entrenched but still questionable starters could use a really competitive backup. Or maybe Pittsburgh would be in the market considering Tomas Vokoun’s clotting issue.
This isn’t to say that the Blues would get much (beyond a little bit of cap reprieve) by moving on from Halak or Elliott but it could be best for all involved. Moving a goaltender allows the Blues to move forward with two NHL-calibre goaltenders at the NHL level and hopefully the best of the bunch playing as much as possible, while whoever gets moved could get a fresh start and hopefully compete for a starting job.
A nice read on how close Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick are to making the Capitals this season.
I am pretty high on Wilson as a fantasy prospect and he is especially worth considering in leagues that count Hits. I was quite sorry to see him go mere picks ahead of me in the DobberHockey Experts’ League draft last week.
Tim Panaccio muses that Erik Gustafsson’s strong play could lead to Andrej Meszaros being moved.
Gustafsson has some upside as he is a slick puck-mover but personally, I think that the signing of Mark Streit this off-season really hurt his chances. Eventually, Kimmo Timonen will retire because he is banged up but until that happens, Timonen and Streit will block Gustafsson’s path to fantasy relevance.
Peter Laviolette expects the Flyers net to be a timeshare situation, if you weren’t already anticipating as much, which means neither Steve Mason nor Ray Emery will hold a ton of value on his own.
Stalberg is an absolute burner:
I appeared on the Illegal Curve radio show on TSN 1290 this past weekend talking some fantasy forwards. Give it a listen if you’ve got the time.
You follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.