Obviously a lot has gone on since the Entry Draft ended, and there are two ways to look at some of the moves. The first is - how does each transaction affect NHL teams? The second is – how does each transaction affect your fantasy team? You can guess which of the two we’re going to focus on.
A Tale of Two RFA’s
Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen and Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski were slated to become restricted free agents July 1. Jokinen, 26, had 103 points in his first two seasons. Grabovski, 25, had 48 in his one and only season. Jokinen signed a two-year deal worth $3.4 million. Grabovski signed for three years at $8.7 million. Why such a difference? Because Jokinen had a weak start in Dallas in 2007-08 and then ended up in the middle of Tampa’s rollercoaster ride from hell. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of the NHL, Grabovski boasts more value. But both contracts have an impact in the fantasy hockey world.
Jokinen is a potential 55- or 60-point player, but may not get a chance to show it on another team. The Hurricanes – leaders in reclamation projects – will get the most out of him.
Grabovski’s potential is somewhat higher and probably closer to 70 or 75 points. However, he showed a lot of signs of faltering in his one full season – signs that have taken a lot of promising players out of the league, from Todd Elik to Gilbert Dionne to Mike York to Dmitri Kvartalnov. He started the year with two points in seven games and went through a slump of 13 points in 38 games around the whole Kostitsyn fiasco. However, giving him nearly $3 million per season for the next three years carried a heavy buyout cost if it backfires. Therefore, the Leafs will do everything they can to ensure that it doesn’t backfire. Meaning, his ice time will go up and it will never go down no matter how badly he slumps.
The New York Rangers
Not exactly a team known for sitting on their hands, the Rangers have, in the past week, lost Nik Antropov, Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom and Scott Gomez. They have added Marian Gaborik, Chris Higgins, Brian Boyle, Donald Brashear and Tyler Arnason, while shoring up the prospect pipeline with Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko and adding some good AHL depth with Corey Locke.
The Rangers have struggled with finding an elite puck-moving defenseman since Brian Leetch and they are determined to eventually get one. Already with Bobby Sanguinetti and Michael Del Zotto in the fold, the team signed free agent Matt Gilroy out of college and acquired Valentenko almost as a throw in from Montreal. The impact of this philosophy probably won’t be felt in 2009-10, but you’ll start to see it the following year and by 2011-12 this team will be elite in terms of moving the puck up the ice and using the blueliners to set up the power play.
In shifting a centerman out of the roster in Gomez, while bringing in a winger in Gaborik, the team has made it clear that a young pivot will have an opportunity. It will be up to one of Brian Boyle and Artem Anisimov to seize the moment. The winner of that battle should top 40 points as a rookie.
“I Believe In You (Until I Find Someone Else)”
Not so fast Chris Mason. You may have gone 24-8-6 to end last season and chase Manny Legace out of the NHL, but the Blues must have been paying attention to what happened in Nashville. How else do you explain their decision to bring in Ty Conklin, a goaltender who has gone 43-19-7 over the last two seasons? Best to stay out of drafting a Blues’ goalie this summer. You don’t know how it will pan out.
Don’t unpack your things just yet Al Montoya. You may be heading back to San Antonio. You see, giving up just one goal in your first two starts was nice and all, but letting in six in your third game makes Phoenix a little uncomfortable.
So Jason Labarbera was signed and now, not only does Montoya’s NHL career hang in the balance before it even starts, but Ilya Bryzgalov better get off to a decent start as well.
Petr Budaj – the free ride is over. Your inconsistent hot/cold play may have withstood Jose Theodore and Andrew Raycroft, but Craig Anderson is hungry and he only had two bad games out of 31 last year. This is one battle where I would actually put my money on a netminder – give me Anderson for 10 bucks.
The Chicago Blackhawks
Everyone knows that the Blackhawks are a young, exciting team with a chance to win a Cup within the next five years. By bringing in John Madden and Tomas Kopecky, they increased their odds of that. Granted, they brought in Marian Hossa, who is a much bigger name, but he essentially just replaced Martin Havlat. This team needed Cup experience and a defensive presence and that’s what Madden brings.
Kopecky could be the next Jay Pandolfo. In Detroit, his ice time was sparse but it looked as though they were bringing him along to be a defensive forward and penalty-killing specialist. He’s been on a winner and that makes the Hawks a better playoff team – so pay attention if you’re in a league that has a separate postseason contest (as mine do).
The Los Angeles Kings
For three years now I have been hyping this team as the next Pittsburgh. They have the depth in their system at every position. Since then, Chicago has surpassed them – but clearly the Kings are making their move. They needed grit, experience and a defensive presence. Signing Rob Scuderi brings the latter and trading for Ryan Smyth adds the former. Bringing aboard Justin Williams helps in that regard as well. Watch out for this team come March.