Some big moves in early July completely changed the face of your fantasy squad. In final portion of our four part series, we’ll take one last look at where some of these guys fit in with their new teams and, by extension, your fantasy league.
This rebuilding squad was fairly quiet during the free agency season, just standing back in the shadows and occasionally emerging to pluck a good deal or two off the market. Mike York is coming off a nightmarish season in which he was out of shape right from the start. The bottom line is, for four seasons prior to that, York was a 50- to 60-point player (pro-rating his injured 03-04 season). The Coyotes are a young team in desperate need of quality forwards and he will get top-six ice time and bounce back to 50 points this season.
Another cheap pickup was a starting goaltender. David Aebischer is coming off back-to-back sub-par seasons, which came on the heels of two very good ones. He will be the 1A goalie in Phoenix, battling for the No.1 job with Mikael Tellqvist in hopes of securing a bigger contract for 2008-09. He should get the numbers from a save percentage perspective, but obviously the win total will be found wanting here.
Finally, speedster Tomas Surovy was added to the squad. The last we saw of him, he was failing to click on a line with Mario Lemieux. Don’t be so quick to write him off though. He was just 22 years old (and 24 for a few games before Mario retired) when he had those failed auditions. Now 25 (he turns 26 in two months), Surovy is coming off a very successful campaign in the SEL in which he was a point per game. He led Lulea HF in scoring. Look for him to get a long look on the first or second line on the left wing. If it works out, he’s a 50-point player as well this year.
First of all, congratulations to all those keeper-league owners of Petr Sykora. You’ve just struck gold. After watching five straight campaigns of never crossing the 60-point barrier, it got to the point where Sykora was a dropsy in many fantasy formats – had he signed somewhere else.
Now that he is in Pittsburgh, his 81-point career high in 2000-01 is in jeopardy. There is no question the team picked him up with the expressed purpose of sticking him on Sidney Crosby’s line. If they don’t click, there’s always Evgeni Malkin. Cha-ching!
Darryl Sydor gives them more experience on the back end and another Stanley Cup ring, which will help avoid another first-round elimination in the spring, but his fantasy value is limited.
The fact that the Pens signed Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin to battle it out as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup speaks volumes. For Fleury. Whichever one of these guys wins the battle, it is clear the team intends to ride Fleury for 65 or as many as 70 contests. The youngster’s already high value just went up another notch.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks shed some payroll and gave themselves a lot of breathing room in that department when they dealt Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala to Toronto for a package of picks that played a major role in allowing them to draft Logan Couture.
That being said, they did not use their extra salary on free agents and chose to keep it low and lock in Joe Thornton long-term. With all the teams with bloated salaries in the NHL, the Sharks will not have a hard time finding a trading partner during the season if they are looking to add salary at that time. Meanwhile, the loss of Bill Guerin and Mark Bell up front will allow for the likes of Joe Pavelski and Steve Bernier to get into every game now and Mike Iggulden and Devon Setoguchi to battle for that last roster spot.
St. Louis Blues
This all-defensive team injected a bit of offense into their lineup when they signed Paul Kariya. With one stroke of a pen, you can add at least five points to your projections on Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk, as well as 10 or more points to Brad Boyes.
In acquiring Hannu Toivonen (I said he would be shopped in Part I of this series), the Blues made it known that the backup role is not a gift to Jason Bacashihua – he needs to earn it.
Tampa Bay Lightning
With the big three taking up so much of the budget, the Lightning once again could only tweak. They could not address their main weakness, which is goaltending, so that continues to be in a state of flux. The also desperately needed to upgrade the wingers for Brad Richards, but could only do so if they kept the price down. I think they did a good job in bringing in Michel Ouellet as a free agent. Ouellet is a former teammate of Richards (back in the QMJHL). Coach John Tortorella tends to pile on the ice time for his top two lines, so Ouellet, who is accustomed to 13 or 14 minutes a game in Pittsburgh, will benefit immensely.
On the other wing will be Jan Hlavac, a former 64-point NHLer who could really pay off if the chemistry with Richards is there. That’s big if, as the 31-year-old had a couple of sub-par seasons in the NHL before he fled back to Europe.
The team also brought in one of the best third-line centers in the game in Chris Gratton. He’s a lock for 40 or 45 points, he’ll win a ton of draws and he is excellent defensively. All-in-all, Tampa Bay will be much improved offensively, but defensively they will still struggle unless Marc Denis can find his ‘A’ game again.
Toronto Maple Leafs
They needed goaltending and scoring help for Mats Sundin and Kyle Wellwood on the wings. They brought in Vesa Toskala, Mark Bell and Jason Blake. Not bad. There’s hope for these Leafs after all. They also re-signed Nik Antropov. Whoops, did I speak to soon?
In all seriousness, Antropov is a talented winger, but he’s a lock to miss 20 or 30 games so why pay so much for a 50-game player? At any rate, in Blake they added a lot of hustle, not unlike Darcy Tucker. Although Blake is coming off the best season that he will ever have in the NHL, he’ll still add 30 goals and 60 to 65 points to this team. Bell owners can also breathe a sigh of relief. After four straight seasons of consistent improvement, the big left winger took a massive step backward on the heels of his DUI charges in San Jose last season. He’ll hopefully leave that behind and find his 50-point form.
With improved goaltending and offense, the Leafs should squeak into the playoffs this time.
The Canucks had to go cheap again this summer, although they still have room for another $1.5 million player. In Aaron Miller they shored up their defense and with Curtis Sanford they now boast one of the better backup goalies in the game. It’s scoring punch where this team has been lacking and Brad Isbister and Byron Ritchie are not the answers.
However, Ryan Shannon and/or Taylor Pyatt could be. Pyatt is coming off a season where he showed spurts of offense – including in the postseason when he was one of their better players – and he is approaching that age where Todd Bertuzzi broke out in a big way. It may be another year or two yet, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Shannon is an undrafted, diminutive forward who the ‘Nucks will try on the wing on one of the top two lines. He was signed out of college after tearing it up offensively and he proceeded to do the same in the AHL in 2005-06. Unable to find a lot of ice time in Anaheim, Shannon will not have that kind of difficulty this time around and remains one of the best dark horses in the NHL for the coming season.
With their young players adding another year of experience under their belts and with wunderkind Niklas Backstrom crossing the pond to join the team this season, the Caps decided to go all out this summer. They added Michal Nylander as their No.1 center, Viktor Kozlov as a top-six utility forward and Tom Poti as their power-play quarterback.
Poti will be a 50-point rearguard this year. This is what he has waited his entire career for – an undisputed spot as the No. 1 PP guy with snipers such as Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin to pass to.
Nylander won’t miss a beat, going from Jaromir Jagr’s setup man to Ovechkin’s. His point totals will remain the same as last season.
Expect Kozlov to be a 55-point winger on this team, with flashes of hot streaks mixed with his usual disappearing acts.