My first attempt at starting a keeper league ended in domination – and disaster.


It was 1995-96. I scored the first overall pick, securing Eric Lindros and his 115-point/163-PIM performance. With uncertainty hanging over the health of a certain superstar from Pittsburgh scaring off my competitors, I was able to pick up an okay running mate for the Big E. Mario Lemieux potted 69 goals and 161 points for my squad that season. Needless to say, I crushed my league – the largest margin of victory I’ve ever enjoyed.


Unfortunately, my awesomeness backfired when the rest of the league unanimously voted to scrap the keeper format and return to one-year pools. For some reason, they weren’t interested in getting beat down for several more seasons.

About a decade later, my bitterness finally subsided, and I decided to take another crack at running a keeper league. As I sat down to write my 15-page manifesto of a rule book, one of the first issues I had to weigh was how many players to keep each year.


Keeper leagues run the gamut from full keepers, in which the full roster is protected from year-to-year and the draft only includes new prospects, to franchise player systems in which each team gets to keep just one or two players each year and the rest of the team is reconstructed through the draft – and everything in between.


I’m not here to tell you which approach is right. Some argue that anything short of a full keeper league is inauthentic, but I disagree. There are positives and negatives to all systems. Instead, I’ll list some of the factors that I think are important to consider as you make the call on the keeper limit that works best for your league.


Realism: How important is it that your league mimics the NHL? Is your goal to make it as realistic as possible, or as fun as possible (those may or may not be the same thing, depending on your persuasion)? Clearly, if realism is your goal, your keeper number will be higher. NHL teams aren’t forced to turn over a pre-determined number of roster players each season. That being said, a 100% keeper league may not be completely realistic, either. In theory, that could allow a team to sit on the same roster season after season. Even in the NHL, teams are essentially forced to make changes every season due to contract expirations and salary cap issues, if nothing else.


Draft Format: What kind of draft do you want to have – one which focuses exclusively on prospects and is mostly future-oriented, or one in which current NHL players are up for grabs and the season ahead can be deeply impacted? For most fantasy players, the draft is the most anticipated day of the year. Would this change if you’re dealing only in prospects? In my league, everyone seems to agree that the draft is more fun when at least some current NHLers are in play.


Competitiveness and Rebuilding: How much change would you like to see in your standings from year to year? How quickly should a low-ranked team be able to rebuild and join the upper echelon? The fewer keepers you have, the easier it will be for bad teams to improve themselves in a relatively short time period; the more keepers you have, the less dramatically the competitive balance will shift from season to season. In my league, in which we keep about 70% of our rosters (see below for more detail), the top 5-6 teams have stayed virtually the same for five seasons; it’s been tough for anyone else to crack that upper echelon. Some of this may be due to manager skill, but it may be partly systemic, too. Whether you see this as good or bad is subjective, but either way it’s a factor to consider.


Other Limitations: Aside from limiting the total number of keepers in any given year, will you have any other rules or limitations on keepers? For example, will there be positional keeper requirements? Will there be minimums or maximums on how many prospects can be kept? Are injured players exempted? Do you want to place limits on how many years a player can be protected before he must be released? Will the number of keepers be fixed in stone, or will you have a range that teams must fall into? All of these sub-issues play into the big question of how many players should be kept.


My league has in-season roster limits of 22 players, plus 9 prospects on the farm. After weighing all the factors listed above, here are our rules with respect to keepers: On August 15, each team must submit a protected roster consisting of 12-15 players from their big league roster, plus 2-9 prospects. The number of rounds in which they participate in the draft is based on how many players they protected. Players can be protected for a maximum of four seasons, after which they must be traded or released (prospects are exempt from this).


The net result for our 14-team league is that we typically enter the draft with about 200-210 protected NHL players, and about 100 protected prospects. Each team is looking to draft around 6-7 current NHLers and a handful of prospects. Draft day is lots of fun, in part because it can have a significant impact on each team’s fortunes in the upcoming season. And yet, realistically, it will take a well-managed bottom-dweller at least two seasons to significantly improve their fortunes.


Is it perfect? Certainly not – but then, no system is. For us, it’s made for a fun league and strong manager interest for going on six years. And isn’t that what we all want from our fantasy leagues?


How many keepers are allowed in your fantasy league? What were the critical factors in your decision?

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Jpappas said:

Your Thoughts Fantasy League set-up and settings Yeah our league settings are a little odd, but it made for some interesting storylines throughout the season.

The Basics:

10 Teams
H2H match-up
Yahoo! default stat settings
12 starting positions: C,C RW,RW LW,LW, DEF,DEF,DEF,DEF G,G
4 bench

The Draft

Auction style with a cap at $200
Up to 3 Keepers 1st season
Keepers value increases by $5 on top of bid price
any player take from FA worth starts at $1

[The Intangibles
Each team gets 3 FA wire moves per week, FA moves DO NOT carry over and cannot be banked
Any player that is dropped from a team and is labeled a WAIVER player, is allowed to be re-bid on. Once they clear WAIVERS their value returns to winning bid price.

Season being broken up into 2 halves; saw 2, 11 week undefeated runs
Of the regular season 1st and 2nd place teams; the 1st place team won championship (nhl playoffs); 2nd place team got bounced in first round (finishing 8th overall)
Champion team spent an average of $25 on his forwards during draft

there were and still are a ton of loop holes, this is why i post so frequently to figure out exactly how to deal with issues that I know will be arising next year.
May 29, 2012
Votes: +0

angelofharlem (Glen) said:

... RippedOnNitro - your league sounds fascinating. I've never heard of a setup quite like that. Are your rules available online somewhere? I'd love to see them.
May 29, 2012
Votes: +0

Leumas said:

... It's a fine line. Too many keepers and the league suffers. It's very hard to find a decent group of guys who are willing to toil away at the bottom of the standings for years and years. Also the draft should be the most fun part of the pool.

Too few keepers seems to limit the amount of trading. Any player who isn't a keeper is essentially worthless. Nobody wants to make a trade for a prospect or a fringe player. The only trades that happen are keepers for other keepers which is tough to do.

Having a separate prospect roster helps alleviate this.
May 28, 2012
Votes: +0

Jpappas said:

What are other people's thoughts on this set-up i'm glad that glen decieded to write something like this. for months I have been dropping posts in the forums to try and get an feeling for what other managers are dealing with.

The season coming up i will be taking over commisioner responsibilities for a buddy. We have a group that has stayed together for the majority of 3 or 4 seasons now, and we are currently in our first season of KEEPER status. With only 10 teams, i would love to mimic some of the more involved leagues settings that i read about, but realistically we don't have 10 managers who are as dedicated as a couple of us.

Basically the break down is simple:

Auction style draft with a start up of $200.
Each team is allowed to keep up to 3 out of 17 players for the next year, with their draft price taken off of each year's cap. The curve to this is also tagging a $5 KEEPER fee to the drafted price every year.

Now a bunch of our managers have argued with me and said that 3 players is plenty to keep. I get the feeling that they like the idea of getting a "re-do" at the start of the next season. However, with typical Yahoo! H2H settings, it seems that we are putting a heavy emphasis on winning.

What I would like to ask is; how as a commisioner do I start to introduce the ideas of competativeness, when the majority of managers are bidding high on names?

The arguement that I battle with other managers is them telling me it doesn't matter how much we throw out on names because utimately other managers will have more players to bid on with other teams running out of money.

This wouldn't be a bad theory but considering the level of participation in our league, it seems to be the downfall of competativeness.

sorry for venting dobber nation
May 28, 2012
Votes: +0

RippedOnNitro said:

dynasty league After hosting one-year pools for a few years, I wanted to create a very extended/realistic league. That is why I created a league that comes pretty close to the real NHL. We use an annual entry draft (prospects) spread over the entire summer, plus we also host a UFA bidding period spread over the summer. In May/June we host a RFA-offer sheet period, in which you can send qualifying offers to your own players and/or send in offer sheets to other team's players.

So it is basically a full keeper dynasty league, but once a player's contract expires everyone can take a shot at him.

We started with the cap hits in real life, but once a contract expires our league/GM's determine his new cap hit due to the bidding.

Since we started only one year ago, it is impossible to tell at this moment if our league is/will become a succes. But untill this moment everything is working... smilies/smiley.gif
May 28, 2012
Votes: +0

acfurino said:

... The Amazing Fantasy Hockey League - www.theafhl.com
May 27, 2012
Votes: +1

UKflames said:

My leaugue We hold our full roster of 30 players + 5 farm at the end of each season but can only keep 20 plus the farm on declaration date. It makes for some interesting choices on who to keep, you have to decide on that 2nd or 3rd liner that looks good for a breakout season or go with the prospect with high upside that may not help this season at all. There are always some eye brow raising moments when you see who managers have kept or dropped.
As you would expect all of the top end players are normally held , which makes the 10 round draft a lot of fun as you are always looking for those diamonds in the rough.
May 27, 2012
Votes: +0

Haddock said:

... Loved this article. Want more of these kind of articles.
May 27, 2012
Votes: +1

digitalmonkey said:

Realism http://alternativehockeyleague.../rules.php

Our pool is a keeper league under your Realism heading.

Our players do have contracts that expire and are "renegotiated" based on performance tiers.

May 27, 2012
Votes: +0
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