Wheeling and Dealing: Western Conference Part Three
Following Tim’s piece from the East, here is the final set of teams from the West.
Phoenix Coyotes – Signed David Moss (two year deal), Chad Johnson/Chris Conner/Rob Klinkhammer/Steve Sullivan/Nick Johnson/Joel Rechlicz (one year deals) and re-signed Alex Bolduc (one-year deal). Lost Ray Whitney (Dallas), Adrian Aucoin (Columbus), Taylor Pyatt (Rangers) and Tyler Eckford (Ottawa). Acquired Zbynek Michalek (Pittsburgh) for Harrison Ruopp and Marc Cheverie.
We’re still waiting on the status of Shane Doan, as his decision could completely re-shape the future of the franchise. If I were a betting man, I think he leaves for greener pastures. The Coyotes situation (lack of an owner, lack of fans and lack of publicity), isn’t an ideal situation for him, especially when there are 30 million reasons from a team out east. The biggest offensive loss for the Yotes is probably Whitney, but I think they found a very under-the-radar replacement in Sullivan. He averaged 3:38 per contest on the PP with the Pens, which actually ranked him tied for 14th amongst all NHL forwards. The last time the Yotes rolled the dice on a 38 year-old, they turned Whitney from a 58 pointer to a 77 pointer. Let’s see if they can repeat the same feat with Sullivan. Expect him to be the first to claim some of the 3:46 PP TOI that Whitney leaves behind. If you’ve been a close follower of my work then you’ve probably read about the similarities between Ryan Kesler and Martin Hanzal. Also keep an eye on Antoine Vermette. He didn’t receive a lot of PP TOI last campaign, because he couldn’t crack into the Yotes’ top PP unit, but with Whitney and possibly Doan gone, that could secure a spot for Vermette to garner some much needed top-line PP opportunity.
Oliver Ekman Larsson really took a big step forward in his development in the second half of last year, as he increased his stats from 0.36 points and 1.56 SOG per game prior to January 1st to 0.42 points and 2 SOG per game in the second half. Most of that increase was due to the extra PP ice-time that he received, where he went from averaging 1:51 between September to December, to an increased average of 2:16 between January and April. Look for him to steal more of Keith Yandle’s opportunities this campaign. Phoenix also re-acquired Michalek from the Pens. He garnered 144 blocked shots in just 62 contests last season. If you pro-rate that over the course of a full season it would have equated to a whopping 190, which would have ranked him in the top-five in that department in the entire league. If you are in a league with an emphasis on BS, definitely add Michalek to your list of must-haves.
Despite Mike Smith posting such great numbers (2.21 GAA – seventh and .930 SP – third), the Yotes didn’t actually record that many blocked shots (1071 – 21st in the league), to help out their goalie. Having the iron curtain of blocked shots of Yandle (77), OEL (92), Rotislav Klesla (150), Derek Morris (78), Dave Schlemko (88) and Michalek in front of him could definitely secure Smith as a top-three fantasy goalie by season’s end.
San Jose Sharks –Signed Adam Burish (four year deal), Bracken Kearns/Jon Matsumoto (one year deal) and re-signed Brad Stuart (three year deal), John McCarthy (two year deal). Lost Torrey Mitchell (Minnesota), Daniel Winnik (Anaheim), Benn Ferriero (Pittsburgh) and Mike Moore (Nashville)
Not a lot of news to report on the San Jose front as they’ve stayed relatively quiet this off-season. They lost a few depth players in Mitchell, Winnik and Ferriero, which should free up some competition against the third line of Michal Handzus, T.J. Galiardi and Adam Burish. With the offensive depth dwindling for the Sharks, you could potentially see more favourable fantasy numbers coming out of a few of the San Jose players this campaign. Since the 2008-09 season, the Sharks have posted 708, 700 and 669 points but saw it take a dramatic dip down to just 610 last campaign. If that number returns back to “normal”, you could see a much better offensive output from Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture in 2012-13.
On the defensive front, the acquisition of Stuart could prove to be very beneficial. The Sharks top-four (Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, M.A. Vlasic and Douglas Murray) sufficiently held the fort last season, but it was their bottom pairing of Colin White/Justin Braun/Jason Demers/Jim Vandermeer that really let them down. With Stuart joining the defensive corp, that could result in a top pairing of Boyle/Vlasic, then Burns and Stuart as the second unit, which then pushes Murray down to the third pairing alongside Demers or Braun and give them much more stability and physicality on that bottom pairing. I know Angus is a big fan of Braun, but I think Demers will edge him out for that sixth spot. He has a couple of extra pro seasons under his belt compared to Braun and if you breakdown the playoff numbers, Demers garnered 1:43 on the PP compared to Braun’s 0:36, it shows that Todd McClellan has a little bit more faith in Demers over Braun.
On the goalie front, Stuart brings 177 hits along with 115 BS which should boost the blue-line, especially on the physicality front which should ultimately benefit Antti Niemi. Since 2008-09, the Sharks have given up on average 2.43 (third), 2.55 (fifth), 2.54 (10th) and 2.50 (eighth) goals per game, which should continue into this season and bode well for Niemi.
St. Louis Blues – Signed Jeff Woywitka/Taylor Chorney (one year deal) and re-signed Barret Jackman (three year deal), Jamie Langenbrunner/Scott Nichol/Chris Porter (one year deals). Lost Danny Syvret (Philadelphia).
It’s interesting to see the difference that one player makes to the Blues’ lineup. Andy McDonald is the stir-stick of the Blues offense and when he is healthy he’s a gold mine for fantasy stats, but when he’s out, the team quickly resembles one that’s “offense by committee”. Berglund spent 58.6 percent of his overall ice-time alongside McDonald, which resulted in a large boost to his playoff point totals and ice-time (20:08), but expect that to return closer towards what he averaged this regular season (17:57), which should see his offensive point production plummet as well, So tread carefully if you’re thinking of acquiring/drafting Berglund.
With the additions of Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko to the Blues’ lineup, Chris Stewart’s fantasy value will be shot. I fully expect him to be moved sometime during the season. The offensive depth will just eat him alive. Keep a very close eye on David Perron, his sniping efficiency since the 2009-10 season is 14.9 percent, if he can manage to avoid the injury bug, he could be a candidate to lead the Blues in scoring this campaign.
The debate between Kevin Shattenkirk or Alex Pietrangelo is an interesting one. AP garnered much more overall ice-time than Shatty (25:26 to 21:26), but it was the reversal in terms of the division of PP ice-time (3:20 to 2:28) during the post-season. Heading into 2012-13, I might be inclined to roll the dice on Shatty rather than AP. Behind the big two could be youngster Kris Russell, he’ll fill the role left behind by Carlo Colaiacovo and eat up some of the 2:01 on the PP that is left behind.
The latest news coming from the goalie front is that Jaroslav Halak is still struggling from the high-ankle sprain suffered during the playoffs last season. GM Doug Armstrong thinks he’ll be fine for the season, but these high-ankle injuries always tend to linger well into the future. Another slight knock and it could re-aggravate it once again. So if you own or plan on drafting Halak as one of your goalies, be sure to handcuff yourself with Brian Elliott as a backup plan as well.
Vancouver Canucks – Signed Jason Garrison (six year deal), Derek Joslin/Patrick Mullen (one year deals) and re-signed Andrew Ebbett/Steve Pinizzotto/Aaron Volpatti (one year deals). Lost Marc-Andre Gragnani (Carolina), Mark Mancari (Buffalo), Aaron Rome (Dallas) and Sami Salo (Tampa Bay).
Not much news has happened up front for the Canucks. Ryan Kesler underwent labrum surgery in the off-season, which, generally speaking is the mark of death in terms of fantasy production for at least 12 months. I’d shy away from Kesler this campaign. David Booth spent 41.2 percent of his overall ice-time during the playoffs with a Sedin twin compared to just 7.8 percent during the regular season, if he manages to garner that type of ratio in 2012-13, he could really bust out.
The signing of Garrison was a big one for the Nucks, but I have a feeling it could be “Keith Ballard v2” but maybe to a slightly lesser extent. At the end of the day, Garrison was given 23:41 and 2:31 on the PP, which resulted in stat line of 33 points, a plus six rating, along with 168 SOG as the number two blue-liner in Florida. He’ll join Vancouver, where he’ll now have to compete with Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis. Sami Salo potted just 25 points in that number four role, so I wouldn’t really expect anything different from Garrison. Don’t over reach for him at the draft table, especially if his 127 hits and 124 blocked shots do look attractive at the draft table. With Aaron Rome and Salo departing, Ballard can finally secure a top-six spot without really having to earn it. I don’t think he’ll be effective in a bottom pairing role, but if an injury to the top-four were to occur, he might see his fantasy value skyrocket.
The goalie situation will continue to be murky until the Roberto Luongo situation can resolve itself. At the end of the day, the goalie market is flooded at the moment with a couple of goalies “wanting out of their situation”, so it’ll be darn near impossible to get full trade value out of an asset that’s isn’t in large demand at the moment. It depends on how stubborn Mike Gillis is going to be, but I could see this situation linger well into the season if it even gets resolved at all. Expect a 50/50 start ratio between Luongo and Cory Schneider, which will really devalue the later’s fantasy value.
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