If you are in fantasy hockey leagues that use player salaries instead of cap hits, you surely know that the occasional extreme fluctuations in salary from one year to another play a vital role in how people perceive players and operate their respective teams. Sometimes it can work to your advantage. For example, the latter years of a frontloaded contract are typically minuscule compared to the first few years. However, there are situations where a sudden hike in salary can adversely affect a player’s value to your team and also cripple your budget. This week we will examine players from the Eastern Conference whose cost will take a bad turn in the near future.

Milan Michalek – Ottawa

2012-13: $4,750,000
2013-14: $6,000,000

Milan Michalek enjoyed what should be perceived as a career year – a personal-best 35 goals and a second-best 60 points in a year where goals were extremely scarce. Only 10 players scored more goals last year. Moving forward, Michalek should continue to be a good scoring option for the Senators. However, it would be wise to temper expectations.

A lot of things went well in Ottawa during the 2011-12 campaign and it is certainly possible that a team with so much young talent suffers some setbacks in the near future. Also, you have to look at Michalek himself. In his first two seasons in Ottawa his points-per-game was just 0.51 and his career shooting percentage is 12.7% compared to a bloated 16.5% last year. If his ratio of shots on goal per-game stay steady and his shooting percentage returns to his career average, he would have scored 27 goals last season.

With all of this in mind, you have to be careful with Michalek. There are strong arguments that can be made for a decline in production, and with a salary that is climbing to $6 million in 2013-14, it will be tough for him to provide reasonable value to your team.

Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay

2012-13: $3,000,000
2013-14: $3,000,000
2014-15: $4,000,000
2015-16: $5,750,000

In the real NHL Victor Hedman’s contract is not seen as a liability. His cap hit is $4 million which is normal for a defenseman of his caliber. In roto leagues he provides enough multi-category value to justify the money, but in a points-only setting his development is nearing a crucial point.

Despite his potential, Hedman’s career-high so far is a meager 26 points. He showed signs of improvement last year but has yet to put it all together for fantasy owners. With Matt Carle now in Tampa Bay, it remains to be seen if Hedman is his future sidekick or if someone like Mark Barberio will eventually secure the spot.

In the end, Hedman’s offensive production has been pretty ordinary thus far and if he does not show major improvement soon you may be better off looking elsewhere for cheaper production. There are tons of examples of defensemen who can produce 30-40 points at a discount rate.

Anders Lindback – Tampa Bay

2012-13: $1,400,000
2013-14: $2,200,000

Regardless of how Anders Lindback fares with the Lightning, his salary is not going to cripple your team. However, in two NHL seasons he has appeared in a grand total of 38 games. He remains an unknown in terms of his readiness to be a #1 goaltender in the NHL.

With a capable Mathieu Garon in the fold, expect to see a split in starts at first. Lindback is the golden boy so if he proves to be ready he will get the bulk of the work. But if he struggles then expect the crease sharing to continue. His 2013-14 salary could look bad if he struggles and only receives a small chunk of the available minutes.

Michael Grabner – NY Islanders

2012:13: $2,000,000
2013-14: $3,000,000
2014-15: $4,000,000
2015-16: $5,000,000

After posting 34 goals and 52 points in 2011-12, Michael Grabner regressed to just 20 goals and 32 points last season. Which Grabner is the real one? A case can be made for either scenario and there is enough talent down the middle on the Islanders’ team to help him improve upon last year’s numbers.

One key factor to consider is that 2010-11 was a contract year for Grabner. He has been wildly inconsistent during his career but was able to keep it together during that campaign. There is also a lot of talent being developed by the organization which could push him out of the top-six in the near future.

Simply put, Grabner is a gamble and his salary climbs by $1 million every year. In a points-only format as of 2013-14 his salary can only be justified if he can return to 50+ points. In roto leagues his value does not really change because he does not take penalties, does not get hits and has been a non-factor on the power play. You are probably better off letting someone else gamble on him returning to respectability.

Marc Staal – NY Rangers

2012-13: $3,775,000
2013-14: $3,875,000
2014-15: $5,450,000

Despite being a defensive-minded defenseman, Marc Staal has appeal in fantasy leagues. Much like Hedman, Staal has yet to hit the 30-point mark but has a lot of untapped potential as a point producer. Prior to an injury-plagued campaign last year, he had shown an improvement in his point totals each year since entering the NHL and peaked at 29 points in 2010-11.

Staal definitely has less offensive talent than Hedman and carries less value in both points-only and roto formats. His salary is also higher than Hedman’s this year as well as the next two seasons. In points-only leagues you should look immediately for cheaper alternatives. In roto leagues he provides decent value until 2014-15 when his salary rises to $5,450,000.


In the weekly piece "Capped", Eric Daoust breaks down the latest fantasy information from the standpoint of salary-cap leagues - the bargains, the busts and more.


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You can find Eric on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.

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