Fantasy Hockey: Offseason Review
The 2015 NHL offseason got off to a rousing start with all of the trades that occurred during the NHL draft and then a slew of free agent signings that happened at the outset of free agency. Today we are going to go over each team to take a look at the impact of their moves on Fantasy Hockey so far this summer. The teams are listed in the order of their finish in the standings last season.
New York Rangers: The Rangers didn’t make any huge additions. They did lose Martin St. Louis to retirement but that can be chalked up to addition by subtraction, as the Rangers received salary cap relief to sign several of their youngsters, players with substantial upside. Trading Cam Talbot had to hurt a bit, as he has the looks of a franchise goaltender, but with Henrik Lundqvist already signed long-term, it was better to trade Talbot rather than lose him to free agency. The team picked up Antti Raanta to replace Talbot; not a bad second choice.
Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty will be out of action for up to three months due to a knee injury he suffered during offseason work outs. The prognosis puts him back on the ice right around the opening of the season. I’ll still draft him early but he’s no longer a Top 20 player for me, as we won’t know for sure how healthy he will actually be until the season opens.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks haven’t made much noise so far, but then again, they aren’t exactly flush with cap room. They did re-sign Ryan Kesler to a contract extension and acquired Kevin Bieksa in a trade with Vancouver. Bieksa is not a top pair defenseman but he’s a solid second pair player. They also acquired Anton Khudobin from the Hurricanes, but to the surprise of many, they did not trade one of their current goaltenders (John Gibson and Frederik Andersen).
St. Louis Blues: The Blues locked up Vladimir Tarasenko to a long term contract extension. This was a must, as he has become one of the top goal scorers in the NHL and a first round pick in most Fantasy leagues. The team also signed Jake Allen to a two-year extension, a pretty good sign that he will go into this season as the starting goaltender.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have made no significant additions for Fantasy purposes, but they are trying to lock up Steven Stamkos to a long term contract.
Nashville Predators: It’s been an eventful offseason for Mike Ribeiro. First he signs a two-year contract extension, and then he settles his sexual assault civil case. I guess he will have peace of mind in training camp.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Stanley Cup champs have been awfully busy this off-season. They have traded Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, let Johnny Oduya and Antti Raanta leave via free agency, and acquired Trevor Daley and Artem Anisimov. Most of these moves are due to the salary cap. The Hawks were right up against it. Saad is an up and coming star; his loss will hurt. Daley is an offensive upgrade over Oduya and could be a Top 20 defenseman come draft day. Raanta was just a backup goaltender who might have lost his job anyway. Anisimov is probably the most interesting player the Hawks received. He will now take over the second line center role that the Hawks have been looking to fill for years; unfortunately, though, he won’t have Sharp to play with.
Washington Capitals: The Caps may have lost Joel Ward, but they did acquire T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams. Oshie finally wore out his welcome in St. Louis, not because of his personality, but just because he never lived up to his potential. Perhaps playing with Alexander Ovechkin will awaken his talent. Justin Williams will once again fill a support role on the second line. The team could be without Nicklas Backstrom (hip) for the start of the season, though; remember that come draft time.
New York Islanders: The Isles have been somewhat quiet so far and this was to be expected. There was some noise that they might trade Kyle Okposo, but in the end it was one-time top prospect Griffin Reinhart who was given a ticket out of town. That trade should make it possible for current top defensive prospect Ryan Pulock to break camp with the team. Pulock has a rocket for a shot, and he could immediately help a power play that was the main reason for the Islanders first round loss to Washington last season.
Vancouver Canucks: The trade of Eddie Lack now leaves Jacob Markstrom as the backup to Ryan Miller.
Detroit Red Wings: The Wings signed Brad Richards away from the Blackhawks. He will have the same role, however, as the second line center. The more interesting move was signing Mike Green. He was, at one time, arguably the best offensive defenseman in the game, but injuries have slowed down his game over the past couple of seasons. Green has always had issues with his defensive game, but if he can find his power play magic once again, he could be in for a big season playing with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, who signed a long term extension with the club.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild have also been quiet. The good news is they were able to sign goaltender Devan Dubnyk to a six-year $26 million contract. The bad news is that they couldn’t buy out the contract of Niklas Backstrom, as he is dealing with an elbow injury.
Ottawa Senators: Outside of alleviating their logjam at goaltender with the trade of Robin Lehner for a draft pick, the Senators haven’t done much this off-season.
Winnipeg Jets: No noise coming out of Winnipeg so far.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Unless you have been living in a cave, you know the big news to come out of Pittsburgh was the trade for top scoring winger Phil Kessel. Kessel had all sorts of issues in Toronto, from lackadaisical play to problems with the coaching staff. Now he will get to play with Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin, wow. He will essentially replace the production the team lost when James Neal was traded to Nashville after the 2013-14 season. A 40-50 goal season is not out of the question for Kessel. The team is also receiving good news on defenseman Olli Maatta (shoulder), as he is expected to be ready for training camp.
Calgary Flames: The Flames may have pulled off a coup when they acquired Dougie Hamilton. Most teams seem like they didn’t even know he was on the market. Calgary will have one of the strongest blue lines in the league.
Boston Bruins: Like Chicago, Boston has been extremely active so far. They did not take missing the playoffs last season lightly. Up and coming winger Matt Beleskey was signed. Rugged winger Milan Lucic was sent packing, as was top defender Dougie Hamilton. Will these changes work for Boston? I have my doubts for this season. This seems like a multi-year project.
Los Angeles Kings: Just about any team would tell you the Kings are no fun to play against because of their physical style of play, and now they go out and add Lucic. He will fit in perfectly with how LA likes to play. Slava Voynov (Achilles) pled guilty to domestic assault and will serve 90 days in jail. Voynov was once a solid Fantasy defender, but as of this writing it’s anyone’s guess if or when he will be reinstated into the NHL.
Dallas Stars: The Stars have also been making some changes to their roster. They made a big trade to acquire Sharp from Chicago, essentially for Daley. Then they replaced Daley by signing Oduya. Sharp may not be the first line sniper he used to be, but he’s not that far off either. Oduya won’t replace the offense of Daley but will be better in his own end. Sharp is likely to play on the second line in Dallas, as he did in Chicago, but he could also see top power play time. Signing Antti Niemi in free agency is interesting. The starting job battle between him and Kari Lehtonen is something to watch during camp.
Florida Panthers: Reilly Smith was acquired by the Panthers in what amounted to a salary cap move by the Bruins. Smith showed some promise with Boston but in the end is nothing more than a third line forward with limited upside. The team bought out the contract of Brad Boyes.
Colorado Avalanche: The bugaboo for Colorado the last few years has been the play in their own zone. They will hope Francois Beauchemin can stabilize life in front of the net, but at 35 years of age that may be asking too much.
Columbus Blue Jackets: If Kessel getting traded to Pittsburgh was the blockbuster deal of the offseason, than Saad ending up in Columbus was the shock of the offseason. Saad looked to be a future building block in Chicago, now he will move his significant talent to Columbus. The Jackets are a team to watch out for. That top line of Saad, Nick Foligno, and Ryan Johansen may be one of the best in the game, especially when you consider their age. All three of these players are likely Top 30 forwards this season.
San Jose Sharks: Joel Ward parlayed his big season in Washington into a three-year deal in San Jose, where he is likely to play on the top line with Joe Pavelski and either Joe Thornton or Logan Couture. This will give the Sharks two solid offensive lines to contend with. The bigger news may be what happens between the pipes. Antti Niemi is gone but they did acquire Martin Jones, who will now be in competition with Alex Stalock for the starting job. Neither one, though, will be a Top 10 goaltender this season. Life should be made easier for either goaltender with the addition of Paul Martin. He won’t make many Fantasy team rosters, but he’s a solid defenseman who can add a little pop offensively.
Philadelphia Flyers: One might have expected more out of a Flyers team that missed the playoffs last season, but other than re-signing Michael Del Zotto and signing Michal Neuvirth to back up Steve Mason, there hasn’t been much going on in Philly.
New Jersey Devils: If the Devils think Kyle Palmieri is the answer to their offensive woes, they have another thing coming.
Carolina Hurricanes: The addition of Eddie Lack in net will give Cam Ward some competition for the starting job and James Wisniewski can add a little bit of everything on defense, but is that really enough to get the Hurricanes back in the playoff hunt?
Toronto Maple Leafs: We all knew the Leafs were going to trade Kessel, and they did to the Penguins for draft picks and prospects, but other than that they have been quiet. Well, they did add Pierre Parenteau. Here’s hoping addition by subtraction works in Toronto.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers literally won the lottery when they received the first overall pick in this year’s draft. To on one’s surprise they selected Connor McDavid, who most believe will be the next big superstar in the NHL. He will be everyone’s first pick in dynasty league drafts and is likely to be taken in redraft leagues as well, as Edmonton has shown in the past that they aren’t afraid to play their top picks from the get go. Who he’ll play with however is still a mystery. The team also solidified their goaltending by acquiring Cam Talbot, a player who some believe can be a franchise net minder, but one who won’t have the Rangers defense playing in front of him anymore.
Arizona Coyotes: There may not be much to look forward to in Arizona this season, with the exception of third overall pick Dylan Strome (if he makes the team) and Anthony Duclair (acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle deal). Mikkel Boedker is a sleeper, however.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres may have been the worst team in the league last year, but they won’t be this season. Sure, they were disappointed when they couldn’t draft McDavid, but Jack Eichel will also be a star in the NHL. They then went out and acquired Lehner to play goal and Ryan O’Reilly to help out the offense. Let’s also not forget they acquired Evander Kane at the trade deadline last season, and he will be 100-percent healthy entering training camp.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
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