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Fantasy Reactions to NHL Free Agency

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. In this one I’m going to break down the recent unrestricted free agent signings and talk about potential fantasy implications for the players involved and affected. I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server where I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Brock McGinn’s signing in Pittsburgh, the correct sequence for putting condiments on a hamburger, or anything else that no one besides me cares about.

Dougie Hamilton – NJD – 7 years, $9 million AAV

Hamilton was arguably the single biggest free agent name available this offseason, and the New Jersey Devils made use of their mountain of cap space to land him on a mammoth $63-million deal. Unfortunately I don’t view this move as a positive for Hamilton’s fantasy stock. He was in a fairly ideal situation in Carolina as the clear cut PP1 quarterback with a cast of stars around him in Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen. New Jersey doesn’t have a single player of that caliber much less three, and while Hamilton is certainly talented enough to drive chances and points on his own, it’s hard to see a path for him to reach his true 65-70 point ceiling on a bottom half offensive team. Hamilton will likely still be a top 10 defenseman for fantasy but may fall out of my top 5.

Phillipp Grubauer – SEA – 6 years, $5.9 million AAV

Grubauer’s stock took a significant hit in my eyes going from the mighty Colorado Avalanche to the expansion Seattle Kraken. I am somewhat bullish on the possibility of the Kraken being an above average defensive team, but the Kraken already have Chris Driedger signed to a significant deal. Grubauer certainly got starter-level money, but Driedger didn’t get backup money and unless Ron Francis has more deals up his sleeve, Driedger will see plenty of starts in 2021/22. I’d anticipate a 60/40 start split, a far cry from Grubauer’s 2021 season as the unquestioned top option in Colorado. There are some advanced stats that suggest that Grubauer benefited significantly from Colorado’s dominance in a weak division and that he may be hard-pressed to repeat his performance from last season.

Taylor Hall – BOS – 4 years, $6 million AAV

Taylor Hall had a tale of two seasons, mired in Buffalo for much of the year with abysmal counting stats then re-emerging as a legitimate fantasy option immediately upon his arrival in Boston. A significant portion of Hall’s value for me disappeared when David Krejci retired and vacated the second line center position in Boston, but regardless it does seem likely that Hall will see top power play time with the Bruin stars Bergeron, Pastrnak, and Marchand. Hall’s point-per-game days are almost certainly a thing of the past, but he certainly has 60-65 point upside if he is able to stick on PP1 all year.

Tyson Barrie – EDM – 3 years, $4.5 million AAV

Barrie led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 48 points in 56 games this past season and chose to run it back alongside Connor McDavid and company for three more years. Barrie will continue to be an elite offensive asset with next to zero peripherals as long as he’s feeding McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on that explosive Oiler power play. A 65-70 point pace once again next year is easily within his range of outcomes.

Jaden Schwartz – SEA – 5 years, $5.5 million AAV

I anticipated that Seattle would add a top-6 forward via free agency, but I did not think that Schwartz would be the target at this term and cap hit. Regardless, Schwartz walks into a situation where he will be relied upon for offense and given every opportunity to provide it. Schwartz may get 18-19 minutes a night and should be a lock for the top line and first power play unit. His ceiling will certainly be capped by the lack of talent around him, but if he gets that kind of prime deployment, he can volume his way to a 55-point season.

Alexander Wennberg – SEA – 3 years, $4.5 million AAV

This was a shocker for me, but Seattle clearly saw a need to fill a center spot with Yanni Gourde expected to miss the first portion of the season. Wennberg is not interesting to me as a fantasy option, much less so on a Seattle team that will almost certainly be challenged to create much offense. Wennberg will have to blow my socks off for me to even consider picking him up off waivers midseason.

Darcy Kuemper – COL – Traded from ARZ

Darcy Kuemper went from one of the league’s worst situations in Arizona to one of the league’s best with the Avalanche. Well known as a bandaid boy, Kuemper is likely to split time with Pavel Francouz and hopefully stay healthy long enough to return value to his fantasy managers. Kuemper has been stellar for a few years now when healthy, and adding his talent to Colorado’s possession-dominant squad could be a recipe for fantasy gold. Kuemper will be a high risk, high reward goaltender for the 2021/22 fantasy season.

Zach Hyman – EDM – 7 years, $5.5 million AAV

I don’t know if anyone has been afforded the opportunity to play alongside better linemates than Hyman. Straight off the Matthews/Marner line in Toronto to a projected top line spot alongside Connor McDavid, Hyman should be pick up where he left off digging out pucks on the forecheck and getting them to his more skilled linemates to make the magic happen. Hyman has had significant knee injuries and one has to wonder if the physical abuse he takes due to his net-front brand of hockey is catching up with him a bit early at age 29, but if he can stay healthy he will flirt with 25 goals and 60 points alongside McDavid.

Phillip Danault – LAK – 6 years, $5.5 million AAV

A very odd pickup by the Los Angeles Kings with highly regarded center prospects Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte nearly ready for the NHL and captain Anze Kopitar still an upper echelon two-way center at age 34. Danault’s value is in the defensive game and one has to wonder if he’ll be given any quality linemates or ice time with which to provide fantasy relevance. I won’t be drafting Danault in any 12-team leagues this fall.

Blake Coleman – CGY – 6 years, $4.9 million AAV

Coleman signed a very healthy deal with the Calgary Flames after making a name for himself with the Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Coleman has been a middle six forward for most of his career but has also had hot stretches. His individual chances for numbers are always high up there so it will be interesting to see if Calgary gives him the opportunity to play a scoring role for them. I’ll adopt a wait-and-see approach with Coleman, as it could take a while for the Flames to figure out the best way to deploy him within the context of their lineup.

Linus Ullmark – BOS – 4 years, $5 million AAV

Ullmark lands in an interesting spot with the Bruins, who were carried by the emerging Jeremy Swayman late in the year. Many (including myself) thought the Bruins would prefer a split starter like a Petr Mrazek or Jonathan Bernier to bring Swayman along more, but Ullmark got starter level money and term. The Bruins should be a top team in the Atlantic once again despite the aforementioned departure of Krejci, which should put Ullmark in a favourable position to return some fantasy value. If he slips to the 8th/9th round or later in my drafts I would definitely entertain Ullmark as part of a #ZeroG strategy.

Petr Mrazek – TOR – 3 years, $3.8 million AAV

Mrazek went from one good team to another, signing a three year deal for a bit under $4 million annually. Mrazek should split the net with 2021 sensation Jack Campbell, and either player could end up taking the lion’s share of starts. The Leafs are not committed to Campbell beyond this season, which means they will certainly want to evaluate both Mrazek and Campbell fairly this year before making any decisions on Campbell’s future with the team for next year. I anticipate this situation being very close to a 50/50 split with perhaps a slight edge to Mrazek. The Leafs are a legitimately good (if not great) defensive team, so when he’s starting Mrazek should be useful. If he’s going late in drafts he could be a nice #ZeroG target.

Frederik Andersen – CAR – 2 years, $4.5 million AAV

I’m conflicted on Andersen, a goalie I watched a lot of over the past number of years with my Maple Leafs. I believe Andersen is already experiencing some deterioration of play and is dangerously close to obtaining his bandaid boy membership with the amount of health issues he’s compiled in recent years. On the other hand, he has a strong opportunity to garner a ton of starts for a very good Hurricanes team. My guess is that he will be picked in the 5th or 6th rounds of most drafts come draft season, and at that price I will definitely be out.

Mike Hoffman – MTL – 3 years, $4.5 million AAV

I believe Hoffman is still a 30-goal, 60-point player in the right situation. I am far less convinced that the right situation is in Montreal. I don’t see any compelling reason for coach Dominique Ducharme to deviate from the even deployment of his lines (both on the power play and at even strength) that got Montreal to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. If that’s the case, Hoffman will be severely capped as a PP specialist who is below average at generating significant chances for at 5v5. I would be surprised to see Hoffman skate more than 16 minutes a game in 2021/22, and he’ll most likely do that away from Montreal’s most dynamic forwards in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. I won’t be paying for Hoffman’s services in any drafts this fall.

Brandon Saad – STL – 5 years, $4.5 million AAV

Saad signed a 5-year, $4.5 million per year deal with the Blues on Thursday. There are some positives and negatives to the move for Saad’s fantasy value. On the positive side, Saad could see a bump in deployment, particularly if he meshes well with Ryan O’Reilly on the top line. On the other side, Saad was in a nice spot in Colorado as well, getting to play weaker competition with very talented linemates. In the end I don’t foresee a major change in Saad’s production in either direction, and he should remain a streaming-level player in most leagues this season.

Mikael Granlund – NSH – 4 years, $5 million AAV

Granlund chose to sign back with the Predators and got a nice deal to do so. I’m not bullish on the Predators in general but Granlund should be part of the top power play with Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, and Eeli Tolvanen and get his fair share of points that way. He averages a cool 19 and a half minutes of ice per game, so he’ll get the opportunity to be relevant. I’m just not sure he has upside beyond 50 points.

Boone Jenner – CLB – 4 years – $3.75 million AAV

Jenner is a quintessential example of the “better real life player than fantasy player” conundrum. Jenner probably doesn’t have another 20 goal season in him anymore, but he’s still banger league relevant with his hits and blocks. Outside of that, he’s not likely to come across your fantasy radar in 2021/22.

Paul Stastny – WPG – 1 year, $3.75 million AAV

Stastny was surprisingly used on the top power play unit in Winnipeg for much of the 2021 season, and will return to a top-six role for the Jets next year. I do think that there’s a good chance either Pierre-Luc Dubois or Nikolaj Ehlers supplants him on PP1 this year, which would probably completely ruin his fantasy relevance. I’m unlikely to draft Stastny unless I know he’s going to open the season on that top unit.

Nick Foligno – BOS – 2 years, $3.8 million AAV

Foligno has had several seasons of fantasy relevance over his career, but it seems likely that those days are largely behind us. Foligno’s injuries are starting to pile up as the years of hard-nosed play take their toll. Unless Foligno manages to somehow snag a net front role on the Boston PP1, I won’t be interested in him for fantasy this year.

Tony DeAngelo – CAR – 1 year, $1 million AAV

Apart from all of the controversy regarding this signing, one has to realize the opportunity that DeAngelo is walking into here. DeAngelo only has one appeal as a Keith Yandle type offensive defenseman who is a complete liability in his own zone, so it stands to reason that the Hurricanes are willing and likely to drop DeAngelo right into Dougie Hamilton’s vacated role on the top power play. 50 points is certainly not out of the question if DeAngelo can keep the off-ice distractions quiet for the whole year. I’ll likely end up owning a fair bit of DeAngelo if his ADP stays as low as I think it will this year.

Jonathan Bernier – NJD – 2 years, $4.125 million AAV

An interesting signing for the Devils, who already have their presumptive starter in Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood had plenty of struggles last year, but the Devils didn’t exactly make things easy on him. Bernier and Blackwood splitting time nearly evenly makes a lot of sense for both parties, and they should both be streamable options against weaker opponents if the Devils take another step as I expect them to.

Jaroslav Halak – VAN – 1 year, $1.5 million AAV

Halak is the perfect backup and the best case UFA scenario for Thatcher Demko truthers, as he won’t push Demko for starts much but can spell him as much as he requires. Demko will likely be a valuable play in volume-focused leagues, and Halak will be streamable in the right situations.

Braden Holtby – DAL – 1 year, $2 million AAV

We’re just going to have to wait and see what’s going on in Dallas, who now have Holtby, Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger all in house. Holtby’s signing could be construed as a sign that Bishop’s rehab is not progressing as well as had been hoped and that either Khudobin or Oettinger is not considered a part of this organization’s future plans. Either way, I’m putting a pin in this one until more moves are made.

Nick Ritchie/Ondrej Kase/Michael Bunting

Call this the audition crew. Two of these guys will get the opportunity to join the Leafs’ top 4 forwards (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander) in a highly desirable role. Ritchie was given the bigger contract with two years of term, but Kase and Bunting probably have more upside. This will certainly be a situation worth monitoring; if any of the three can build chemistry with either the Matthews or Tavares pair there could be 50-55 point upside. Worth noting that this means that Ilya Mikheyev and Nick Robertson are not in the Leafs’ immediate plans for a top six role as some had projected. Robertson will likely get a late season call up once again, but it seems the Leafs want to let him marinate a little longer.

Danton Heinen/Brock McGinn

These signings went under the radar, but either could find themselves in a top-six role alongside Crosby or Malkin at some point this season and that would certainly be worth investing in. Jason Zucker has done little to entrench himself in that role and Kasperi Kapanen may or may not be able to sustain last year’s production. Both Heinen and McGinn have had spurts of promise and productivity, and I could be convinced that McGinn in particular is right now a better fit in the Pens’ top six than Zucker.

That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter, on TikTok, or join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

Title photo credit: Gregg Forwerck – Getty Images

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Published by Apples & Ginos

Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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