It’s the calm before the storm. With free agency set to open up tomorrow, the offseason is only going to get busier. It’s been a wild ride so far, so we’re back with the third installment of offseason fantasy hockey analysis. If you missed the first or second piece, check them out in the links. Here is some insight on the recent fantasy-relevant news.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Signings
The Edmonton Oilers circled back on Mike Smith after a remarkable season where he had 21 wins in 32 games. He finished the season with a SV% of .923 and a GAA of 2.31. Over his 15-year career, those stats rank second and third, respectively. At 39 years old, the Oilers should not expect the same level of production, nor should you. As it stands now, the tandem of Smith and Mikko Koskinen is extremely volatile. Do yourself a favor and pass on them in fantasy drafts this Fall.
The fantasy world has soured on Taylor Hall since he spent time in Arizona and Buffalo. Each of those two stints combined, he accumulated 46 points in 72 games. Once Hall was moved to Boston, he had 14 points in 16 games prior to a postseason that saw him score three goals and five points in 11 games. The Bruins provide Hall with a situation he hasn’t been in throughout his career. He won’t be “the guy”. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron will all be looked to for offence before Hall will. That position makes projecting Hall’s season a little more difficult. He will not likely see minutes on the top powerplay unit with the big boys and his centeman is still to be determined. Still, Hall is a very skilled player and will spend most of his time against second pairing defencemen. He won’t be the point per game player that he has in the past, but a 60–65-point season is definitely attainable.
Cale Makar was the only defenceman to have a point per game last season. His 44 points tied him with John Carlson for fifth in scoring among defencemen despite missing 12 more games than the leader Tyson Barrie. Not only is Makar a point machine, but he provides decent contributions to every category. At 22 years old, he’s only going to get better. His injury troubles over his only two NHL seasons should not worry you, yet. It’s too early for that to affect his draft stock. Take him as one of the top five d-men, as a full season could see Makar surpass 70 points.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Trades
Shayne Gostisbehere was a headache for fantasy owners last season. Despite being the only Flyer to have a powerplay goal (he had 5) and leading defencemen in powerplay points per 60 minutes, he found himself in and out of the lineup. When he was playing, he was on the top powerplay unit and producing at a decent clip. Gostisbehere is only 28 years old and still has obvious offensive ability. He should be able to maintain a regular spot in the lineup in Arizona and could find his offensive flare once again. He’ll be behind Jakob Chychrun, but he has a chance to be a decent depth defenceman in deep leagues. Expect him to finish with 30-35 points.
Seth Jones’s point totals have steadily declined since he peaked with 57 points in the 2017-2018 season with the Blue Jackets. Last season was one of his worst. He only had 28 points and was a minus 18. Now in Chicago, 26-year-old Jones is hoping to reverse the trend, and he will have every opportunity to do so. He’ll be the only defenceman on a loaded powerplay that will likely include Patrick Kane, Kirby Dach, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. Bank on Jones flipping the switch. He will contribute positively across the board and should get somewhere between 45-50 points. He could be a very good value pick in the mid-rounds of fantasy drafts.
Rasmus Ristolainen was one of many Buffalo Sabres to have a dismal season. He only had 18 points in 49 games. However, regardless of points, Ristolainen was able to maintain significant value in leagues that include both hits (193) and blocks (68). He’s a peripheral stud and will continue to be on the Philadelphia Flyers. With Ivan Provorov and newly acquired Ryan Ellis likely ahead of him for offensive opportunities, Ristolainen’s offensive output will be hindered. Still, he’s a valuable fantasy asset and should get between 35-40 points with a healthy amount of hits, blocks and shots.
Ekman-Larsson and Garland Traded
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has left much to be desired since his 21-goal, 55-point season six years ago. With his play trending down, the trade chatter gradually increased to the point where it affected his play over the past couple of years. The Coyotes did what was best, both for him and his fantasy value. OEL’s situation won’t change all that much. Last season Jakob Chychrun jumped him on the depth chart and on Vancouver, Quinn Hughes will be ahead of him. Even so, the 30-year-old Swede will do much better with a change in scenery. Expect between 40-45 points.
Conor Garland is coming off a great season where he had 39 points in 49 games – a full season 65-point pace. He now moves to a team in Vancouver with better offensive talent and maintains his role in the top-six. Garland won’t provide many hits or blocks, but the situation is good for him. He could get between 55-60 points.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Injuries
Weber Out for Season
Weber’s expected absence for the entirely of the 2021/2022 NHL season will send ripples through the Canadiens lineup. From a fantasy perspective though, the biggest beneficiary is Jeff Petry. Petry has become the Habs top point producing d-man after outpacing Weber in each of the last three seasons. He will be leaned on even more now. Petry had 42 points in 55 games last season, which pro-rates to a 63-point season. General Manager Marc Bergevin may go out and grab some help to replace Weber, but right now, Petry looks like a solid bet to surpass his career high of 46 points.
DENVER, COLORADO – FEBRUARY 22: Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche looks for an opening against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the second period at Ball Arena on February 22, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)