It’s free agency day! With many fantasy-relevant players like Dougie Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog and others without a contract, there is still a lot of news on the horizon. First, let’s look back at some of the recent news and what it means as we look ahead to the 2021-2022 fantasy hockey season. If you missed any of the other offseason fantasy hockey analysis pieces, check them out here.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Signings
36-year-old Paul Stastny is back with the Jets. He spent most of his time in the top-six as the second line centre before shuffling to the wing on various occasions when Pierre-Luc Dubois joined the team. His deployment was favorable, and yet he only finished with 29 points in 56 games. With Dubois and Mark Scheifele likely occupying the middle of the ice, Stastny isn’t guaranteed a full-time job beside one of them. With that in question and a lack of peripheral stat coverage, Stastny isn’t appealing looking ahead to next season. Expect regression to 30-35 points.
Keith Yandle‘s value takes a significant hit moving from the Panthers to the Flyers. He goes from being a top offensive weapon to a third or fourth option as the Flyers blueline is crowded with prolific powerplay specialists. Ivan Provorov, Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen have all proven that they can produce offence with the man-advantage and should all be drafted ahead of him based on their contributions to other categories. Expect around 40 points for Yandle in a Flyers uniform.
A curious move by the Hurricanes sends Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings after a season where he led the league in GAA and SV% (among goalies with at least 17 games played). It’s hard to imagine he’s able to replicate those numbers behind a far less superior team in Detroit. The move is an obvious blow to his fantasy stock. Not only is the team not as good, but he’s still in a tandem situation with Thomas Greiss under contract for another season. Expect Nedeljkovic to get between 45-50 starts with a GAA around 2.55 and a SV% around .915.
Who is the real Sam Bennett? The player who had 12 points in 38 games in Calgary or the player who had 15 points in 10 games in Florida. The Fantasy Hockey Bros discussed this on their most recent episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hwr6L7Xo6JI&t=6s. What we know is that Bennett’s production as a Panther was unsustainable. He was shooting at 15.4%, which was the highest over his six-year career. That said, Bennett has quickly woven himself into the fabric of his new team. He has solidified himself as the second line centre and should continue to have far more success than he had on Calgary. Expect him to get between 50-55 points and 175+ hits.
Fresh off his career best season where he posted 48 points in 56 games, Pavel Buchnevich was moved to St. Louis. It was a season that saw him average nearly 19 minutes of ice time, two more than his previous high. Buchnevich proved that with more opportunity came more production. On St. Louis, the opportunity is there. The Blues currently have Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn and David Perron as staples in their top-six. The uncertainty of Tarasenko further emphasizes that the Blues will rely on Buchnevich to produce. But will he? Although efficient, Buchnevich is not a heavy shooter. His lack of peripheral coverage coupled with the fact that he’s on a new team have us tempering our expectations. The 70-point pace he set this season is asking too much. Expect 55-60 points.
Alex Ovechkin is coming off his worst goals per game (.53) since the 2016-2017 season when he only had 33 goals in 82 games. His shots per game (4.04) and hits per game (2.18) were also down compared to previous years. Despite the slight regression, we’re still talking about great numbers. Even if this pace remains consistent for next season, he’s still an extremely valuable asset. He will be 36 at the beginning of the season but don’t let that deter you. Ovechkin is a machine and should continue to provide fantasy owners with multi-category coverage this year and beyond. Expect 40-45 goals and 75-80 points next season.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Trades
Sam Reinhart was the only bright spot on the Sabres last season. He managed to score 25 goals and 40 points amidst the dumpster fire around him, leading his team in both categories. Now on Florida, Reinhart has a variety of weapons around him. Not only are the players better, but the role he played on Buffalo is already filled. Reinhart mostly played centre at five-on-five and net-front on the powerplay. With Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett occupying the middle of the ice and Patric Hornqvist playing net front with the man-advantage, Reinhart’s play will dictate his deployment. He’s also due for a shooting percentage correction as he shot at an incredible 19.2% last season. Expect Reinhart to get between 55-60 points with minimal peripheral category coverage.
By either points or pace, Jakub Voracek has been a 66-point player over his past three seasons in Philadelphia. The move to Columbus doesn’t bode well for his fantasy value though. He will be counted on to provide offense on a team that has struggled to score goals in the past. Those who draft Voracek would be hoping that he’s able to click with either Patrik Laine or Oliver Bjorkstrand. Given that Voracek won’t provide anything other than assists and points, the change in environment makes him a risky pick with little reward. There are better options in multi-category leagues.
Cam Atkinson has had flashes of brilliance over his 10 seasons in Columbus. He had more than 60 points twice, scoring 35 and 41 goals in each of those seasons. Now with the Flyers, he is one of many offensive options to turn to. He may not average the near 19 minutes of ice time he did over the past few years in Columbus, but he will have better players surrounding him. Deployment will be key here. With the added risk involved with going to a new team, don’t expect Atkinson to get back over the 60-point hump. Expect between 40-45 points.
Reigning Vezina trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury is on his way to the Chicago Blackhawks. As of this writing, there are rumours that he may decide to retire rather than report to his new team. Assuming he does go, Fleury finds himself on a reloaded team that could surprise. He’s without-a-doubt the number one goalie in the Windy City, but at 36 years old after having the best statistical season of his career, there’s no way he’s going to improve. Goalies tend to be drafted based on how they performed the year before, meaning he will be overvalued. Expect around a 2.55 GAA and a .915 SV%.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Injuries
Yanni Gourde underwent surgery on his right shoulder and is expected to have a four-month rehab. Under that timetable, he’s likely to miss 15-17 games. Based on the Seattle Kraken’s depth at centre, Gourde is an intriguing option as we look ahead to fantasy drafts for next season. He will get every opportunity to produce on a team lacking star-power. That said, that will also hinder his output. Gourde could get around 40 points while playing between 60-65 games.
WINNIPEG, MB March 17: Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) makes a save on a shot by Winnipeg Jets forward Paul Stastny (25) during the regular season game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Montreal Canadiens on March 17, 2021 at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg MB. (Photo by Terrence Lee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)