Signing season has officially slowed down and the quietness of the NHL offseason is finally upon us. There is still, however, a lot to look forward to. Where is Jack Eichel going to be traded? What will happen with Vladimir Tarasenko? While we wait on those and other moves, let’s take a pause and provide some fantasy hockey analysis on the latest fantasy-relevant news from around the league.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Forward Signings
Jaden Schwartz is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons to date – accumulating only 21 points in just 40 games. Staying healthy has been a struggle for the 29-year-old as he has failed to play in every game in each of his nine NHL seasons. Last season, he missed 15 consecutive games due to a lower-body issue. Despite his injury woes, Schwartz has been a productive player over his time with the Blues. He had more than 50 points four times. Now a member of the Kraken, he will be playing amongst a top-six that includes Jordan Eberle, Alexander Wennberg, Jared McCann, Joonas Donskoi and Yanni Gourde (once healthy). This group of players doesn’t exactly scream production. Schwartz is going to get every opportunity to provide offence, but his team and injury issues are reasons for concern. He’s not worth the risk.
Phillip Danault is far more valuable in real life than he is in fantasy. He’s developed a well-deserved reputation as a shut-down centreman, earning him a lucrative deal with the Kings after a season where he had only five goals and 24 points in 53 games with the Canadiens. It’s tough to expect much improvement, if any, for Danault as he goes from a team that struggled to score goals to a team that scored less. Danault’s coverage of hits will help, but don’t expect more than 45 points.
Michael Bunting had instant fantasy appeal when he signed in Toronto. He’s a left-shot winger who was promptly brought in after Zach Hyman left, drawing immediate caparisons between the two. Although they play a similar brand of hockey, Bunting is far less established than Hyman. He only has 26 games of NHL experience. Last season his 10 goals were a byproduct of an inflated shooting percentage of 26.3. Thanks to a weak left side in Toronto he’s a fine late-round pick in deep leagues next season, but don’t overvalue him. Bunting could easily find his way to a bottom-six role, leaving him droppable in all formats. Expect around 35 points for the Ontario-born 25-year-old.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Defencemen Signings
Dougie Hamilton has scored more than 10 goals in each of his last seven seasons. Over that time, he’s played for Boston, Calgary and most recently Carolina. The last two seasons saw him produce at the highest rate over his career – a 70 and 63-point pace. Regardless of what he’s been able to accomplish, Hamilton’s move to New Jersey will have people skeptical about his output. He is, after all, moving from the second-best powerplay in Carolina to the fourth-worst in New Jersey. Still, expect a career-high 50-60 points from the 28-year-old. He’s that good.
Alec Martinez had 32 points in 53 games last season for a .6 points per game last season – the best of his career. Over a full 82 game season, that level of production equates to a 50-point season. Is Martinez a 50-point player? No. At least in a non-contract year, he isn’t. He’s an elite shot blocker and will put up a decent amount of points playing on a great team, but don’t expect these numbers moving forward. Martinez will likely end up around 35 points next season.
Fantasy Hockey Analysis – Goalie Signings
Philipp Grubauer was a Vezina trophy nominee last season. He had an amazing 30-9-1 record with a 1.95 GAA and .922 SV% behind the best team in the league. The Kraken are not the Avalanche. His new team is going to provide a much greater challenge. Grubauer will be less sheltered and much busier. The change in scenery plus the fact that Chris Driedger is in the mix hurts Grubauer’s value significantly. Don’t draft him based on last season’s statistics. It’s not realistic that he will replicate it.
Frederik Andersen is coming off a very disappointing season riddled with inconsistent play and injury issues that caused him to start only 23 games. He had a 13-8-3 record with a .296 GAA and a .895 SV% for the North Division-leading Maple Leafs. His tenure in Toronto ended poorly as Jack Campbell eventually usurped him as the number one goaltender. Now, Freddy finds himself on another great team with a stingier defence. He’s set up for success in Carolina and looks like a solid bet to bounce back. Andersen has three seasons of 60 or more games played in a row, proving that he’s capable of a heavy workload. With the oft-injured Antti Raanta as his backup, he’ll likely have to shoulder it again.
Backup goalies typically aren’t fantasy-relevant when they have no chance of becoming the starter, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are so good. When Andrei Vasilevskiy gets a night off, Brian Elliott becomes a great spot start option. He’ll likely be on your waiver wire all season long (as he should be), so keep an eye on the Lightning’s starter game-to-game to benefit from the team in front of him.
Tuukka Rask is an unrestricted free agent and is out recovering from a torn hip labrum that will see him return to action in January or February. The news left the Boston Bruins scrambling to find a replacement as they didn’t want to deploy a young tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Daniel Vladar. So, they brought in Linus Ullmark and shipped Vladar to Calgary. Ullmark has been able to post impressive numbers over his six-year tenure behind an underwhelming team in Buffalo. He has a career save percentage of .912 and a goals-against-average of 2.78. What’s concerning about Ullmark is that he’s only played 117 games. If Ullmark can avoid injury, we expect him to have a great season behind a great Bruins team.
RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 23: Carolina Hurricanes Defenceman Dougie Hamilton (19) controls the puck during an NHL game between the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes on November 23, 2019, at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC. (Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)