Friday, August 29, 2014

Oilers Lock Up Schultz

The last piece of the restricted free agent puzzle has been solved for the Edmonton Oilers, as they re-signed standout defenseman Justin Schultz to a new 1-year deal, worth $3.675 million.

Schultz, who just completed a 2-year entry-level deal out of college has received a bridge deal to what could be a long-term deal next year.  The 24-year rearguard will have to improve on some numbers and help lift the team into a playoff spot to ensure an excellent long-term deal, which may mean, he'll have to carry this team for a little while.

In the 2014 season, Schultz registered 11 goals and 33 points in 74 games for the Oilers, which was good enough for 39th among all defensemen in scoring.  My projections for him should reach around the 45-point mark, which will get him into the conversation for one of the better offensive defensemen in the league.

Salary CapEven with the addition of Schultz to the projected roster, the Oilers still have lots of roster spots to fill.  Seven spots, to be completely honest, and now they only have $8.4 million in salary cap space to use to fill it up.  There will be a big push to fill the spots with their youth and depth players, which will mean they will have space for a move down the road, but it won't likely be a big addition.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Guide to the Injury Prone for 2014

This is definitely one of my favourite lists to do on the blog, as it provides a little bit of homework and allows for a little bit more confidence in my own projection lists.  When it comes to draft day, I like the thought of knowing that I can choose between an injury prone player and a reasonably healthy player... and I know which one I would choose.

I wouldn't necessarily overlook an injury prone player, I know I've taken some in the past, but I will try to assess some risk and take these players in more of a position of strength, instead of picking them too early.  These are the kind of players I would rather make a bargain out of, then take the chance that they will actually hit their target projections.

In last year's follies, finishing 8th in the draft, I did have three of my noted injury prone players at one point or another.  Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner and Kevin Bieksa were all chosen last year and they didn't disappoint... in my assessment of their injury prone nature.  Bieksa ended up being best, missing only six games, while Skinner missed 11 and I had to drop Gaborik in November to a major knee injury.  My team still finished 4th in skater games played, but it wasn't enough.  My goaltending decisions at the draft let me down.

Remarkably, no one in the money actually finished in the top four in skater games, but all four teams had high scoring rates from their appearances, but they were not slouches in the game-playing category either.  Having guys on the ice will give you a better chance at winning, then you have to worry about how well they actually score.

So, we'll have a look at the new names to the list and then we'll go over those who have been added before.

Two concussions in the span of 12 months will definitely land you on the injury prone list. Newly-acquired forward for the Nashville Predators, James Neal, suffered two concussions between the 2013 & 2014 season and he has now been added. In the 2013 season, he missed eight games and last season, he missed 23 games due to injury. Sure, he played 80 games in 2011 and 79 games in 2010, but now that we're into concussion territory, I grow awfully weary of those and don't prefer having the soft heads on my hockey pool team.

In the last four seasons, the best that Ryan Callahan was able to muster was 45 out of 48 games in the 2013 season. Last year, Callahan missed 17 games in New York, before his trade out to Tampa Bay, where he was able to finish out the year. Callahan does play a rough and tumble game, which hasn't allowed him to play a full year in recent memory, so his projections should be tempered somewhat for the year.

Another player with a pair of concussions in the 2014 season gets added to the list, as Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson should be taken with a grain of salt too.  An illegal hit from John Scott, who is now with the San Jose Sharks, got the ball rolling on Eriksson's addition to the list and Brooks Orpik, who is now in Washington, hit him again not long after he returned, sending him back through the league's protocol.  That's not something that you want to see happen to a player, but it does from time-to-time.

In terms of receiving some mild consideration, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak was noted through the 2014 season to possibly put here and after consideration, I think it might be a good idea. Bozak only played in 58 games for Toronto last season, thanks to a hamstring injury and an oblique injury, and he has missed some time in the two seasons previously, although not quite as major.  I may not want to discount him too badly, but I do want to add names to this list and his did come up.

Officially getting added to the list is Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian, who hasn't had the most luck in recent memory either. Groin problems, starting in November last season, really took a toll on the offensive defender, which limited his year to only 55 games. In 2013, he missed 15 games, 2012 saw him miss 17 games and 2011, he missed 11 games.  Some of those numbers are not too bad, but at the same time, he doesn't appear to be a lock for 82 games and should be projected to be that way.

After rocketing to the top of the goal scoring lead in 2014, Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues came crashing back down to Earth, due to injury.  Steen also suffered a concussion during the year and didn't quite come back just right.  He still finished 51st in pool scoring and had a productive year, but he has missed significant time in the past, including 39 games in 2012.  I would be a tad weary of how many games he'll be able to play, since he hasn't strung together an 82-game (or 48-game in 2013) season in a while.

I don't want to come across as picking on a guy with Multiple Sclerosis, but this is a hockey pool blog, where we are dealing with small amounts of friendly gambling. Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild does have MS and is bravely keeping his NHL career alive with his treatments and medication, but there is no cure for this disease and there is just no telling, especially publicly, when it will get the better of him.  The reports of him before training camp are positive, but it should be noted that he is still dealing with it and that should go into your consideration for your hockey pool team.

Looking over Mike Cammalleri's numbers over the past four seasons, he hasn't done very well with those 82-game schedules. In his time in Calgary, he couldn't eclipse the 70-game mark in the full seasons, but he flew under the radar after the shortened year, playing in 44 of 48 games.  This might be an issue that continues on, as Cammalleri has moved onto New Jersey through free agency.  He may have been given a fresh start to his career, but with another 82-game schedule released, I would have my worries about this trend and this winger.

A brand new Winnipeg Jets player gets added to the list, to go with a long-time player, as Mathieu Perreault doesn't quite have the strongest of trends in terms of games played either. Perreault missed 13 games with the Ducks in 2014, missed 9 games with the Capitals in 2013 and an upper-body injury with the Capitals in 2012 didn't help his cause either. He doesn't have a terrible track record, but I don't think I could trust him on my list, to be perfectly honest with you.  A definite 'buyer beware' situation.

Players Added in Years Past

Alexander Semin and Joffrey Lupul were both added to the list in 2010 and both of them suffered pretty good injuries in November of last season.  Semin had a concussion and Lupul had a pretty serious groin injury, keeping them out their respective line-ups.  These two will remain on the list as some pretty high risk players.

Marian Gaborik, now with the Los Angeles Kings, suffered a pretty good knee injury in Columbus, before his trade to the Stanley Cup champs, which caused him to miss significant time.  Gaborik was a 2009 addition and you should tread lightly around him still.

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green also missed 12 games last season, keeping up a reputation of being somewhat soft.  He is in the final year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of it, so he better shape up for the Summer, if he wants to get paid.

A common player on the list and rightfully so, Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen.  He only played in 54 games for Detroit and was still deemed pool worthy, ranking in at 172nd overall in scoring.  Yes, he may be better than a lot of players, even for missing 28 games, but I would count on him to miss time and not project his numbers with 82 games.

Stephen Weiss of the Red Wings, was acquired last year to add some depth to their forward lines, instead, he added depth to their infirmary, playing in only 28 games last season.  That took him right out of contention for pool-worthiness, but he does insist that he is better and is ready to go for 2015.

The Penguins do expect to see Kristopher Letang back in action again this season, despite suffering a stroke late last year.  Letang had a tough year all around, also suffering other injuries that kept him out of the line-up, but the stroke was a real doozy.  He is a top end defender, when healthy, but he hasn't been completely healthy since 2011.

Also in Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin had a tough year, dealing with lower-body injuries, including a foot injury, which the team kept him out of the line-up for the last 11 games, mostly to be ready for the playoffs.  This is also a concern for most superstar players, heading into the post-season.  Malkin does get banged up a lot and if the team will, they will rest him leading up to the big games.

Names also to consider: Jeff Skinner of the Canes, Paul Stastny of the Blues, Daniel Briere of the Avs, Vincent Lecavalier of the Flyers, David Booth of the Leafs, Martin Hanzal of the Coyotes, Martin Havlat of the Devils and Kari Lehtonen of the Stars.

One name that is on the list, trying to make a comeback, is forward Simon Gagne, who didn't play in the NHL in the 2014 season.  He has agreed to a tryout at Bruins camp and is a full member of the injury prone list.  Don't get too excited, if he makes the team.

There are some players that are on the list that had really good 2014 seasons and they should be pointed out.  By good seasons, they were able to play 75+ games, allowing for minor knocks.  David Legwand, now of the Ottawa Senators, was the only player on the list to play a full season, playing 83 games between Nashville and Detroit.  He was added to the list in 2008 and has done well since.  Andrei Markov played 81 games for the Habs, coming awfully close to a full year.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers, Tomas Fleischmann of the Panthers and Sidney Crosby of the Penguins all had 80-game years.  Lars Eller, Eric Brewer, Mikael Backlund, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Bieksa, Ales Hemsky and Erik Cole have all been added to the list over the last six seasons and all had good years.  Some I may discount more than others still, but you can be happy that they have had good years.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recent Contract Extensions (Aug 25)

For a team that wasn't very good in 2014, the Ottawa Senators have sure been handing out contract extensions a little too freely of late.

Last week, the Senators gave a 3-year contract extension to defenseman Mark Borowiecki, who hasn't even earned a full-time spot on the blueline for the team.  Borowiecki played in 13 games last season and the team already has a likely seven signed on and ready to go for the 2015 season, so it really seems like a strange move, unless one of those seven are going to be traded.

Also last week, the team inked forward Clarke MacArthur to a new 5-year contract extension, which may seem a little more plausible, given that he was one of the few bright spots for last season.  This season, I have him projected in at 55 points, making him into a good mid-round pick for the hockey pool, but I can't see much more than that.

Today (Monday), the Senators announced that they signed goaltender Craig Anderson to a new 3-year contract extension, which will have a $4.2 million cap hit over those three seasons.  This does more to make the goaltending picture more murky for the Sens going forward, as it was once believed that Robin Lehner should be moving into the number one spot before too long.  I currently have the two goalies projected to split the points this year in Ottawa, but if there is a true belief in Anderson going forward, that may have to change.

My 2015 Pool Projections

It's that time of year again.  Time to get your homework done.

Since we're only about a month away from the hockey pool draft, you have a lot of players to have a look at and consider, especially if my hockey pool draft has 24 teams again, like it did last season.  I think it is a good idea to touch on all the teams, even if it is just a little bit, getting a handle on the names, where they are in the league, making sure you remember who got traded or signed where and get the feel in your mind what they are going to be worth to you.

This is also a good way to find those sleepers, get a handle on the rookies that will be making the jump and thus getting your own jump on the competition.

Of course, projections are going to change as we all go along.  Players are going to sign between now and the start of training camp, camps will open in a few weeks and reports will surface about players moving up and down in the depth chart.  These are all things that you will want to take in, but first... you have to start doing your homework.

If you are looking for an up-to-date player list, feel free to drop me an e-mail and I would be more than happy to send you an Excel copy or a PDF to help you with your studies.  If you take an Excel copy, you can manipulate it as you wish or even set yourself up with a working copy for draft day, if you decide to bring your laptop.

Click a logo below to check out each team's projections...

2015 Pool Projections: Anaheim

The Anaheim Ducks were a pretty good team in the 2014 season and they have done a little bit of re-tooling to take what they had in the regular season and carry it on to the playoffs, something they were not able to do last year.

The team has some new faces in a few spots, some players have been promoted to some bigger roles for the 2015 season and it will all have somewhat of an impact on how you should approach the Ducks for your hockey pool team.

For the most part, you'll have a couple of your favourite Anaheim players, who will likely feature early in your hockey pool draft and then you will have to decide where you'll feel comfortable taking the new and promoted faces.  Below, I have my projected numbers for the Ducks players, starting with the projected roster and then some of the players that they have signed on, who still have a chance to earn a job for the coming year.

Forwards 14/15 Proj Cap Hit Defense 14/15 Proj Cap Hit Goaltenders 14/15 Proj Cap Hit
Corey Perry 85 8.625 Cam Fowler 45 4.000 Frederik Andersen 65 1.150
Ryan Getzlaf 85 8.250 Sami Vatanen 35 1.263 John Gibson 40 0.722
Ryan Kesler 60 5.000 Hampus Lindholm 25 0.894
Andrew Cogliano 45 3.000 Ben Lovejoy 20 1.100
Jakob Silfverberg 40 0.851 Francois Beauchemin 15 3.500
Kyle Palmieri 35 1.467 Bryan Allen 10 3.500
Matt Beleskey 35 1.350 Clayton Stoner 5 3.250
Dany Heatley 35 1.000 Mark Fistric 5 1.267
Emerson Etem 30 0.870
Pat Maroon 30 0.575
Nate Thompson 15 1.600
Tim Jackman 5 0.638
TOTAL 55.020
Rickard Rakell 20 0.894 Sheldon Souray 0 3.667

First Round Picks

The Ducks' dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf should be walking hand-in-hand in the scoring race again this year, as I have them meeting in the middle from where they finished last season, right in the neighbourhood of over a point-per-game.  Both players have been somewhat up-and-down over the last few seasons, but they always carry potential for some top 10 seasons.

Most Intriguing or Breakout Player

The Anaheim Ducks started a new era in their crease just before the playoffs, demoting Jonas Hiller to the number three spot and giving the reins to Fredrik Andersen and John Gibson.  Andersen becomes the most intriguing player on the basis that he should likely get the first crack at taking the number one job out of training camp.  Andersen had the job going into the playoffs and ended up getting hurt, giving up the job by default.  Andersen won 20 games last season and should break out if he gets the minutes that a number one does.

Other Pool Worthy Forwards

The Ducks are going to be a deep team up front, beyond their top two.  The acquisition of Ryan Kesler immediately gives the team some depth and a centre that can likely help some of their other key wingers.  Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg are poised to help the team out substantially, while the team will toil with a couple wingers looking to improve upon last season and another that is trying to reclaim his name (Dany Heatley).  The Ducks did see some departures in the off-season, but by the look of their projections, they should be able to make up for them and still put together a good year.

Other Pool Worthy Defense

On defense, the team has done well to find some blueliners to solidify the space in front of their goalies, but may not have done enough to put more assists on the board.  Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm should all be decent options for your hockey pool team, but with some uncertainty about their goaltending and how they'll last over the stretch, confidence may hinder the overall numbers.  It could swing the opposite way, but betting on the long season, it seems less likely.

Goaltending Situation

Beating a dead horse?  Possibly.  No matter how good the tandem was in relief last year, both Andersen and Gibson have a monsterous task ahead of them, taking on the 82-game season on their own.  The team in front of them will be good and they will be able to find wins and points for us poolies, but I could see them more in a platoon role, than having a true number one, although they will try to give the older Andersen a few more reps.  This appears to me to be the most likely scenario.

Team To Pick From Late?

Definitely.  When you are getting down to the depths of the late rounds in the draft and you're in need of those players to get you through, I think Anaheim will have a reasonable amount of depth to choose from and maybe even find a bargain player.

Unsigned Players and Salary Cap

Salary CapThere is only one more restricted free agent left on the books for the Ducks, as Devante Smith-Pelly is still in need of a brand new deal.  The team is likely hoping to get Smith-Pelly on a bridge deal, like they did with Silfverberg earlier in August, who signed a 1-year deal.  The Ducks have room to move, still having $14 million left on their books, which leads me to believe that they're playing as a budget team for the year.  They could have spent more money, but it doesn't look like they needed to.


Defenseman Sheldon Souray is now in the last year of his current deal and with not playing at all in the 2014 season, it appears that his wrist injury has indeed gotten the better of him.  We should expect to see him on the Long Term Injury Reserve to start the season and likely retire at the end of the year.

2015 Pool Projections: Arizona

The general aesthetic of the Coyotes may have changed, adjusting the name and a couple of the secondary logos to read Arizona instead of Phoenix, but on the ice, I fully expect this to be the same old Coyotes team on the ice.

There isn't going to be much flash and dash on this team again in 2015, but like most years, their players should provide some reasonable depth options for your hockey pool team.  Last year's pool winner had one Phoenix player on his team, so it isn't like they're cursed or anything.

There was a few new faces added to this Coyotes team, as others departed, but the same kind of feel remains.  The coaching staff will have a similar cast of characters to what they had going into last season, but they may have sorted out a few of their trouble-makers in the dressing room and could be a better unit in the end.  They should still be difficult to play against, but they do lack that punch, especially on paper, which may make things difficult to make the playoffs in a difficult Pacific Division.

Forwards 14/15 Proj Cap Hit Defense 14/15 Proj Cap Hit Goaltenders 14/15 Proj Cap Hit
Shane Doan 60 5.300 Keith Yandle 55 5.300 Mike Smith 65 5.667
Mikkel Boedker 55 2.550 Oliver Ekman-Larsson 50 5.500 Devan Dubnyk 15 0.800
Martin Erat 50 4.500 Zbynek Michalek 20 4.000
Antoine Vermette 45 3.750 Michael Stone 20 1.150
Sam Gagner 45 3.200 David Schlemko 5 1.188
Martin Hanzal 45 3.100
Lauri Korpikoski 30 2.500
Joe Vitale 20 1.117
Kyle Chipchura 20 0.875
Rob Klinkhammer 20 0.625
TOTAL 51.121
Max Domi 35 0.894 Connor Murphy 20 0.863
B.J. Crombeen 15 1.150 Brandon Gormley 10 0.840
Brandon McMillan 15 0.625 Chris Summers 5 0.600
Jordan Szwarz 5 0.630 0.642

First Round Picks

With 85 points being the approximate benchmark for a 1st round pick in a 24-team draft, which we had last year, I don't see any Arizona players making that leap this year.  My current projections don't have the Coyotes in the playoffs this year, which means that Mike Smith is not looking like a good option for a very early selection.  The Coyotes may top out at a late 2nd round or an early 3rd round pick, at best.

Most Intriguing or Breakout Player

Moving from Nashville to Washington a couple of seasons ago was thought to be a positive move for Martin Erat, as the Predators were selling off assets in a non-playoff year.  It wasn't a positive move at all.  Erat didn't flourish with the Capitals and found himself to be another deadline day deal, moving from DC to the desert, joining the Coyotes.  Tippett's Coyotes should play a brand of hockey closer to Trotz's Predators, so I am wondering if the 32-year old Czech can return to his 50-point seasons in Arizona, giving this team a much needed boost.

Other Pool Worthy Forwards

I can see six decent options in the 35+ points range for the forwards, but none of them would be worth rushing for.  Guys like Martin Hanzal or Antoine Vermette may act as good bargain picks, as I have seen them slip through the cracks into some of the later rounds and then turn out to be really good picks.  Don't forget about Shane Doan either, rather he could sneak down an extra round and make for a pretty good pick-up as well.  The Coyotes may have a decent rookie option in Max Domi, as he carries a chip on his shoulder into camp and since the team could use some more offense and grit, he could be a solid option.

Other Pool Worthy Defense

The Coyotes are currently working with a pair of the league's better scoring defenders, which helps to keep them in games.  I would put a priority on guys like Keith Yandle or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who I have in the 50-point ranges each, the only two defenders I would really look to out of Glendale.

Goaltending Situation

Number one goalies are hard to come by in the mid-rounds of the draft, especially with 24 teams picking, so going after starters is key.  Mike Smith is definitely one of those guys to keep an eye on.  As long as Smith is healthy, he will eat up minutes.  According to my projections, the cut-off for back-up goalie will be around 20 points, somewhere I don't think Devan Dubnyk will hit playing in behind.

Team To Pick From Late?

There just isn't much scoring depth in my pool projections to have the Coyotes as a viable option late in the draft.  I have this team with a number of borderline pool worthy players, who could go up or down around the depth levels, but before training camps open, I don't see anything that I would want late on in the draft.

Unsigned Players and Salary Cap

Salary CapThe Coyotes are all clear of all their restricted free agent signing duties and they have a projected roster of about 17 players at the moment, leaving about six spots to fight for and $17.9 million in cap space to use to help fill in those spots.  The Coyotes are rocking some new ownership, but the constraints of a poor player market has likely led to the team not spending much more than when the league had control.  I would be looking to see if the Coyotes use more of their youth to fill in these spots.


All is well in the desert.  The Coyotes appear healthy and ready to go for the 2015 season.