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Fantasy Hockey: 2023 UFA Defensemen to Target in Contract Years

NHL players in contract years can turn into gold mines for your fantasy hockey team. Here's a look at five blueliners you need to target this season.
MacKenzie Weegar

A simple case study showed that the contract year effect is probably more real than not. It’s a defensible strategy for fantasy managers to rely on and it could make the difference in finding those late-round value picks that can win your league.

After taking stock of some impending UFA forwards to bet on the upcoming fantasy season, here are the defensemen with a Yahoo ADP of 50 or lower to target in your respective leagues.

MacKenzie Weegar, D, Florida Panthers (ADP: 111.0)

Another fantastic season that saw Weegar earn Norris votes for the second straight seasons should push his ADP at least into the high 80’s and close the gap between Aaron Ekblad (ADP: 46.8). Maybe the Panthers’ offense will be toned back a little for the sake of better defensive play, but Weegar is more like a 1B option than a No. 2 option behind Ekblad, whose injury history is still a concern. Weegar stuffs every statistical category, making him a great value play in banger leagues.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (138.1)

Dumba is their most dynamic defenseman but has had trouble staying healthy. Remember, he has a 50-point ceiling, and after losing Kevin Fiala, the Wild will want to generate more offense from their defense. Dumba’s an excellent all-rounder who has scored at a 40-point pace over the past two seasons.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes (169.9)

It’s mission accomplished for Gostisbehere, who rejuvenated his career and recaptured a ton of free-agent value with a 51-point season following a disappointing exit from Philly. He’s a very good power play option, which gives him the trump card over the rest of the defensemen on this list, and he’s expected to play a big role again for the Coyotes. He finished the season ranked 15th in points even though he was the 71st defenseman off the board by ADP.

Travis Sanheim, D, Philadelphia Flyers (n/a)

Gauging the value of Philly defenders will be tough because there’s expected to be a ton of roster turnover. Despite the noise, Sanheim was quietly one of their more productive defenders and cracked the 30-point milestone for the second time in his career, but also the first time in three seasons. There’s 40-point potential depending on how Sanheim is deployed, especially if he’s used on the power play.

Damon Severson, D, New Jersey Devils (n/a)

Severson scored a career-high 46 points last season and it would be shocking if he goes undrafted this fantasy season. He has a chance to really cash in as a free agent because he’s a right-hand shot, and despite a slightly crowded Devils blueline, he is considered the group's elder statesman and gets first crack for playing time. The addition of Dougie Hamilton, another right-handed puck mover, doesn't seem to have dampened Severson’s value or production very much. 

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