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NHL Fantasy Hockey: Early UFA Signing Hot Takes

A blistering first day of free agency saw over $900 million committed. Here’s a look at some key player movements from early on and their fantasy values going into the 2022-23 season.
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A blistering first day of free agency saw over $900 million committed. As always, the hockey fan’s unofficial holiday brought equal amounts of joy, sadness and probably some confusion. Here’s a look at some key player movements and their fantasy values going into the 2022-23 season. All cap figures courtesy capfriendly.com.

Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers, 5 years, $25 million

The Oilers took a big risk signing the injury-prone Campbell, 30, to such a long-term deal, and they won’t have a veteran backup to spell him with Stuart Skinner, 23, pencilled in as the backup. Campbell will get the lion’s share of the starts, but he’ll be playing behind a worse defense and a worse team. Look for Campbell’s Yahoo Average Draft Position (ADP) of 63.4 to rise because there are so few undisputed starters out there, and not because he’s expected to perform significantly better. Value: Flat.

Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals, 5 years, $26.5 million

The Caps literally cleared the crease for Kuemper, who will cross the 50-game threshold – assuming he stays healthy – for just the third time in his career. The Caps’ Cup window is closing and their defense is shaky, headlined by the offense-first John Carlson, who is the only one signed beyond the 2022-23 season. There is some concern about Kuemper’s injury history, and remember that Pavel Francouz deserves half the credit for winning the Cup. Value: Down.

Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1 year, $1.8 million

It’s a show-me deal, so Samsonov is motivated to prove he can be a starter. He’s very much an insurance policy for Matt Murray, who struggled mightily over the past few seasons, but the upside is that both Samsonov and Murray are playing on a better team. Samsonov starts as the 1B, but there’s a good chance he ends up being the starter for stretches during the season, making him at least worth a late-round flier. Value: Flat.

Eric Comrie, Buffalo Sabres, 2 years, $3.6 million

Ukko-Pekka Luukonen is their goalie of the future but remains an unsigned RFA, and the only other NHL-caliber goalie under contract is Craig Anderson, the oldest goalie in the league. That will open the door for Comrie to see career-high playing time after appearing in just 19 games last season as the Jets' backup, and he posted solid numbers with a 920 SP and 2.58 GAA. The Sabres are entering a new dawn with plenty to get excited about. Value: Way up.

Thomas Greiss, St. Louis Blues, 1 year, $1.25 million

Jordan Binnington showed glimpses of his Cup-winning self last season, but he’s a walking time bomb given his propensity to collapse and lose focus. Greiss’ numbers last season (.891 Sv%, 3.66 GAA) were horrific, but the Blues are a substantially better defensive team than the Red Wings. Greiss is not a better option than Ville Husso but will remain an occasional streamer in most leagues. Value: Slightly up.

Martin Jones, Seattle Kraken, 1 year, $2 million

Chris Driedger will likely miss the entire season after tearing his ACL at the World Championship, and Philipp Grubauer was the worst starter in the league last season. Jones was the least of the Flyers’ problems last season, but he hasn't played well in four seasons. Landing in Seattle will give Jones plenty of time to prove himself again for his next contract, but the odds aren’t very good on a non-playoff team. Value: Even.

Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken, 2 years, $6 million

Schultz will take some pressure off Vince Dunn, who lacked the necessary tools to be a consistent quarterback on the power play last season. Schultz had one fluke season with 51 points, and he won’t solve their problems as a bottom-pairing defender who can pass but not shoot. Value: Down, for both Schultz and Dunn, who may see his ice time get cut back.

Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 years, $68.25 million

The real winners are the city of Columbus and the Jackets roster, who now have a premier playmaker they’ve been lacking since Artemi Panarin left. Imagine Patrik Laine clapping bombs off Gaudreau’s feeds, and adding young star Cole Sillinger and puck wizard Kent Johnson to the mix? Gaudreau’s offensive ceiling drops because he left behind a productive partnership with Elias Lindholm and Matt Tkachuk, a line that analytically ranked as one of the best in the league. Value: Slightly down.

Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers, 7 years, $39.375 million

Trocheck had two strong seasons with the Canes and will slot in as their No. 2 center to replace Ryan Strome. Trocheck and Mika Zibanejad will be leaned on heavily to win faceoffs, so expect both to rank in the top 30 again. Value: Up.

Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings, 5 years, $28.125 million
David Perron, Detroit Red Wings, 2 years, $9.5 million
Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings, 2 years, $5 million

Copp will slot in as their No. 2 center behind Dylan Larkin, and along with Perron and Kubalik, the Wings basically bought themselves another scoring line. Their additions capped off a big day for Steve Yzerman’s club, and along with a bolstered defense and goaltending should fare much better this coming season. Copp and Perron are already proven contributors, but note that Perron has historically had his best seasons with the Blues. Kubalik has a bit more to prove, having fallen off a bit after a 30-goal rookie season, but he’s leaving behind a train wreck in Chicago. Value: Copp and Perron, even; Kubalik, up.

Andre Burakovsky, Seattle Kraken, 5 years, $27.5 million

Burakovsky scored a career-high 61 points last season, but that was with the Avs where he didn’t need to be the focal point of the offense and, remember, he was a healthy scratch as late as May due to his inconsistency. Burakovsky fills a desperate need for the Kraken, but the surrounding cast is weak and he’s far better at finishing than creating chances for his linemates. Value: Down.

Mason Marchment, Dallas Stars, 4 years, $18 million

It was an interesting turn since Marchment had been linked with the Hurricanes before settling in with the Stars. It’s a pretty big financial commitment for a late bloomer, but there’s no denying Marchment’s play was impressive and he fits the Stars’ heavy physical style, who also lack consistent secondary scoring. Pete DeBoer should loosen the reins on their offense as well. Value: Up.

Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks, 3 years, $10.95 million
Ryan Strome, Anaheim Ducks, 5 years, $25 million

Vatrano has 20-goal potential, with a chance to get close to 30 if he can slot in next to Trevor Zegras with increased playing time after averaging 13:10 last season. Interestingly enough, a Vatrano-Strome combo was pitiful with just a 34.15 5v5 CF% in 71:30 of play during the season and 45.45 5v5 CF% in the playoffs. Vatrano, however, did score at a 48-point pace after joining the Rangers, while Strome has scored at a 66-point pace over the past three seasons. Both players will get bigger roles with their new team: Value: Vatrano, up; Strome, slightly up.

Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators, 3 years, $19.5 million

Giroux returns home with the Panthers lacking cap space to keep him around. The Sens essentially swapped Giroux for Connor Brown, who was shipped to the Caps after expressing a desire to test free agency in 2023, except Giroux’s offensive ceiling is a lot higher and he moved from a very good offensive team to one with a lot of offensive potential. Value: Even.

Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks, 4 years, $19 million
Andrei Kuzmenko, Vancouver Canucks, 1 year, $950,000

The Canucks’ Russian contingent grew threefold with Mikheyev and Kuzmenko joining Vasily Podkolzin. Mikheyev is a known quantity as a speedy, two-way, penalty-killing winger, but more intrigue lies in Kuzmenko, a KHL all-star who was linked to the Canucks and officially signed on the opening day of free agency. Mikheyev rode a 14.3 S% to 21 goals in 53 games, and it’s difficult to replicate that pace. The Canucks have a glut of wingers, some of whom will surely get moved to ensure quality playing time for everyone. Value: Both even.

Colin White, Florida Panthers, 1 year, $1.2 million

Injuries have really stunted White’s development but on a show-me deal with a very good offense, White can easily score at a 40-point pace. There will be competition for ice time, but that’s generally a good thing, and the Panthers are comfortable using Anton Lundell in a matchup role and can also move Sam Bennett to the wing. Value: Up.

Nicolas Deslauriers, Philadelphia Flyers, 4 years, $7 million

Deslauriers and the Flyers under John Tortorella is a match made in heaven. He’s a coveted physical winger who ranked fifth in the league among forwards (min. 40 GP) in hits per 60 minutes, and with 113 PIM last season makes him a valuable asset for fantasy managers in deep banger leagues who have already got the scoring categories covered: Value: Slightly up.

Andreas Athanasiou, Chicago Blackhawks, 1 year, $3 million
Max Domi, Chicago Blackhawks, 1 year, $3 million

Trade bait, anyone? Neither Athanasiou nor Domi have lived up to their potential, and they get a chance to rebuild some value on the league’s worst team. They won’t get the same top-six opportunities anywhere else, and it’s in all parties’ interest for them to play well, at which point the Hawks will definitely peddle them for picks. Take advantage of their hot streaks but their peripherals will remain poor. Value: Slightly up.

Ondrej Kase, Carolina Hurricanes, 1 year, $1.5 million

Kase needs to stay healthy. His talent is evident, and the Canes’ scoring-by-committee approach will benefit him since the Leafs have an established top-six and stubbornly rely heavily on them. The drawback is the Canes lost depth at center with Vincent Trocheck leaving for the Rangers, and it’s unlikely Kase will play with Aho. Value: Slightly up. 

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