Fantasy Hockey: Maple Leafs, Senators Make Major Moves

NHL Free agents
NHL Free agents
Toronto Ontario CAN Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf 3 and defenseman Cody Franson 4 and center Tyler Bozak 42 and forward James van Riemsdyk 21 congratulate right wing Phil Kessel center on scoring the game winning goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre Toronto defeated New Jersey 2 0 John E Sokolowski USA TODAY Sports

It’s been about a decade since there has been a real battle of Ontario between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. Sure they play each other and this year was the first year they made the playoffs in the same year since I was in high school (2004, for those counting), but the rivalry just hasn’t been the same for quite a while now.

Things changed today as both teams made significant moves. With significant moves comes significant fantasy hockey impact. This is where I come in.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The fingerprints of general manager Dave Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle are now all over this team. Gone are the likes of Mikhail Grabovski and Matt Frattin, incoming are Jonathan Bernier, David Clarkson and they retained Tyler Bozak. I have a lot of feelings about these moves, but I’ll save that for another time. If you can’t wait for (or don’t care about) my take, take a read here.

Acquiring Jonathan Bernier earlier gave the Maple Leafs goalies 1A and 1B in conjunction with James Reimer. This is a problem for fantasy owners.

Remember back to 2011-2012 when the Blues tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were elite? Well, if you managed to have both of them that year on your rosters, you lucked out. They excelled. However, you need to keep in mind, those numbers were behind an excellent possession team. So while goaltending tandems can work out, as in the case with the Blues a couple of years ago, they can certainly backfire, as was the case in Colorado this year with Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sébastien Giguere on a mediocre possession team. That was a split-start scenario because Varlamov didn’t play well and in the end, neither goalie was very valuable.

Keep that in mind: for a split start scenario to really work out for you, both goalies have to play well. Not only that, because of their perceived value, they’ll both be valued higher at the draft table than somewhere that has a traditional starter/backup situation like Nashville. While Bernier and Reimer might be great goaltenders, they play for the worst possession team (arguably) in the NHL. Reimer’s numbers were great, mostly due to an exceptional power-play save percentage. As such, I would approach either goalie with extreme caution next year; I’d rather have one good starter on a bad team on my fantasy hockey roster than two good starters on a bad team, it just compounds your risk.

David Clarkson is an intriguing addition. He’s a grinding-type winger who has shown the ability in recent seasons to score. He will land on probably the second line in Toronto with Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul which means as long as he can stand on his skates, he should produce. I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll be first line power-play as well.

From a fantasy hockey perspective, Clarkson has a chance to be a monster. He’s playing on an offensive team with two good offensive players and will get top minutes both at even-strength and power-play. His shots/game pace has crept up four years in a row, and his pace this year would put him at 300 shots. He takes penalties at a very high rate too, so even if he slumps he’s able to face-punch his way to a decent fantasy performance. The plus/minus will be a concern because of the team he’s on, so comparing his potential to Scott Hartnell’s 2011-2012 season is a stretch, but he should be able to contribute in several categories and those are rare to find.

Tyler Bozak gets re-upped for five years and gets to play on a line with Phil Kessel, not bad for a guy who was an undrafted free agent four years ago. But we need to reign in expectations a little bit. Bozak was second on the Leafs in power-play minutes/60 last year and third the year before. He’s played mostly first line minutes with Kessel, had loads of first unit power-play time, yet has averaged 46 points over an 82-game season in his career and has never cracked 50 points in any season. Again, he plays for a bad defensive team, so his plus/minus will hurt too. He also doesn’t take penalties or shoot very much, so I would avoid breaking the bank for him in most fantasy hockey leagues.

Ottawa Senators

In what seemed a surreal moment at the time, the Senators let go of their long-time captain with 17 years of franchise service in Daniel Alfredsson. He consequently signed in Detroit for one year at $5.5M, a pretty hefty price tag. That alone gave me reason to give Ottawa credit for letting him go.

Then the bombshell was dropped; Bobby Ryan was traded to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen and a first round draft pick in 2014. I like the trade for both teams, but the fantasy impact that Ryan can have is enormous.

Bobby Ryan goes a bit unnoticed because of his market. Playing late games in Anaheim will do that to you. But I’ll provide you a list of players who have scored at least 60 even-strength goals and taken 550 shots over the last three seasons combined. That should be enough.

However, Ryan had begun to become an afterthought in Anaheim. His overall ice-time has decreased for two years in a row as had his power-play time; going from 2.34 minutes/60 two years ago to 1.92 this year. If he lands on a line with Jason Spezza, Ryan should have no problem returning to 30 goal form. This will be a sneaky pick depending on value once the fantasy hockey season rolls around, but you have to imagine Ryan and Spezza will spend the majority of the time playing together and that’s great news for Ryan. He’s also going from a minus-possession team in Anaheim to a plus possession team in Ottawa. Combine this with Ryan’s propensity in the past to shoot a quite often with his penalty minute history and we have a very solid fantasy performer coming to my nation’s capital. He was a bust for a third or fourth round pick last year, that’s where he should probably finish this year.

Keep it locked to SJN all weekend as more movement unfolds. In this article alone there are players who were traded that I haven’t touched on so there will be lots of fantasy hockey talk to come.

author avatar
Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');