Maybe you skipped out on fantasy hockey free agency. This would be completely understandable. While some of us obsessives are watching the hockey news 365 days a year, many more well-adjusted people take a couple of months off to enjoy things like warm summer weather, baseball, family — all those fun distractions from fantasy. If that describes you, you need to catch up on offseason free agent signings and trades. This article will cover the top players showing up with new team designations in this year’s fantasy drafts.
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2021 Fantasy Hockey-relevant player moves
Expansion draft: Seattle Kraken
I cannot do justice to all the players who will suddenly show up with the abbreviation “SEA” by their names. My colleague Ian Whammond already broke this down. Suffice it to say Kraken players you are used to thinking of as fantasy-mediocre deserve a second look in their new, more prominent roles. Start with Philipp Grubauer, Jared McCann, and Mark Giordano and work from there.
Linus Ullmark, G, BOS
The 28-year-old has labored in obscurity in Buffalo for six years now. Last year he played only 20 games, missing most of March and the final month of the season due to lower-body injuries. The Sabres consistently suffered among the most shots and goals against in his time there, though with above league-average percentages. He moves to a Boston team at the top end of the standings. Exciting rookie Jeremy Swayman waits in the wings and all-time Bruins goalie games played, saves, and wins Tuukka Rask lurks in semi-retirement. Ullmark’s four-year deal as the 13th best-paid goalie in the league suggests Boston is committed to him as the starter. Don’t assume Ullmark can remain both good and healthy, but if he does he could be a top goalie.
Dougie Hamilton, D, NJD
The best fantasy player to move in free agency, the 28-year-old signed a 7-year contract for $9 million after six years of getting Norris votes. Hamilton belongs in the top 4 fantasy defensemen. Many may be hesitant to keep him in that lofty tier on the Devils. Consider that only one Devil has topped a mediocre 53 points in a season over the past 5 years, and 6 Hurricanes (including Hamilton) outscored the leading Devils scorer last year. In Carolina Hamilton jumped to a points pace that would equate to 60-70 over the course of an 82 game season. He simultaneously placed 26th in the NHL in BASH (my abbreviation for Blocks + Shots + Hits). That is an incredibly rare combo. If you are willing to gamble on the D1 of the young Devils maintaining his ability to score, you are looking at a 2nd round pick.
Frederik Andersen, G, CAR
Andersen moves from the most-scrutinized market in the league (Toronto) to one of the quietest in Carolina. The Hurricanes are year-in and year-out among the best at suppressing opponent shots and shot attempts. Andersen comes in alongside the less statistically distinguished Antti Raanta to fill the net of the team that finished last year third in standings points. Andersen was one of the NHL’s best goalies in Goals Saved Above Expected prior to a dramatic downturn the last two seasons. Turning 32 next week, there is plenty of time for an Andersen career revival and Carolina would be a great place to do it. Expect a discount in your drafts and try to get him as a second goalie with potential to jump into the top 10 if the mojo returns.
Zach Hyman, LW, EDM
A Toronto fan favorite, Hyman’s move to the Edmonton Oilers attracted a lot of attention this offseason. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were Hyman’s most frequent linemates for the last two years, as Hyman provided the physicality to support his high-scoring teammates. Hyman’s scoring has climbed from a half-point per game to a 63-point pace (projected over 82 games). The obvious fit in Edmonton is alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, perhaps the only places in an NHL lineup more promising than his former situation in Toronto. Hyman is a hard-working, physical sidekick and not a playmaking savant. His scoring will regress slightly in his age-29 season. Do not buy on the top 80 hype I see in some places, but Hyman is a great mix of OK scoring, hits, and close-in shots after pick 100.
Darcy Kuemper, G, COL
Every offseason the ‘goalie-go-round’ takes a series of seemingly interchangable goalies cycling around NHL cities, plying their wares for a couple of million dollars a year. Among the goalies who moved, Kuemper won the lottery. Last year Colorado won three times as many games as they lost and allowed by far the fewest shots against in the NHL. Kuemper had two outstanding seasons in Arizona — receiving down-ballot Vezina votes before some decline last year. His main obstacle has been injury. Only once in a nine-year career has Kuemper been able to take the net for a majority of his team’s games. He has a capable backup in Pavel Francouz, though Francouz too missed all of last year to injury. I will not take Kuemper in the top few rounds, where he will be picked in your draft. Nonetheless, he could reasonably end up a top 5 goalie.
Seth Jones, D, CHI
The trade that sent Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks shook up the league. After arriving from Columbus, Jones signed a massive extension to take the leading role on a beleaguered Chicago defense. His new situation could also be better for his offensive production. Chicago has more than 81 million reasons to put him in a position to succeed. Repeating even his 2020-21 production of a half-point, 2.5 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocks per game would deliver significant fantasy value. Some advanced stats folks, however, see worrisome signs in Jones’s game. I have long been skeptical of Jones’s fantasy game. You will have to select Jones among the top 10 fantasy defensemen to roster him this year. Betting on that big of a jump may not pay off.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, CHI
Joining Jones in Chicago is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. A Vegas salary cap victim, Fleury will backstop a team that faced the second-most shots on goal of any in the league last year. Every great career ends sometime. No one wants to draft a player the year Father Time knocks him from active stardom. But then, some thought Fleury’s best days were already over before his stellar four years in Vegas. I rank him 6th among goalies coming into the year because last year’s gaudy numbers (.928 sv%, 1.98 GAA) were no career anomaly. Even if being battered by shots in Chicago leads to slightly worse results, if your league counts save volume Fleury should be a value. It would not surprise me to see him slide down the draft board over fears of age and regression.
Pavel Buchnevich, RW, STL
After years of waiting for an offensive breakout from Buchnevich, the Rangers got 48 points in 54 games. The Rangers had other priorities in free agency, most of which involved cheaper, physical specialists to protect their young skill players. Buchnevich gets a soft landing in St. Louis, where the most prominent RW, Vladimir Tarasenko, may be on the way out. St. Louis has playmaking centers like Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn and should get looks on the power play at some point. If your league-mates forget about him, he is a nice target for the early double-digit rounds.
Sam Reinhart, C/RW, FLA
Another Buffalo escapee, Reinhart was traded to the Florida Panthers in the offseason. If you missed it last year, the Panthers have evolved from non-contender to powerhouse in the past year. Reinhart is likely to take a plumb first-line spot with Alexander Barkov. On a collapsing Buffalo squad last year, however, Reinhart managed 40 points in 54 games. With the depth of Florida, Reinhart should have better opportunities to shine. A 70 point season is not out of the question if Reinhart can crack Florida’s top power-play unit.
Other players in new places:
Cam Atkinson, RW, PHI; Jakub Voracek, RW, CBJ; Tony DeAngelo, D, CAR, Alex Nedeljkovic, G, DET, Victor Arvidsson, LW, LAK
If you want to listen to me talk about these players every week, listen to Fantrax’s podcast Fantasy Hockey Life. Victor Nuno and I cover prospects and the pros. Listen to our offseason previews for all 32 NHL teams and our positional rank outlier series. Follow me on Twitter at @fanhockeylife. You can also join our free discord to talk hockey all year.
Do you have an interesting Fantasy Hockey trade dilemma? Leave it in the comments and we would love to hear it.
For more help in getting ready for next season, check out the Top 10 Fantasy Hockey Rookies of 2021.
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