Fantasy Nuggets Week 14

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Ryan Dadoun
·6 min read
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Sometimes there are no good options, just less bad ones. That’s the scenario the NHL finds itself in with the Vancouver Canucks. For what it’s worth though, as things stand at the time of writing, I think the NHL currently has gone with one of the more bad options and my hope is that either today or tomorrow there will be a revised decision from the league.

As things stand the Vancouver Canucks, who haven’t played since March 24, are set to have their first practice on Thursday since the COVID outbreak temporarily shut them down. After that single practice, the Canucks will begin an unbelieve stretch of 19 games in 31 days. Let’s be clear: That’s a brutal schedule regardless of the circumstances and the fact that the Canucks will be asked to go immediately from 0 to 100 adds to the problem. As J.T. Miller noted, even the players who weren’t sick with COVID “aren’t ready to play,” which isn’t surprising given that they haven’t been able to do much lately.

A lot of discussion has been focused on the COVID variant that has gone through the Canucks, but to me the issue that’s gotten less attention is the timing of the outbreak. The NHL had to deal with outbreaks with other teams, but because it was earlier in the campaign, they had more flexibility to reschedule those games within the timeframe of the season. With the Canucks they didn’t have that luxury, so they basically had to pack in as many games as possible in a very short time.

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And I am sympathetic to the problem the NHL is facing. They want every team to play a full 56 games. I’m sure there are both financial reasons for that as well integrity reasons. The games matter. Arguably all of the games had playoff implications because the Canucks do still have an outside chance of making the postseason. The NHL even extended the season to May 16 in an effort to try to make this viable. Right now we’re in a weird situation where from May 13-16, there are all of three games scheduled and they all involve Vancouver. Such is the nature of this season.

Even still, I question the decision to have the Canucks play the full 56 games. If it’s one of maintaining the integrity of the season then the question becomes: Is the act of playing the game enough to maintain that integrity? If the Canucks are so unprepared to play because of what they’ve been through, if they’re running on fumes and forced to fight to avoid injury more than fight to actually win, are the games that we’re going to get out of the Canucks worthy of their inclusion? Is playing at all costs a better solution than cutting out games and at least maintaining some quality control over the product on the ice, not to mention making things safer for the players? Speaking of that last point, from a purely human standpoint, is playing a full 56 games worth risking potentially serious injuries by throwing players into a grind that they haven’t been able to prepare for?

Those are probably questions better addressed by someone smarter than me and I will concede that the NHL possesses more knowledge than I have. However, those are the concerns and they’re why I’m hoping the NHL will ultimately change course.

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Stepping away from that tough conversion into something far closer to normal, the NHL had its trade deadline on Monday. It certainly wasn’t the busiest deadline, but there were some big moves. The most surprising one was the Washington Capitals decision to acquire Anthony Mantha from Detroit in exchange for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round selection.

That’s a ton to give up for Mantha, who has never even reached the 50-point milestone. He’s 26-years-old too, so it’s not as if he’s an up-and-coming prospect. That said, it would be wrong to just leave it at that because Mantha is a high-end talent even if he hasn’t managed to consistently play at that level yet.

Part of the appeal for Washington is also the cost certainty. Mantha comes with a $5.7 million annual cap hit through 2023-24, which could prove to be a really reasonable price for him if he plays as they’re hoping. In a time where the NHL’s cap is expected to stay flat for years, having Mantha locked up is very helpful.

I still think this was a win for Detroit though. Vrana is a top-six forward in his own right and unlike Mantha, Vrana hasn’t been getting big minutes so it will be interesting to see what he does in Detroit where he’ll likely have increased responsibilities. Remember to keep an eye on Vrana because if he has a strong finish to this season then it could be a precursor to a breakout in his first full season with Detroit in 2021-22. On top of that Detroit got those two picks and while Washington’s first rounder is likely to come late in the round, it’s still significant. It’s a strong move by Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman.

The Taylor Hall trade to Boston is another eye-catching move. Despite Hall’s struggles this season, I was surprised he didn’t provide the Sabres with a first rounder, though it’s possible that the Sabres had to accept a lesser deal with a team Hall wanted to play for given that he had a no-movement clause. Either way, Hall is getting a fresh opportunity with the Bruins.

He had just two goals and 19 points in 37 contests with the Sabres, but Buffalo as a team has struggled mightily this season. It will be interesting to see what he can do in Boston and his performance there will go a long way towards determining what kind of contract he can command this offseason. He had his Bruins debut on Tuesday against the Sabres and while he didn’t record a point in that contest, it’s too early to draw any conclusions.

Boston will play again tonight as are Detroit and Washington, so we’ll see more of the fallout from the trade deadline soon.

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