Fantasy Nuggets Week 14

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·6 min read
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  • Philadelphia Flyers
    Philadelphia Flyers
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  • Evander Kane
    Evander Kane
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We need to change the saying, “I believe in second chances” when it relates to the NHL because too often is it used to describe a player who has gotten far more than two chances. Oilers GM Ken Holland used it to describe Evander Kane and that’s someone who is far, far past his second chance at this point. Still, it’s not hard to see why teams keep rolling the dice on him.

While there have been concerns raised over the possibility of Kane being bad for a team’s locker room and clearly the San Jose Sharks want to be done with him, when he is on the ice, he’s a great power forward. Kane had 22 goals, 49 points, and 42 penalty minutes in 56 games last season. He’s contributed at least 25 goals in five separate campaigns. Even during his brief time in the AHL this season following his 21-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA’s COVID protocol, he showed no signs of rust. He scored two goals and eight points in five contests with San Jose Barracuda.

For a team like Edmonton that needs scoring depth and is getting desperate in the midst of their prolonged slump, not to mention years of wasting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s talent, it’s not hard to see why Kane might have a certain appeal.

The Sharks are trying to terminate his contract because he allegedly violated COVID-19 protocols – again – and it’s not yet clear how that will play out. The NHLPA has filed a grievance and the NHL is investigating the situation, so Kane is stuck in limbo right now. If this does end with Kane becoming an unrestricted free agent though, then Edmonton or any other team could conceivably sign him to a one-year deal. That short contract length mitigates the risk because if he does prove to be a problem then his new team could easily cut ties with him.

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At the end of the day, signing Kane would be unpopular move, but might work out. I would add though that it makes more sense for Edmonton to sign him than Florida, which is the other team I’ve heard suggested. The Panthers are already in a strong position and while it’s possible that Kane to be an asset for them, given all the baggage he comes with, it just doesn’t seem worth the risk for them. Why mess with a good thing? Edmonton is different, they’re in a questionable position as is and simply staying the course seems less likely to work out for the Oilers than it would for Florida.

When it comes to the fantasy angle, the situation is far simpler: When Kane signs with another team, grab him if he’s available. From a pure individual statistics perspective, he’s worth the gamble at the low price of a free agent pickup. After all, unlike a real general manager, you don’t have to worry about his presence and antics potentially hindering the play of the other members of your fantasy team.

While Kane is the one getting the headlines right now when it comes to teams looking to make a splash, we’re going to hear a lot more discussion about potential moves soon. The NHL deadline is on March 21st and while the bulk of trades will happen in the week or so before that, we’ll start getting more clarity about who is on the trade market fairly soon.

Already there are teams like Montreal, Arizona, and Seattle who are obvious sellers and that list will expand in the coming weeks. In particular New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago Blackhawks still have a shot of making the playoffs, but only if they start heating up.

The Flyers in particular are an interesting one given that they’ve been floundering in mediocrity for a long time now. They had a run of five straight playoff appearances from 2008 through 2012, but since then they haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years and have only won a single postseason series.

The Flyers tried to course correct after a dreary start this season by firing head coach Alain Vigneault, but they haven’t been that much better under Mike Yeo. Philadelphia has endured injuries, especially to their defensive core, but no team is 100%. Part of the Flyers’ problem has been their forward group anyways, which has been questionable. Claude Giroux, who recently celebrated his 34th birthday, is still great, and Cam Atkinson has fit in nicely with the Flyers, but Travis Konecny has failed to recreate his 2019-20 success, Sean Couturier is having his least productive season offensively since 2016-17, and when he’s been healthy, Kevin Hayes has been mediocre at best.

With 35 games in the record books, Philadelphia ranks 26th in the league with 2.57 goals-per-game. That’s well below even the Winnipeg Jets, who are 16th in the NHL with 2.97 goals-per-game.

If the Flyers’ situation doesn’t improve, they’ll need to start asking some tough questions about the direction of the franchise. Hayes, Atkinson, Couturier, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Joel Farabee, Ivan Provorov, and Ryan Ellis are all signed through at least 2024-25 so to an extent they’re locked in. A full rebuild doesn’t seem realistic in their current situation and some would argue that it’d be an overreaction given that they do have some younger talent nearing or just now entering their prime and there’s still the hope that Carter Hart will develop into an elite goaltender.

At the same time, this is the last season of Giroux’s contract. If making the playoffs this season moves from being unlikely to unrealistic, what do they do with their captain? Do they stay the course and re-sign him, hoping that the final years of his career might play out better for Philadelphia than the bulk of his tenure with the team has? Certainly, he’s still their best forward and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play at a high level for another few years.

Or do they entertain the possibility of trading him for prospects and/or picks in the hopes that might improve the team’s chances of breaking out from their rut of mediocrity? There’s question a ton of teams would be interested in him if they do shop him. Adding a player like Giroux would provide any playoff-bound team with a massive boost. They could even retain half his remaining cap hit to expand the market of teams bidding for his services.

That said, Giroux has a no-movement clause, so if he doesn’t want to be traded, then that’s that. Even if he’s willing to waive it, he might only sign off to play for certain teams. That might in turn lower the potential return the Flyers could get for him.

For what it’s worth Elliotte Friedman spoke to Jeff Marek recently and said that he does believe Giroux will ultimately be traded. So we’ll see, but Giroux will likely be a big topic of discussion in the coming weeks.