We’re now three days into the post-Olympic break, but Thursday night’s slate of action really cemented the fact that the NHL is back to work.
Unfortunately, that 12-game set essentially meant that players were back to suffering lower-body injuries, as well; Damien Brunner, Mikhail Grabovski and Nail Yakupov headline a list of guys who either hurt/re-injured themselves by random chance or as they were shaking off the rust.
With Friday’s Dose, I figure it’s best not to dwell too much on injuries just yet (let’s ease back in). I’m also only looking at one element (goaltending) that could be affected by the trade deadline and other factors today, but there’s still plenty of time for discussion of that next week.
(Rotoworld’s Kevin Brown presents some musings on that subject, if you’re understandably getting pumped up for that and want to read about more than just the goalie aspect.)
Anyway, let’s take a glance at some of the biggest/most interesting goaltending storylines heading into the final six-or-so weeks of the 2013-14 regular season.
In a big-picture sense, Pekka Rinne returning this season gives me the heebie-jeebies. Call it my inner mother hen speaking, but this situation smells like the player and the team not learning from a near-disaster earlier this season.
I’m not a doctor, of course, so my gut feeling that the situation was handled a little too loosely earlier this season could be dead wrong; his hip infection might be another example of the near-tragically bad luck GM David Poile has suffered this season.*
Whatever the case may be, Nashville will get little sympathy if they end up rushing Rinne back (or not stopping him from rushing back, i.e. RGIII) and it doesn’t go well.
It’s easy to understand Nashville’s motivation, however. Rinne - or at least the Rinne who inspired a $7 million annual salary - has been sorely missed. I have my doubts that a guy can just shake off the rust (and surgery that might limit him for the rest of his career, for all well know) and save the day, but the Predators are likely to lean on him heavily if he comes back as expected. (He’s starting a conditioning stint in Milwaukee.)
Pekka Rinne’s can’t cut status probably explains why he’s owned in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues right now, so I can’t really give my normal advice of stashing him if you can risk a roster spot for a while. Instead, I’d recommend caution when it comes to moving him off of your IR; I’d probably want to see him play a solid game or two before making such a leap.
For Nashville, there are painful potential realities that a) it might not just be goaltending that’s holding them back and/or b) that the Pekka they once knew might not ever return to form at his age, with those hip problems and without Ryan Suter. With jobs potentially on the line for their long-serving GM and coach, it’s easy to see why the Preds are willing to roll the dice, even if some (OK, your author) think it’s a risky idea for a team that might not have a ceiling higher than “easy first-round opponent” this season.
Those worries don’t really matter that much for fantasy owners, though. Instead, it’s an intriguing situation that may help soothe the wounds - a bit - for those who drafted Rinne expecting a mere early season lull or really no ill effects from hip surgery whatsoever.
PRICE OF GOLD
How injured is Carey Price, really?
The early word is that he reaggravated a lower-body injury and might miss another game or two (he already missed one Montreal win). Here’s a comment just about any Olympic observer would make: he certainly looked pretty healthy in barely allowing any goals during Canada’s suffocating gold-medal run.
I wouldn’t be too worried just yet, but who knows. In the meantime, Peter Budaj's a perfectly competent choice for those who add/drop regularly. In 16 games played, he has a 7-4-2 record with an impressive .920 save percentage, 2.16 GAA and a shutout. Those kind of numbers might inspire Montreal to play it safe with Price, which is absolutely the wisest direction (even if fantasy owners probably get twitchy just thinking about that).
TIME TO DEAL MILLER
If Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is as bright as he seems, he’ll get something for Ryan Miller.
Miller has consistently been good-to-great in Buffalo, even when the team around him consistently has not. It’s doubtful that the Sabres will receive the package truly befitting the difference-making potential Miller carries (the St. Louis Blues still makes way too much sense) but Buffalo’s already impressive draft stockpile could become jaw-dropping if Miller and Matt Moulson get moved.
And really, if this season teaches us anything, it’s that goaltending is unpredictable. I’d rather collect assets in hopes of eventually surrounding a goalie - preferably a bargain one in the mold of Ben Bishop - with overwhelming talent rather than following the pack in hoping upon hopes that the $5-$8 million you’re spending on a “franchise” goalie actually ends up being money well-spent.
Really, though, it would be more fun to watch Miller on a contender than wallowing away in Buffalo. It could also swing quite a few fantasy playoffs.
-- Will Anaheim find a taker for Viktor Fasth? He’s a real wild card being that his NHL experience is pretty minimal yet that same mystery (and a strong 2012-13 season) makes him mildly enticing. If I were a team looking for some insurance at a lower price, I’d be intrigued.
-- Should the Minnesota Wild be buyers? I actually think a Fasth-type goalie would make some sense for the Wild, as Josh Harding’s health is a question, Niklas Backstrom’s play might justify the nickname Niklas Backup and the team is spending quite a pretty penny to barely make the playoffs (if that). They need more than just a netminder, but that would be the quickest way to bring in a big fix, and getting a rental makes more sense for them than most.
-- Will Edmonton continue its recent trend for impulsive idiocy (as opposed to ill-placed loyalty)? That third-round pick for Ben Scrivens looks dopier every day. I imagine Dean Lombardi cackles with glee in general, but he probably amplifies the cacklitude** with that swap.
-- Carolina should do some soul-searching and see if they can unload Cam Ward on someone desperate for goaltending help. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes don’t always live up to their name from a management perspective, as they’re strangely comfortable with the weak pull of inertia (at least big-picture wise; I feel like there’s someone in that organization who occasionally wins shouting matches to make good moves like signing Alexander Semin and Anton Khudobin).
-- One way or another, it looks like New Jersey is finally embracing reality. By that I mean acknowledging that Cory Schneider gives them a much, much better chance to win than Martin Brodeur. I’m not sure trading Brodeur for what would probably be peanuts is worth the PR hit, though.
-- The Florida Panthers would be foolish not to dangle Tim Thomas just to see what happens. Then again, they’re the Florida Panthers.
-- Not really trade fodder: will Steve Mason keep it together or fall apart? The Flyers don’t really have a lot of margin for error here.
-- I don’t think goaltending is truly Washington’s biggest problem - that would be scoring depth beyond Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and really depth in general - but things could be getting a little tense in DC for GM George McPhee, who doesn’t seem to get listed on many “How is this guy still in charge?” lists. He might start seeing his name there if the Caps fall out of the playoff race, so that’s an interesting situation to watch.
So, overall, there are a lot of interesting goalie storylines to consider, especially with the trade deadline approaching. The key fantasy-wise is simple and consistent with this inconsistent season: be flexible and ready to pounce on opportunities when they arise. The Dose will aim to make that pouncing as accurate as possible.
* - Seriously, whether you agree with his team-building strategies or not, photos of his eye are about the saddest hockey-related thing in circulation.
** - Not a real word, you say? 1) You must be new here and 2) well, it should be.