Fantasy Mailbag: Keeper value of Fleury vs. Halak

Wednesday, 03.28.2012 / 3:40 PM
Pete Jensen  - NHL.com Staff Writer
NHL.com fantasy insider Pete Jensen has you covered all season long with the weekly Fantasy Hockey Mailbag. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

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PETE FROM MARLBORO, NEW JERSEY is in a fantasy league that allows him to keep a maximum of four players. He is planning on retaining Ilya Kovalchuk, Shea Weber and Ryan Kesler, but is torn on whether to keep Marc-Andre Fleury or Jaroslav Halak as his final selection. His league categorizes wins, G.A.A., save percentage and shutouts for goaltenders.

It would be worth it to retain both of these goalies as keepers in most cases, but since you have a defensive juggernaut in Weber and two lethal goal-scorers already in the fold, let's dissect which of these elite netminders is the better long-term option. When you look at Halak's body of work this season through 43 appearances, it's been magnificent. He's second in the League in goals-against average behind only his teammate, Brian Elliott, and is also in the top-six in both shutouts and save percentage. The Blues' duo has tied a modern era NHL record with 15 combined shutouts this season, lifting the club from mediocrity to Presidents' Trophy territory. But my two concerns when stacking up Halak with Fleury are consistency and performance under a heavy workload.

If Elliott cannot replicate his top-tier campaign next season, the burden will fall on Halak -- who has had trouble in the past building off a breakout season. In 2009-10, when he powered the Montreal Canadiens to a memorable playoff run, he had only 45 regular season outings, putting up 26 wins, a .924 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against-average. But the following season -- his first with St. Louis -- his numbers slipped when he made 57 appearances, as he only mustered one more win (27), while seeing his numbers drop to .910 and 2.48, respectively. It's important to note that the Blues were decimated by injuries at numerous points last season and also that the team has been much more effective than last season with Ken Hitchcock at the helm. However, Halak's inconsistency should be taken into account when comparing him to Fleury, who has registered 62-plus appearances in each of his last four seasons.

Even this season, when Halak started the season 1-6-0, Elliott picked up the slack and enabled his teammate to regain his rhythm. Now, the 26-year-old Halak may have learned from his previous tendencies, but his consistency from season-to-season remains a concern until Halak proves the fantasy world otherwise. Your best bet would be to keep Fleury, who has been an absolute fortress in net for the injury-plagued Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury, time and time again, has failed to wither when faced with adversity, and with the Pens now healthy, the team has the most balance in the League with a potent offense and a strong unit on the blue line. He's coming off a rare poor outing, allowing five goals on 18 shots before being pulled Tuesday against the New York Islanders, but he was an incredible 12-0-1 in his previous 13 decisions. He's the biggest reason, outside of Evgeni Malkin, why the Penguins are still in the mix for the top spot in the East. The 27-year-old is tied for the League-lead in wins (41) with Pekka Rinne and has proven again that he can post commendable numbers with a heavy workload.


DANIEL FROM WOODBRIDGE, ONTARIO is in the finals of his non-keeper league that factors in goals, assists, GWG and PPP. He has Daniel Sedin on his team, who is out of the lineup with a concussion. He's wondering if he should replace him with an available option like Alexander Radulov since the clock is ticking on his season. His concern, however, is that his opponent could pick up Sedin, and if he comes back by season's end, the move could end up burning him.

Daniel Sedin, Yahoo's top-ranked fantasy player coming into the season, has put together another marvelous campaign for the Vancouver Canucks, but his fortunes took a turn for the worse when he went down with an injury on March 21 in Chicago. Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Monday that Sedin suffered a concussion on the play and indicated that there is not a timetable for his return at the moment. This puts you in a predicament as you pursue a fantasy championship, and despite your loyalty to your team's most reliable asset, there is only a week and half left in the season and you need to make a decision quickly.

With the major key being the fact that this is a non-keeper league, it would be in your best interest to drop Sedin and pick up an available player with some potential. Your suggestion is right on the money, as Radulov (owned in 31 percent of leagues) has an array of offensive skills that are expected to translate to the NHL level. The 25-year-old right wing has a goal, two assists and 11 SOG in four games with Nashville since his return to the League and is operating on the team's top line with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist. If you're looking for a hotter commodity on the wing, a great option, if available, would be Drew Stafford (50 percent -- RW eligible) who has six goals and eight assists over his last eight games for the surging Buffalo Sabres. No matter which option you pursue, it may sting for you to part ways with Sedin, but the priority right now is a healthy player at the forefront of his team's offensive system -- which is the case with both of the aforementioned players.


PETER FROM SARNIA, ONTARIO is in a nine-team keeper league that counts goals, assists, rating, PIMs, PPP, GWG, SOG and hits. He's allowed to keep three defensemen from his current roster, and has already decided to retain Kris Letang and Alexander Edler. His final choice comes down to a pool of d-men that includes Andrei Markov, Jake Gardiner and Dmitry Kulikov.

I would write off Markov (36 percent) as a potential keeper, considering he has only one point in eight games after missing the first five months of the regular season due to a knee injury. He's been an impressive player in the past, but at age 33, his best days may be behind him. Kulikov (22 percent) is a name that has been tossed around this fantasy season for his well-rounded contributions to the Florida Panthers' success on the blue line. He has put up points on a somewhat consistent basis, while nearing the century mark in hits and shots for Florida's second defensive pairing and reaching double-digits in PPP. Kulikov, 21, is still young but is ending the regular season on a sour note with pointless outings in each of his last four games and only five points over his last 25 games.

While Kulikov remains an appealing option, Gardiner (5 G, 21 A, minus-1, 18 PIM, 6 PPP, 73 SOG, 45 hits) is finishing the season strong and warrants a good look. He's only owned in six percent of leagues, but has posted a goal and four assists on Toronto's third blue line pairing over his last seven games. Goaltending is an issue moving forward in Toronto, but if a move is made over the summer to shore up that need, you could be looking at an opportunity for the 21-year-old Gardiner to take the next step in his development next season. He's made a great impression on new coach Randy Carlyle amidst the Leafs' rough patch late this season, so with a fresh slate there's a great chance he could be a fantasy sleeper in 2012-13.


GERRY FROM LAKELANDS, NOVA SCOTIA is in a 14-team league that permits two keepers. His league categorizes goals, assists, rating, PIMs, PPP, GWG and SOG. He doesn't intend on keeping one of his current goaltenders (Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun, Craig Anderson) and is already set on retaining Alex Ovechkin. For his other keeper selection, he is deciding between Nicklas Backstrom and Patrick Marleau.

When Varlamov (25-22-3, .912, 2.62, 4 SO) was locked into an 11-3-0 stretch from Feb. 17 to Mar. 20, thoughts of his keeper value began to surface. But after going 0-2-1 with 10 goals allowed over his last three outings -- all back-breaking defeats for the playoff-hopeful Colorado Avalanche -- Varlamov may have a ways to go before he can be relied upon in that role. He should be monitored as the season winds down and re-evaluated at the end of the season, but his overall numbers this season have been too inconsistent. 

Backstrom (C eligible -- 86 percent) passed another concussion baseline test, indicating that the worst of the injury could be behind him, according to Washington Capitals' G.M. George McPhee.  While it's still unlikely that Backstrom will play in any of the team's five remaining regular season games, he could be available for the playoffs if the Caps qualify. While this doesn't impact fantasy teams this season, it's a promising sign moving forward for Backstrom -- who hasn't played since Jan. 3. While he remains a concern moving forward after a drop-off in production last season and his inability to stay healthy this year, he still has 42 points in 38 games this season.

That being said, Marleau (28 G, 31 A, plus-10, 22 PIM, 22 PPP, 232 SOG) would be my pick in this comparison, as the C/LW eligible forward is owned in 98 percent of leagues for a reason. While his production has dipped slightly this season, he is a consistent 70-plus-point player and a masterful power-play producer. He puts forth a ton of shots on goal and also satisfies your game-winning goals category, as he is tied for 5th in the NHL with eight such goals in 76 games this season. His recent stretch of 2 goals and 5 assists over his last 15 games has been far from impressive, but it's important to consider that Marleau has played in 74 or more games in each of his 14 NHL seasons. When looking at keepers, being in the lineup is of the utmost importance.


To submit a question for NHL.com's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact fantasy insider Pete Jensen at PJensen@NHL.com.

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