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Fantasy spin: Free agent signings on July 1, 2017

Kevin Shattenkirk should boost Rangers power play; Brian Elliott can bounce back with Flyers

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

NHL free agency has begun, meaning many fantasy-relevant players around the League will have their value change, for better or worse, upon joining a new team.

Here is the running list of the most notable July 1 signees with the potential fantasy impact each player could have with his new team.

NOTES: Position(s) listed indicate(s) Yahoo eligibility from last season. ... Yahoo finish in 2016-17 reflects performance-based rank in standard leagues (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal for skaters; wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goalies).

 

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Kevin Shattenkirk, D, NYR
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 79 (eighth among defensemen)

Shattenkirk, 28, is a right-shooting power-play specialist who can quarterback the New York Rangers' first unit after agreeing to a reported four-year contract. Since 2013-14, Shattenkirk has the second-most power-play points (104 in 289 games) among defensemen behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (114 in 323 games). The Rangers had their highest power-play conversion percentage (20.2; T-10th in NHL) last season since 1998-99 (20.7), and Shattenkirk could help them improve in those situations.

More than half of Shattenkirk's points (55 percent) over the past four seasons have come on the power play; his 83 even-strength points in the span are tied for 36th among defensemen with Jake Gardiner, Seth Jones and Jared Spurgeon. The Rangers have plenty of offensive defensemen with Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei, so Shattenkirk's fantasy value could dip slightly if the power-play time ends up being more spread out than when he was with the St. Louis Blues or during his stint with the Washington Capitals last season. If Shattenkirk and/or McDonagh get the bulk of the power-play minutes, Skjei's breakout potential could be put on hold.

Shattenkirk remains a top 10 fantasy defenseman and fringe top 50 overall asset in the same territory as P.K. Subban, Kris Letang, Duncan Keith and Shea Weber. Each is a reliable fantasy defenseman for a Stanley Cup Playoff contender but none is worth reaching for inside the third round of a standard-league draft.

 

Brian Elliott, G, PHI
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 213

Elliott, 32, is coming off an up-and-down season with the Calgary Flames but has bounce-back potential after signing a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. He has put together a strong finish in each of the past two seasons, going 23-9-2 with a .919 SV% and two shutouts over his final 35 games with the Flames last season and 19-5-4 with a .936 SV% and four shutouts over his final 30 games with the St. Louis Blues in 2015-16.

With Steve Mason's departure to the Winnipeg Jets in free agency, and goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz recovering from a lower-body injury, Elliott should at least form a solid time-share with Michal Neuvirth. A best-case scenario would have Elliott run away with the starting job, finish among the fantasy top 10 or 15 at his position, and help the Flyers get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since 2011-12, Elliott is tied for sixth in even-strength SV% among goalies with at least 230 games played (.928). Because of the negative perception surrounding the Flyers' goaltending, Elliott should fall to at least the 16-20 range among goalies in fantasy drafts, where he could end up being a bargain.

Video: CGY@ANA, Gm1: Elliott stones Silfverberg in front

 

Evgeny Dadonov, LW/RW, FLA
2016-17 Yahoo rank: N/A

The Florida Panthers have a noticeably different forward outlook after the Vegas Golden Knights selected left wing Jonathan Marchessault and traded for right wing Reilly Smith. The Panthers have also parted ways with unrestricted free agent Jaromir Jagr. This opens the door for Dadonov to instantly become fantasy-relevant after signing a three-year contract with the Panthers on Saturday. The 28-year-old finished fourth in the Kontinental Hockey League in goals (30) and fifth in points (66) last season, and rejoins the team that selected him with the 71st pick in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Following St. Petersburg SKA linemate Vadim Shipachyov (who signed with Vegas) to the NHL, Dadonov becomes a fantasy wild card worth drafting anytime outside the top 130 overall, and is a fringe top 100 asset in a keeper league. He could play either on the first line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau or on the second line with Vincent Trocheck, and is also likely to see significant power-play usage. He has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 55 career NHL games in three seasons with the Panthers, but returns to the League as a more mature playmaker who could make a far greater impact in his second NHL stint.

 

Justin Williams, RW, CAR
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 98

Williams, 35, returns to the Carolina Hurricanes on a two-year contract. He won the Stanley Cup with them in 2006 (in addition to titles with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014) and brings veteran savvy and stable production to a team on the cusp of the postseason. He should remain a solid fantasy category cog for those in leagues that count SOG, PPP and PIMs, but his chances of finishing among the top 100 again hinges on whether he plays second-line right wing and/or on the first power-play unit.

He played mostly with young center Evgeny Kuznetsov in his two seasons with the Washington Capitals, averaging 50 points per season with a strong plus/minus in each. He was also fantasy-relevant for years with the Kings and Hurricanes and is a five-time 50-point producer. Consider drafting Williams in the top 175-200 range if you need right wing help late in your draft. That said, his fantasy ceiling is 45-50 points and he could be bound for a scoring dip considering the Hurricanes sport higher-upside wings Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm in their top six.

 

Patrick Sharp, LW/RW, CHI
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 522

Sharp, 35, is a reclamation project for the Chicago Blackhawks, who signed the veteran wing to a one-year contract. He won the Stanley Cup three times with Chicago (2010, 2013, 2015) and had the best fantasy season of his NHL career with them in 2013-14: 78 points (34 goals, 44 assists), 25 PPP and 313 SOG and was among the top 15 overall playing mostly with Jonathan Toews. Sharp carried over his high shot volume to his time with the Dallas Stars and produced on their first power-play unit (24 PPP in 2015-16) when healthy, but was limited to 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 48 games last season.

Sharp is a low-risk, high-reward signing who could help Chicago's power-play and/or top-six forward group if he stays healthy. He will be among the late-round injury rebound candidates entering this season, especially considering he could play on their first power-play unit like he did for Chicago in the past. Considering Sharp's pedigree with the Blackhawks and familiarity with their core players Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad, he has a chance to fit in nicely and return to fantasy relevance. Target him outside the top 150 overall.

Video: F Patrick Sharp rejoins Chicago Blackhawks

 

Antti Niemi, G, PIT
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 644

Niemi, 33, signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he will have a chance to revitalize his career for the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. The Golden Knights selected longtime Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the NHL Expansion Draft, opening the door for Niemi to be the veteran backup to Matt Murray. Niemi had 25 wins in 2015-16 thanks to a League-best Dallas Stars offense (3.23 goals per game) but combined for the worst SV% among goalies to play at least 85 games over the past two seasons (.900). That said, he won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and had at least 31 wins in each of his four full seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

Call him a potential product of the players around him, but this change in scenery definitely puts Niemi back in the top 200 overall with an even higher ceiling if Murray misses time because of injury at any point. Those who draft Murray among the top five fantasy goalies should handcuff Niemi for insurance, regardless of league size or format.

 

Steve Mason, G, WPG
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 244

Mason, 29, signed a two-year contract with the Jets and will compete for their starting job. He had a.918 save percentage in 231 games over five seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and could benefit from the Jets' high-powered offense (3.0 goals per game last season, seventh in NHL), featuring forwards Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and defensemen Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba.

Mason has bounce-back appeal and can challenge Winnipeg's younger goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck (restricted free agent), 24, and Michael Hutchinson (one year left on contract), 27, for playing time. Considering Hellebuyck had 26 wins in 56 games with erratic peripherals last season means Mason has sneaky potential with so much goal support if he wins the job outright. Winnipeg's power play (18.2 percent) was not much worse than Philadelphia's (19.5) last season, either. Mason was not among NHL.com's preliminary top 250 rankings but will certainly join that list with renewed fantasy hope after this signing.

Video: PHI@NJD: Mason robs Noesen at the goal line

 

Radim Vrbata, RW, FLA
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 143

Vrbata, 36, covered four of the six standard fantasy categories well for the Arizona Coyotes last season with 20 goals, 35 assists, 15 PPP and 233 SOG. He signed a one-year contract with Florida, where he can again see significant power-play time and play among the top-six forward group. There's a good chance he ends up on the right side of either Barkov or Trocheck at even strength, a huge upgrade compared to the centers he has played with the past two seasons. If he sees a shooting percentage improvement (6.5 in 2015-16 with Vancouver Canucks; 8.6 in 2016-17 with Coyotes), Vrbata's ceiling could be 25-30 goals. He has scored at least 31 goals in two of his past four full seasons, and Marchessault scored 30 goals for the Panthers last season with all their injuries and line changes. Vrbata is well worth a late-round flier or waiver-wire pickup, especially considering his rating (combined minus-48 the past two seasons) should be better with a contending team.

 

Scott Hartnell, LW, NSH
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 196

The fact that Hartnell, 35, finished among the top 200 fantasy players last season is a testament to his strong category coverage. In mostly a third-line role with Sam Gagner and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and diminished power-play time, Hartnell had 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists), was plus-14, and had 63 penalty minutes and 94 hits for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, he goes back to where his NHL career started with the Nashville Predators, where he could fill the second-line hole left by James Neal, who was selected by the Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. Don't expect a 60-point season like Hartnell had in 2014-15, but it's fair to anticipate at least a slight scoring spike with at least 20 goals, 45 points and 100 PIMs, and hits if he plays a full season. He is an undervalued veteran worth drafting in the final rounds of a 12- or 14-team league.

Video: Predators sign F Scott Hartnell to 1-year deal

 

Ryan Miller, G, ANA

2016-17 Yahoo rank: 273

Miller went 64-68-16 with a .914 SV% in 150 games over three seasons with the Canucks, but kept them in contention for three-quarters of last season. His best fantasy days are behind him, but he enters a favorable spot behind starting goaltender John Gibson. Previous Ducks goaltenders Frederik Andersen and Jonathan Bernier thrived in time-share and/or backup roles with Gibson missing time because of injury. Miller may have enough left in the tank to put together a run at any point this season if given any string of playing time for one of the deepest teams in the League at forward and on defense. If you draft Gibson in the 6-10 range among fantasy goalies, grab Miller with one of your final picks for insurance.

 

Michael Cammalleri, LW/RW, LAK

2016-17 Yahoo rank: 336

Cammalleri is always a risky fantasy pick because of his injury history; he hasn't played 70 games in a season since playing 81 in 2008-09. That said, he was close to a point-per-game player in 2015-16 with the New Jersey Devils (38 points in 42 games) and has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past eight seasons. The Kings are weak at left wing outside of Tanner Pearson, so Cammalleri was signed to a one-year contract and has a path to a top-six role if he can stay healthy. He falls into the deep injury bounce-back conversation and should be monitored in case he lands alongside a center like Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter.

 

Chad Johnson, G, BUF
2016-17 Yahoo rank: 208

Johnson, 31, rejoins the Buffalo Sabres on a one-year contract and is poised to remain one of the League's more efficient backup goaltenders. He has impressed in stints with the Flames last season (18 wins, .910 SV%, three shutouts in 36 games), the Sabres in 2015-16 (22 wins, .920 SV%, one shutout in 45 games) during Robin Lehner's injury-shortened season, and the Boston Bruins in 2013-14 (17 wins, .925 SV%, two shutouts in 27 games). He has a .915 NHL SV% and could excel when called upon given the Sabres' defensive improvements in recent weeks. Buffalo had the League's top power play (24.5 percent) and should be improved at even strength if center Jack Eichel stays healthy for a full season and with the addition of forward Jason Pominville. Johnson could emerge as a viable waiver-wire addition in a deep fantasy league.

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