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Fantasy mailbag: Ripple effect of Sabres' moves

Johansson signing, Miller trade benefit Dahlin, overall outlook; Barrie vs. Trouba in points; projection for Kadri with Avalanche

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Senior Fantasy Editor

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How do you see Rasmus Dahlin's value [after Buffalo's offseason moves]? -- @JamesCripps_

The Buffalo Sabres should be a more consistent, competitive team after signing left wing Marcus Johansson on Saturday and acquiring well-rounded defenseman Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights on June 28, addressing clear secondary needs. Dahlin scored 44 points, 20 on the power play, as an 18-year-old rookie defenseman and will almost definitely improve on his even-strength point total in his second season with reinforcements around him.

Dahlin, who shoots left, can be paired with a right-shot defenseman in Miller, Brandon Montour or Rasmus Ristolainen, giving the Sabres an array of options to maximize their emerging star at the position. With Johansson, Miller and the re-signing of leading goal scorer Jeff Skinner (40 last season), Dahlin is in line for at least 50 points. The only way Dahlin doesn't get to 50 is if he is bumped to the second power-play unit to keep Ristolainen up top, highly unlikely given Dahlin's success in those situations last season and his long-term ceiling.

Video: BUF@DET: Dahlin buries PPG through traffic in front

Johansson gives the Sabres an incentive to split up their top line of Jack Eichel, Skinner and Sam Reinhart for more balance; those top-line forwards each scored at least 63 points last season, but Buffalo's next highest-scoring forward was Conor Sheary with 34. Johansson will at least bring some 5-on-5 exposure to Dahlin and could also get a trial on the top line and/or first power play with Eichel under new coach Ralph Krueger. A safe projection for Johansson is 45-50 points with a greater ceiling if he gets prime placement.

Buffalo frequently used Dahlin, who averaged 21:09 per game (2:51 on power play) as a rookie, and Ristolainen on the same power-play unit last season but also rotated in forwards who were not fantasy-relevant (Sheary, Kyle Okposo, Casey Mittelstadt, Jason Pominville) at different points. It's worth noting center prospect Dylan Cozens (No. 7 pick in 2019 NHL Draft) had thumb surgery and will need 2-3 months to recover, making it more likely Reinhart will be centering the second line (probably with Johansson) on opening night. The Sabres could also opt to play Johansson at center on the second line with Skinner or Reinhart.


Who has everyone forgotten because last year they were injured or on a poor team and will be a sleeper this year? -- @popo

Two players come to mind from the Arizona Coyotes: forward Nick Schmaltz and goalie Antti Raanta. It's hard to believe the Coyotes came as close as they did to a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with these two players injured in the final months of the regular season. Raanta was arguably the fantasy playoff MVP down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, and Schmaltz was playing top-line minutes with Clayton Keller and close to a point per game (14 points in 17 games) after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks last season. The addition of elite right wing Phil Kessel directly benefits Raanta from a goal-support standpoint and Schmaltz as a potential linemate. If the Coyotes make the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, fantasy owners can expect one or both of these players to return serious value based on average draft position.


What's your projection for [Nazem] Kadri and likely linemates [Tyson] Jost, [Andre] Burakovsky and/or [J.T.] Compher? -- @JLaczo15

Kadri gets a boost in fantasy value from the trade to the Colorado Avalanche, where he should be the second-line center and on the first power play after being on the Toronto Maple Leafs power play but also stuck as the third-line center behind elite players Auston Matthews and John Tavares. Kadri fills a secondary void for the Avalanche and also brings renewed hope for Burakovsky, who could flank the two-way center and give Colorado a new look. Jost remains a work in progress, but it was encouraging to see Compher chip in during the postseason, especially with a three-point game (two goals, one assist) with the Avalanche facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks.

A second line of Kadri centering Burakovsky and Compher is likely how Colorado will start the season, and Kadri is a bounce-back candidate who can deliver 50-55 points with 25-30 goals and 15-20 power-play points (especially if he's on the first unit with Nathan MacKinnon, etc.). With trademark coverage of hits and shots on goal, Kadri can become a top 100 overall fantasy player again, even at the deep center position. As far as Burakovsky, Compher and Jost, it will be tough for any of them to exceed 45 points because of the likely rotation ahead and second power-play usage.

Video: Kadri changes Avalanche's lineup, outlook next season


Projection for [Mathew] Barzal? -- @B_Habs27

Barzal is bound to finish somewhere between his rookie total (85 points) and last season (62), when he had an adjustment period under defensive coach Barry Trotz. The New York Islanders have brought back both of Barzal's linemates, left wing Anders Lee and right wing Jordan Eberle, and it was also a good sign that Eberle flourished late in the regular season and in the postseason after being reunited with Barzal.

Eberle is primed for a bounce-back season of 55-60 points (had 59 with Islanders in 2017-18), and Barzal should be back in the 70s in his contract year (potential 2020 restricted free agent). The Islanders elevated defenseman Devon Toews to the first power play in the playoffs, a move that led to improved production and should help Barzal bounce back in PPP (27 as rookie; 18 last season). Barring a trade (or offer sheet) to bring better top-line talent to the Islanders, let's safely project Barzal for 71 points in his third season.


Who gets more points with their new team next year: Tyson Barrie or Jacob Trouba? -- @KruisinBrink

Trouba may very well see more first power-play usage with the Rangers than Barrie will with the Maple Leafs, but Barrie (potential 2020 unrestricted free agent) will almost certainly score more points from even-strength exposure to Matthews, Tavares and Mitchell Marner (restricted free agent) alone. This is a similar situation to the Sharks with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson; the Maple Leafs now have two elite scoring defensemen on the same team and need to keep each involved and productive but also not bury one in favor of the other. Barrie and Rielly could each score at least 55 points this season, sometimes playing together on the first power play and other times rotating with each other. Trouba has a chance to match or exceed his point total from last season (50), but, even with elite left wing Artemi Panarin, there's much less talent around Trouba compared to what he had with the Winnipeg Jets or what Barrie has in Toronto.

Video: Trouba discusses excitement, joining Rangers rebuild


Who do you see playing 2C for the New York Rangers? Vitali Kravstov has played there for the Russian World Junior Championship team, or do you see someone else or perhaps even a trade coming for someone like Chris Kreider? -- @DMalles98

Kreider is entering a contract year (potential 2020 UFA) and will almost certainly be bumped off the top line in favor of Panarin. If Kreider sticks around and is on a line with either Kaapo Kakko, Pavel Buchnevich or Kravstov on the opposite wing, the Rangers will have a drastically better second line than last season. New York's options at second-line center (behind Mika Zibanejad) are in this order: Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Lias Andersson and then maybe Kravstov. After an impressive showing at Rangers development camp, Kravtsov has sneaky fantasy upside but will likely be on the wing rather than center, at least for the upcoming season.


Do you think Semyon Varlamov could be a late-round sleeper [with the Islanders]? -- @MrTex25

There's every reason to believe Varlamov can do exactly what Robin Lehner did last season with the Islanders under Trotz and director of goaltending Mitch Korn. Varlamov may even have a higher fantasy ceiling than Lehner if he becomes the full-time starter over Thomas Greiss, who's in a contract year (potential 2020 UFA) and has struggled with year-to-year consistency. The fantasy goalie landscape really thins out after the top 100, so someone will likely reach for Varlamov inside the top 120, which is still great value but not quite "sleeper" territory. Varlamov is a bounce-back candidate in a great spot and should go right around Raanta and ahead of most timeshare goalies (Corey Crawford, Darcy Kuemper, David Rittich, Cory Schneider, etc.).


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