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Fantasy spin: NHL free agent signings

Grubauer, Schwartz boost Kraken outlook; Hamilton's ripple effect on Devils

by Fantasy Hockey Staff @NHLFantasy

NHL.com has the fantasy hockey spins on the biggest free agent signings for the 2021-22 season. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

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Grubauer, Schwartz agree to terms with Kraken

The Seattle Kraken have agreed to terms with elite fantasy goalie Philipp Grubauer on a six-year contract and valuable left wing Jaden Schwartz on a five-year contract. These moves boost Seattle's team fantasy appeal and could help them challenge for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Pacific Division.

Grubauer loses some fantasy appeal going from one of the NHL's best teams in the Colorado Avalanche to an expansion franchise in the Kraken but should be the clear No. 1 starter over Chris Driedger, who signed a three-year contract with Seattle on July 19. Previously the No. 2 goalie in NHL.com's fantasy rankings, Grubauer is now a fringe top 10 option and still among the 75 best overall players with the ceiling of helping Seattle make the playoffs in their inaugural season.

A finalist for the Vezina Trophy (NHL's top goalie) with the Avalanche last season, Grubauer was 30-9-1 with a .922 save percentage, tied for the most shutouts (seven) in the League and 6-4 with a .914 SV% in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Colorado replaced Grubauer by acquiring Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.

Read: Fantasy spin on Kuemper trade to Avalanche

Tweet from @NHLFantasy: Which of these goalies on a new team will be most valuable in fantasy next season?Free agency fantasy spin: https://t.co/WN2upJe6bF

Schwartz, meanwhile, is a leading candidate to play on Seattle's top line in its inaugural season. Schwartz, who scored at least 55 points in five of the six seasons when he played at least 62 games for the St. Louis Blues, should be one of Seattle's top offensive players this season, along with right wing Jordan Eberle (selected in NHL Expansion Draft from New York Islanders).

Even with Schwartz missing time because of injuries in recent seasons, he has strong NHL career highs in many of the standard fantasy categories: 28 goals in 2014-15, 36 assists in 2016-17), a plus-28 in 2013-14, 20 power-play points in 2019-20 and three seasons with more than 180 shots on goal. Schwartz's best NHL season came in 2017-18, when he scored 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) in 62 games.

Although Schwartz should have prime usage for the Kraken under coach Dave Hakstol, potential No. 1 center Yanni Gourde (shoulder surgery) may not be ready for the start of the season. Schwartz, in recent seasons, had the luxury of a valuable center linemate in either Ryan O'Reilly or Brayden Schenn whenever healthy with the Blues. The options to center the Kraken top line include deep fantasy sleepers Jared McCann (32 points in 43 games with Pittsburgh Penguins last season) and Alex Wennberg (agreed to terms on three-year contract). Even still, Schwartz is now ranked fourth among Kraken fantasy players behind Grubauer, Eberle and Driedger.

 

Hamilton signs with Devils

The New Jersey Devils made a huge free agent splash by signing elite fantasy defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year contract. Hamilton, who has scored the most goals among NHL defensemen over the past four seasons combined (59), remains a top 10 option at the position for this season despite going from Carolina's potent forward group to the Devils, who have intriguing young skaters but are still rebuilding.

Hamilton's points-per-game average last season (0.76) was tied for eighth among all defensemen, and he was also tied for sixth at the position with 18 power-play points. While Hamilton may lose some fantasy appeal in the short term, the signing does boost the stock of the Devils' skater group, led by young forwards Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha and defenseman Ty Smith (23 points in 48 games as rookie).

The signing also has big implications for goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who was 14-17-4 with a .902 save percentage and one shutout in 35 games last season. Blackwood, who had strong SV% in each of his two prior NHL seasons (.915 in 2019-20; .918 in 2018-19), has rejoined NHL.com's top 25 goalie rankings after the Hamilton addition and is a fantasy breakout candidate attainable in late rounds.

Carolina's fantasy replacement for Hamilton could be defenseman Tony DeAngelo, whose contract was bought out by the New York Rangers before he signed a one-year contract with the Hurricanes. DeAngelo was one of the top scorers at the position in 2019-20, scoring 53 points (T-5th), 19 on the power play (T-9th), in 68 games that season on the first unit with elite forwards Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad and rejoins the fantasy top 50 D-men with exposure to elite forwards Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov with the Hurricanes.

 

Andersen signs with Hurricanes

Goalie Frederik Andersen has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, giving him added bounce-back appeal this season in fantasy. Even after the departure of elite defenseman Dougie Hamilton from Carolina in free agency, Andersen is now a top 10 fantasy option at the position again behind a strong defense, led by Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, and deep forward group.

Andersen will likely be the outright No. 1 goalie for the Hurricanes after they traded promising young goalie Alex Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings on July 22; Petr Mrazek (Maple Leafs) and James Reimer (San Jose Sharks) signed elsewhere in free agency. Andersen is coming off the worst season of his NHL career, going 13-8-3 with a .895 save percentage in 24 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and missing time because of injury. But, prior to that, Andersen was a consistent fantasy option for Toronto with four straight seasons of at least 29 wins (2016-17 to 2019-20).

Andersen's best fantasy season came in 2017-18, when he went 38-21-5 with a .918 save percentage and five shutouts in 66 games with Toronto. Although fantasy managers should be aware Andersen's numbers have declined in each of the next three seasons, his ceiling could be even higher with the Hurricanes, a more well-rounded team than the Maple Leafs.

 

Hyman signs with Oilers

Left wing Zach Hyman signed a seven-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers, boosting his fantasy stock for this season. Hyman will likely play on the top line with No. 1 ranked fantasy player Connor McDavid, who led the NHL with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games.

Hyman scored 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 43 games last regular season mostly skating in a top-six role for the Toronto Maple Leafs with elite linemates in either center Auston Matthews and wing Mitchell Marner or center John Tavares and wing William Nylander. Hyman scored 21 goals in consecutive seasons (2018-19, 2019-20) and could exceed those totals with exposure to either McDavid and/or elite forward Leon Draisaitl at even strength. Hyman has only scored three power-play goals in each of the past two seasons for the Maple Leafs but could be given an expanded role on Edmonton's first man-advantage unit.

Hyman, who also brings strong hits coverage (69 last season), has a top 75 overall fantasy ceiling with the Oilers and is either worth stacking with McDavid or Draisaitl in the top 100-125 range of a standard 12-team draft or targeting as a standalone in later rounds.

Tweet from @NHLJensen: Which forward will score the most points with his new team next season?Free agency @NHLFantasy spin: https://t.co/eo7OcCKWza

 

Mrazek signs with Maple Leafs

Goalie Petr Mrazek has signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, giving him fantasy appeal this season as part of a likely timeshare tandem with Jack Campbell. Mrazek was an elite fantasy goalie when healthy last season, going 6-2-3 with a .923 save percentage and three shutouts in 12 games. Although Mrazek dealt with multiple injuries and lost the No. 1 spot to Nedeljkovic for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Mrazek is still capable of being an efficient option for Toronto and, along with Campbell, is ranked among the top 20 goalies.

Mrazek was 50-32-8 with a .911 SV% and 10 shutouts in three seasons with the Hurricanes and could yield similar fantasy performance with the Maple Leafs, who should provide plenty of goal support with elite forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, John Tavares (if ready for start of season after injuries in playoffs) and William Nylander. The best fantasy strategy for Toronto's goalies may be to handcuff Campbell and Mrazek if they are available outside the top 100 overall.

 

Ullmark signs with Bruins

The Boston Bruins have signed goalie Linus Ullmark to a four-year contract. Ullmark was 9-6-3 with a .917 save percentage in 20 games last season, impressive considering Buffalo had the fewest points in the NHL (37). Ullmark gains significant value joining the contending Bruins and has joined rookie teammate Jeremy Swayman among NHL.com's fantasy top 25 goalie rankings.

Ullmark is expected to be a part of a timeshare with Swayman, who was 7-3-0 with a .945 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games last season. Boston's usual starter Tuukka Rask is an unrestricted free agent and expected to miss time recovering from a hip injury, leaving opportunities for Ullmark and Swayman to make the case to be Boston's future starter. Ullmark is an intriguing fantasy goalie sleeper for the late rounds of a standard 12-team draft and ranked slightly ahead of Swayman.

 

Suter signs with Stars

Defenseman Ryan Suter has signed a four-year contract with the Dallas Stars, making them one of the strongest teams at the position in the NHL. Suter has joined Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg among the top 250 overall rankings; Heiskanen and Klingberg are ranked among the 20 best options at the position.

Suter is coming off a down season (19 points in 56 regular-season games; one assist in seven playoff games) for the Minnesota Wild but was one of the most valuable fantasy defensemen in 2019-20 with 48 points (ninth in NHL at position), 18 on the power play (T-12th), in 69 games. He likely won't get a first power-play role with the Stars but can still be drafted in late fantasy rounds as a safe bench defenseman from a potential bounce-back team.

The Stars have also signed veteran goalie Braden Holtby to a one-year contract. He joins an already crowded group at the position, which includes Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger. Fantasy managers should wait and see if Dallas makes any moves involving their other goalies before considering Holtby as a late-round pick behind a strong defense.

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Other players who could gain value from free agent signings: Brandon Saad, LW/RW, STL; Mike Hoffman, LW/RW, MTL; Jaroslav Halak, G, VAN; Blake Coleman, LW/RW, CGY

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NHL.com's Pete Jensen and Rob Reese contributed to this analysis.

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