PANARIN TO RANGERS
Elite left wing Artemi Panarin has signed a seven-year contract with the New York Rangers on Monday, significantly boosting their forward group and making them one of the most improved fantasy teams this offseason. Panarin should now be considered a top 20 overall fantasy player and top five left wing.
Panarin, who was better than a point-per-game player in two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets (169 points in 160 games), was the top 2019 unrestricted free agent on the market. He joins the Rangers, who have established fantasy-relevant skaters in center Mika Zibanejad, defenseman Jacob Trouba and left wing Chris Kreider, along with intriguing rookies in forwards Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and defenseman Adam Fox. The addition of Panarin should put the Rangers back in Stanley Cup Playoff contention after a brief rebuild.
Read: Fantasy projection for Panarin with Rangers
Listen: Free agency episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast
BOBROVSKY TO PANTHERS
Elite goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has signed a seven-year contract with the Florida Panthers, immediately filling their void as the No. 1 goalie. Bobrovsky, who had his third straight season of at least 37 wins and 62 appearances (.922 save percentage in span) with the Columbus Blue Jackets, should at least replicate that production with the Panthers, making him a top five fantasy goalie option for this season.
Veteran goalie Roberto Luongo announced his retirement June 26, and the Panthers traded backup James Reimer to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 30, leaving a clear opportunity for Bobrovsky to be the workhorse goalie. The addition of Bobrovsky could be the final piece to the puzzle for Florida to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Read: Fantasy projection for Bobrovsky with Panthers
DUCHENE TO PREDATORS
Center Matt Duchene signed a seven-year contract with the Nashville Predators, strengthening their depth at the position and improving their power play and overall fantasy outlook for this season and beyond. Duchene should now be considered a top 60 overall fantasy player and Nashville's most valuable center over Ryan Johansen.
The 28-year-old had 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) in 50 games for the Ottawa Senators, who moved him to the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. His production dropped with the Blue Jackets at first (12 points in 23 regular-season games), but he bounced back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 10 games. Duchene, who combined for an NHL career-high 31 goals last season, has a ceiling of being a point-per-game player and should boost the Predators power play, which finished last in the NHL (12.9 percent).
Read: Fantasy projection for Duchene with Predators
PAVELSKI TO STARS
Forward Joe Pavelski signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars. Pavelski, who will turn 35 on July 11, immediately boosts the Stars' top-six forward group and has a high fantasy ceiling this season. Pavelski had 64 points (38 goals, 26 assists) in 75 regular-season games and nine points (four goals, five assists) in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the San Jose Sharks. It's worth noting Pavelski dealt with multiple injuries but had only missed one regular-season game from 2011-12 to 2017-18.
He could slot in at wing on the top line with elite center Tyler Seguin or play on the second line at center or wing with sleeper forward Roope Hintz. Regardless of even-strength line combinations, Pavelski should skate on the top power-play unit with Seguin, left wing Jamie Benn, right wing Alexander Radulov and defenseman John Klingberg. If healthy, fantasy owners should expect another 60-plus point season from Pavelski with an even higher ceiling depending on whether he's stacked with Benn and/or Seguin.
Pavelski, who led the Sharks in goals last season, is expected to be available behind Seguin, Benn, Radulov and Klingberg in fantasy drafts but has similar upside to those valuable skaters. The Stars also signed veteran right wing Corey Perry, who has an outside chance to crack the top six if Pavelski plays center and could be a streaming option if he gets a trial on the top power-play unit.
Pavelski should also be attainable later than former Sharks teammates Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl in preseason fantasy drafts. Couture led the 2019 playoffs in goals (14), and Hertl led San Jose forwards in points last season (74). The departure of Pavelski leaves a first power-play opening for the Sharks, and breakout forward Timo Meier is the favorite to be elevated to a unit with Couture, Hertl, Kevin Labanc (restricted free agent) and elite defenseman Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson.
MAPLE LEAFS ACQUIRE BARRIE, KERFOOT; KADRI TO AVALANCHE
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Alexander Kerfoot from the Colorado Avalanche for a package that includes center Nazem Kadri. Barrie, a top 15 defenseman prior to the trade, loses fantasy appeal joining a power-play picture with Morgan Rielly, who led NHL defensemen with 20 goals last season and finished third in points (72). Barrie, a potential 2020 unrestricted free agent, will at least bring exposure to elite forwards Auston Matthews and John Tavares at even strength; elite right wing Mitchell Marner remains a restricted free agent. On the flip side, Rielly could also lose fantasy value if Barrie cuts into his power-play time.
Kadri is a significant upgrade at center for the Avalanche, who lacked secondary scoring last regular season. In the two seasons prior to the Maple Leafs signing Tavares on July 1, 2018, Kadri had back-to-back 32-goal seasons with at least 210 shots on goal in each and averaged 58 points, 18 on the power play, on Toronto's second line and first power play. Kadri is likely to have a similar role to those seasons upon joining the Avalanche. He will likely play on the second line and first power play, bringing some exposure to elite forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and impact defenseman prospect Cale Makar; elite right wing Mikko Rantanen remains an RFA.
The trade makes Makar, who joined the Avalanche for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 games, worth drafting among the top 25 fantasy defensemen and even higher in keeper/dynasty leagues. When comparing expected power-play minutes and exposure to elite linemates in those situations, Makar arguably has the edge on Barrie in terms of fantasy upside in standard leagues after the trade. Barrie's departure also opens the door for defenseman prospect Bowen Byram, the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, to compete for a roster spot in training camp.
Kerfoot, a deep sleeper candidate prior to the trade, loses fantasy appeal because he would need to crack the top six for Toronto in order to be fantasy-relevant. There are five wings ahead of Kerfoot on the depth chart in Marner, William Nylander, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman, meaning Kerfoot could center the third line.
VARLAMOV TO ISLANDERS; LEHNER TO BLACKHAWKS
Goalie Semyon Varlamov signed a four-year contract with the New York Islanders. Varlamov had a down season (20-19-9; .909 save percentage, two shutouts) and lost the starting job to Philipp Grubauer but could bounce back in Barry Trotz's defensive system. Varlamov was fantasy-relevant in 2017-18, going 24-16-6 with a .920 SV% and two SO but has not had 30 wins in a season since 2013-14 (NHL career-high 41).
Varlamov is worth a late-round pick in 12-team fantasy drafts but could form a valuable timeshare tandem with goalie Thomas Greiss, who went 23-14-2 with a .927 SV% and five shutouts in 43 games last season. The Islanders also re-signed left wing Anders Lee, who plays on the top line with valuable center Mathew Barzal, to a seven-year contract. Robin Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist for the Islanders last season, signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and is a deep fantasy sleeper behind starter Corey Crawford.
ZUCCARELLO TO WILD
Wing Mats Zuccarello signed a five-year contract with the Minnesota Wild. Zuccarello, who will turn 32 on Sept. 1, had 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 48 regular-season games and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 playoff games. While Zuccarello appeared to be a great fit in Dallas, he still holds fantasy value for next season potentially bringing exposure to veteran center Eric Staal on the top line or Mikko Koivu on the second line.
The Wild have inferior fantasy talent to the Stars, but Zuccarello could play 20 minutes per game like he did with the New York Rangers last season (20:01) and should get first power-play usage with valuable left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Matt Dumba. Fantasy owners should expect another season of at least 50 points from the veteran wing, who could be a sneaky late-round pick in standard 12-team fantasy drafts, but also has a lower ceiling with the Wild.
Video: Mats Zuccarello, Wild agree to five-year contract
NYQUIST TO BLUE JACKETS
Wing Gustav Nyquist signed a four-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, providing some relief after top left wing Artemi Panarin, center Matt Duchene and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky signed elsewhere in free agency. Nyquist combined for an NHL career-high 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) in 81 games last season with the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings. He had 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 20 playoff games for the Sharks on a line with mostly Logan Couture.
Nyquist should be a top-six and power-play fixture in Columbus after the departure of Panarin and Duchene. Nyquist, who was on a 65-point pace with the Red Wings last season, could have sneaky value if he skates on the top line and power play with center Pierre-Luc Dubois and right wing Cam Atkinson, who led the Blue Jackets with an NHL career-high 41 goals.
SMITH TO OILERS
Goalie Mike Smith has signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers, reuniting with new coach Dave Tippett and boosting their depth at the position. Smith, who had the best season of his NHL career under Tippett with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011-12 (career-high 38 wins, .930 save percentage, eight shutouts), is expected to compete with Mikko Koskinen for playing time in a likely timeshare situation.
Smith, 37, went 23-16-2 with a .898 save percentage and two shutouts in 42 regular-season games in a timeshare role with David Rittich for the Calgary Flames, who finished with the most points in the Western Conference. Smith was respectable despite Calgary's early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, starting all five games and going 1-4 with a .917 SV% and one shutout. Smith, like Koskinen, is a deep sleeper candidate with the offensive support of elite forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and expected improvement under Tippett.
SIMMONDS TO DEVILS
Right wing Wayne Simmonds has signed a one-year contract with the New Jersey Devils, improving their forward group and power-play outlook. The Devils are one of the most improved fantasy teams after acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban (from Nashville Predators), selecting Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and now signing Simmonds.
Simmonds had 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists) in 79 games last season but could bounce back with power-play exposure to elite left wing Taylor Hall, Subban and valuable right wing Kyle Palmieri, and potentially one of New Jersey's top two centers, Hughes or Nico Hischier, at even strength. Simmonds, who has provided strong coverage of goals, points, power-play points and hits in previous seasons, is worth selecting in the final round of standard 12-team fantasy drafts
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