The Life and Fantasy Hockey Mailbag – March 16th 2021

We’ve hit the midway point of the season and things are starting to heat up in Fantasy Hockey. It’s starting to get sweaty, and we’ve got a wild finish ahead of us.

We got some great questions for this time of year, from IR jams, to goalies you can trust over the rest of the season, to Nikita Kucherov. Let’s get into it.

Roman Josi just went on IR but I’ve got my slots filled by Motte, Seguin, Teravainen, and Lehner. What should I do? – Terry T.

Oof, that’s a tough card to be dealt. That’s the downside of having a good team when the injury bug hits, but that’s a good problem to have.

If you’re in a solid spot in the standings and feel confident you can weather the storm, I’d hold Josi until he’s healthy or until one of those guys come off IR, whichever comes first. Thankfully Lehner is projected to be about a week away, because there are still question marks when it comes to Motte, Seguin and Teravainen.

If you’re so desperate you can’t wait a week on Lehner, or if Lehner hits a setback, based on the info I can gather from your screenshot I’d probably look at dropping Motte to get Josi on IR.

Motte had a fantastic start this season but when he comes back he’ll be coming off an injury, likely playing in the Bottom Six, and not getting power play time. He does log a lot of ice time shorthanded, but the Canucks have two shorthanded goals all year and Motte has two in his career (with no shorthanded assists), so I wouldn’t rely on him for much in that department. He does block a bit, but not a ton.

Depending on what goalies are available, you could also look at dropping Lehner given you’ve got a solid tandem in Kahkonen and Varlamov, but I’d imagine you drafted Lehner high, and his return to form would be a huge boost. Very unlikely to find that upside in free agency at this point in the season.

At the end of the day, biting the bullet for a week or so is the clear best option in my eyes. I’d take action if I was desperate, but be patient if not.

Given the compressed schedule (and Covid potentially compressing it even further), which goaltending tandems do you think will weather the storm better down the stretch? – Allan C.

Great question, one that I’m likely to get egg all over my face for answering, because few things in life are as unpredictable as COVID-19 and NHL goalies. But bring on the yolk, baby. I’m keepin’ the lights off and firing away.

The first tandem that comes to mind is Varlamov-Sorokin on the Islanders. I think Trotz’s system is a thing of beauty for whoever’s in net, and to top it off these two guys just so happen to be legitimately good based on talent alone.

Oh yeah, almost forgot: the Isles are playing great hockey and currently sit first in the league – this after a pretty slow start. How’s that for a trustworthy goalie tandem?

Talbot-Kahkonen in Minnesota are turning a lot of heads this year, and for good reason. That‘s another system that does a lot of favours for its goalies. Even last season, the Wild led the league with the least high danger scoring chances against, despite Dubnyk’s down year. This year they sit tied for sixth in that department, with much better results overall as a team.

I wonder if the Stars don’t end up with a strong 1-2 punch once Bishop returns, though I don’t know if that ends up being Bishop-Khudobin or Bishop-Oettinger. Or, worse yet, Bishop-Khudobin-Oettinger. The dreaded goalie trio. Something to keep an eye on, though. For now, Khudobin is struggling while Oettinger is stepping up.

A couple boom-or-bust picks: Allen-Price in Montreal, and Hart-Elliott in Philly. In both cases, the backup has kept things afloat while the starter has really struggled. In Price’s case, I’ve seen some really encouraging signs in his game over his past five starts, and that’s got me seeing them as a dark horse here.

In Philly, it’s mostly speculative. Hart has struggled mightily this season, and I haven’t seen much reason for hope with him lately. Elliott is struggling recently, too. That being said, at their best they’re a great tandem on a good hockey team. Here’s hoping they bounce back.

Time to sell on Rickard Rakell? – MC Kris (Not the Star Wars rapper)

Okay – Rakell. Love the player, hate the situation he’s been in since the Anaheim rebuild started.

He’s been on fire lately, so in theory it is indeed a good time to sell high.


Think about how good Rickard Rakell would look beside, say, Tavares and Nylander. Or, dare I say, Marner and Matthews. Or in virtually any contender’s Top Six.

Pretty good, right? More like the 30+ goal, 60+ point, 100+ hit power forward we saw when Anaheim was a playoff team, I think. Then again, I think lots of stuff. I also thought Lupe Fiasco was going to take over the rap game 12 years ago.

Sometimes we’re just wrong. Other times, we’re just idiots. I could be both for saying this on Rakell, but I’d shop him around with the full intention of holding onto him. If something blows you away, pull the trigger. Otherwise, I’d be holding him and seeing if he gets moved to a better situation. Enticing upside.

I’m in a 3 goalie league with Price, Rinne, Saros and Kuemper on my roster. Saros and Kuemper are on IR. Who should I add? – Maximus Afinogenov (not really)

Max, I’ve been waiting 20 years for you to ask for my advice. If you’d done this earlier you’d have retired a point per game player.

Or you’d have been bounced from the league pre-lockout. Whatever, f*ck you.

So based on the players available, I’d be looking at a few options. First among them would be adding Igor Shesterkin if you have an IR spot to stash him. If not, I’d probably stash him over Saros. Nashville’s an abomination this year and I think between Saros and Rinne it’s kinda six of one, half a dozen of the other anyway, even with Saros healthy.

The names that stand out to me are Blackwood, Elliott, Raanta, Driedger and Oettinger.

Blackwood I’d keep a close eye on and nothing more at this point. He’s a really promising young goalie and he’s proven capable of playing lights out hockey for pretty long stretches. As soon as the tide starts to turn for him/NJ, I’d want to be at the front of the line on him. For now, don’t bite. He’s playing awful.

Elliott had an excellent start to the season, but he’s been struggling of late – which isn’t good, because Carter Hart has been, too. They’ve got a good team in Philly and I do expect them to turn it around, but until his play improves, I’d hold off on Elliott, despite his high rank.

Raanta’s been better the past couple weeks, and by and large, he’s been a really good goalie all the way through his career when healthy. Yeah, he’s not healthy that often, and his play over the past two seasons hasn’t been at the same level as in years past, but he could be a nice handcuff to your injured Kuemper. Just bear in mind that even at his best, he’ll get you a good save percentage but not a ton of wins, and he’ll likely allow a fair amount of goals in the process.

Driedger and Oettinger are who I’d be looking at the most.

Driedger was phenomenal to start the year, and honestly his recent numbers aren’t bad, either. The biggest reason he’s not as attractive anymore is Bobrovksy is finally picking it up. If both are playing well, it’s kinda hard to justify splitting starts 50/50 when one half of that equation makes 9.15 million more than the other. I’d keep an eye on him – he’s earned that much – but he’s starting once every three or four games right now. Should Bob run into more struggles though, Driedger’s role will increase. Worth noting that Bob’s been struggling regularly for the past 3 seasons.

That brings us to Oettinger.

Oettinger was picked by Dallas in the first round in 2017; the hope for the organization is he’s their goalie of the future, and the future might be banging on the door right now. Even with Bishop back he’ll get starts as long as he’s playing good hockey. The big question is what kind of time share it will be, like I mentioned in my answer to Allan’s question. In the meantime though, you’ve got a 4-6 week Bishop-less window, and Oettinger is outplaying Khudobin by a pretty good margin.

That’s who I’d go with personally.

Is it worth going after Nikita Kucherov as an IR stash? I don’t have a clear guy to drop for him. – Jared T.

Yes and no. In your case, probably not. If you love the team you’ve got and there’s genuinely no weak link, it’s probably not worth giving up a good player for. There’s still zero guarantee Kuch will be back before the playoffs.

It’s very encouraging he’s skating though, and it’s not unheard of for star players to heal ahead of schedule and come back early. I’ve added him in one league and I’m not expecting it, but I’ll be thrilled if it happens. What a huge boost to playoff rosters if it does.

The only thing I can suggest is to take a look at who’s available on free agents/waivers. If there’s a player available who can help your team about as much as the guy you’d have to drop, then I’d probably do it if it were me. Throw Kuch on IR, add the other guy and keep rolling. Hell, you can swap the new guy out for the old guy if he clears waivers, too.

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