Will Teemu Selanne return for another season, or retire back to his native Finland? (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
It's time for the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically - but switch starting points each year. This year I'll begin with Anaheim and finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Ducks and Sabres.
Pending UFAs – Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, David Steckel, Matthew Lombardi, Radek Dvorak, Toni Lydman, Jordan Hendry, Ben Lovejoy, Nate Guenin.
Pending RFAs - Harry Zolnierczyk, Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri, Mat Clark
Looking to add – Selanne had 13 points in his last 42 games (combined regular season and playoffs). His ice time dwindled as the season wore on and if he decides to return for another season I will be surprised. The Ducks need a second-line right winger. Assuming Kyle Palmieri has found a home on the Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf line, Bobby Ryan and Emerson Etem (who were only tried on a line together in a couple of games) will need a right winger.
Ready for full time – Etem played 30 of the last 31 games of the regular season, plus all seven playoff games. Consider him a full-timer with a role that is almost certain to expand. As a result, expect his 0.26 points-per-game average to increase in 2013-14.
Sami Vatanen is a dynamic offensive defenseman who is ready to make the jump full time now that he's played the North American game for a full season. With 45 points in 62 American League games, plus another two points for Anaheim, he's clearly adapted well and makes for a must-own in keeper leagues.
Center Peter Holland is ready for a third-line role, though he may be more of a mid-season addition as opposed to breaking camp with the team. Short-term he holds little value, but his long-term outlook as a second-line center is pretty good.
Hulking winger Patrick Maroon is also on the cusp of making the jump. He has potential for 60-plus points, but not for a few years - and only if he's brought along accordingly. Historically, his production at different levels has taken a couple of years to get rolling and the NHL will be no exception.
Fantasy Outlook: A good team that has a little bit of everything and ample depth in every position. Goaltending is especially strong with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller battling it out for No. 1, with Frederik Andersen also impressing - and John Gibson on the way. If Cam Fowler can take a step forward offensively and Vatanen has a 30-point rookie season, the Ducks should be competitive once again. There are no superstars on the way, but their pipeline is a good one that promises to produce a steady flow of NHL players in all positions. Coach Bruce Boudreau has opened things up for the Ducks and the team finished seventh in goals scored - a trend that should continue.
Pressed against the salary cap in 2013-14 as things stand now, the Ducks may have to trade Bobby Ryan and bring in a cheaper option. How that goes down will have huge waves in fantasy hockey. Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was C-)
Pending UFAs – Jochen Hecht (retired and signed in Europe), Adam Pardy, Alexander Sulzer
Pending RFAs - Cody Hodgson, Brian Flynn, Mike Weber, Jhonas Enroth, Matt Hackett, Luke Adam, Corey Tropp
Looking to add – While Darcy Regier could make a couple of earth-shattering deals and completely revamp his team, most GMs are either unwilling or unable to pull such big moves. With regards to tweaking, the Sabres will make a lot of changes from within. Two probable regulars missed most of the season - Ville Leino and Corey Tropp - and there are also a couple of youngsters champing at the bit. A tough stay-at-home blueliner will be signed in the summer, but otherwise don't look for too much. If Regier is not going to do a big blockbuster trade, then he's probably not going to do much.
Ready for full time – Keep an eye on the RFA contracts that are signed this summer. Flynn, Hackett, Adam and Tropp will all be angling for one-way contracts, or two-year deals in which the second year is one-way. The type of contract signed will impact their odds of sticking with the big club.
Brian Flynn made a big impression in his first pro season, notching 32 points in 45 games for Rochester plus another 11 in 26 for Buffalo. It took his Rochester coach Ron Rolston less than two weeks to get him up to the NHL once Rolston took the helm, so there is obviously some trust there. Kevin Porter, Flynn's linemate, was brought up on the same day that Rolston was named interim coach of the Sabres. The two of them could feasibly line up together on the third line and post their share of points sporadically.
Brayden McNabb was probably NHL-ready last season, but his contract was a two-way deal while T.J. Brennan would have had to clear waivers. McNabb is now 22 and coming off a strong AHL season. He could be a 30-point NHL defenseman as a rookie and is one to watch.
Johan Larsson was acquired in the Jason Pominville deal at the deadline. He is a strong two-way player with some offensive upside. He is probably going to be a mid-season addition as opposed to breaking camp with the team.
Mikhail Grigorenko made a huge impression early on last year and of all of Buffalo's prospects he certainly has the most upside. In his second stint with the team - this time with a different coach - he was given the ice time that he lacked in his first stint. It resulted in 10 shots on goal over the three games.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk played 19 of 20 games down the stretch and tallied five points in his last 12. But his minus-7 rating indicates more AHL time is needed. But he's a puck-moving defenseman with upside and he's getting close.
Goaltender Matt Hackett was the other player in the Pominville trade. Not only is he ready to become a full-time backup, but frankly I like him better as a potential starter than current backup Jhonas Enroth. If a Ryan Miller trade happens (Miller is entering the final year of his contract) then it wouldn't shock me to see Hackett man the net as the No. 1 guy in the second half.
Fantasy Outlook – Buffalo is in the early stages of what appears to be a rebuild. Until we see them make another move in one direction or another, it's hard to say where the fantasy value of the Sabres players is at. With a prospect pipeline that is good, but not great, and with the team in a state of flux, it's hard to find a Buffalo player appealing if he is offered to you in trade talks. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was B-)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
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