Lehner re-signs with Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have re-signed goalie Robin Lehner to a five-year contract. The move is one of the best-case scenarios for Lehner’s fantasy value, meaning he will likely enter next season as the 1A goalie for an elite team in the Western Conference.
Lehner thrived with Vegas after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, going 12-7-0 with a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 19 games (regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). Lehner, who has spent time with Vegas, Chicago and the New York Islanders over the past two seasons, ranks fourth among high-volume starters (at least 70 games) in regular-season SV% (.925) over the span behind only Ben Bishop (.927), Darcy Kuemper and Anton Khudobin (.926).
Lehner, currently third in NHL.com’s fantasy goalie rankings for next season behind Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets), still has strong competition in veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who only played four games this postseason (3-1-0, .910 SV%) but is also among the early top 10 goalie rankings for next season. Fleury has two seasons left on his contract with Vegas.
Hornqvist traded to Panthers by Penguins
The Florida Panthers have acquired right wing Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Mike Matheson. Hornqvist had 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 52 regular-season games and two points (one goal, one assist) in four games against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. When healthy, Hornqvist has been a staple on Pittsburgh’s top power-play unit since 2014-15, ranking 22nd in the NHL in power-play goals (49) over the span.
The Panthers have the sixth-best power play (22.5 percent) over the past three seasons, not far behind the Penguins (third; 23.8 percent since 2017-18). Hornqvist will likely capture a top power-play role with the Panthers, bringing exposure to elite forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau and valuable defensemen Keith Yandle.
Hornqvist’s fantasy stock will likely remain similar to what it was with Pittsburgh, making him worthy of a late-round selection for category coverage of power-play goals and hits (2.1 per game this season). The best-case fantasy scenario would be for Hornqvist to also land a spot on the top line with Barkov and Huberdeau; Hornqvist saw time on the third line at even strength with the Penguins in recent years.
It’s worth noting that Hornqvist comes with some injury concern having missed at least 12 games in each of the past four seasons but still has upside if forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman (potential unrestricted free agents) do not re-sign with Florida.
Staal traded to Sabres by Wild
The Buffalo Sabres have acquired veteran center Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild. Staal saw significant time on the Wild’s top line with breakout wing Kevin Fiala this season, finishing third on Minnesota with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 66 games. Staal also played in that spot during the postseason, leading the Wild with five points (one goal, four assists) in four games, and will now be Buffalo’s No. 2 center behind elite option Jack Eichel.
A potential 2021 unrestricted free agent, Staal will likely play on an even-strength line with either rookie standout Victor Olofsson (third on Sabres with 42 points in 54 games this season) or bounce-back candidate Jeff Skinner (14 goals in 59 games this season; NHL career-high 40 with Buffalo in 2018-19). Staal has familiarity with Skinner from their long tenures with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal, who turns 36 on Oct. 29, has had at least 70 points eight times in his NHL career, most recently in 2017-18 with Minnesota (76 in 82 games), and should improve Buffalo’s secondary scoring. Staal, who had at least 14 power-play points in each of his four seasons with the Wild, could also bring some exposure to Eichel on the first unit or at least boost Buffalo’s depth with the man-advantage. Staal is a worthwhile target in the late rounds of standard, non-keeper fantasy drafts.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is now without a proven No. 1 center after Staal’s departure. Marcus Johansson, acquired by the Wild for Staal, has alternated between center and wing in his NHL career but has never scored more than 58 points (2016-17 with Washington Capitals) in a season. Luke Kunin saw time on the top line with Fiala down the stretch and had points in five of his final six regular-season games. Kunin could take on an expanded role and potentially bring full-time exposure to Fiala and/or top forward prospect Kirill Kaprizov next season. Kunin, who had two goals in four postseason games, is a fantasy deep sleeper candidate.
Allen traded to Canadiens by Blues
The Montreal Canadiens have acquired goalie Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues. Allen had the NHL’s fourth-best save percentage (.927 in 24 games) in the regular season among goalies to play at least 20 games. Allen outperformed Blues starter Jordan Binnington (0-5, .851) this postseason (2-1-1, .935 SV%) and now has a .924 SV% in 29 career postseason games.
Although Allen will likely be the 1B goalie or clear backup to Carey Price, Allen could lessen the burden of his new teammate for Montreal, which should be in postseason contention again next season. Price was tied with Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the most appearances (58) in the League during the regular season but had a SV% (.909) well below his career regular-season and postseason averages (.917). Allen should be targeted as a third or fourth fantasy goalie and an obvious handcuff for Price.
Tarasenko injury impact on Blues
St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko will have shoulder surgery and is expected to be out for at least five months. Tarasenko, who ranks ninth in the NHL in goals (185) since 2014-15 but also missed significant time this past regular season because of a shoulder injury, did not have a point in the four postseason games he played.
Right wing David Perron took advantage of an expanded role, most notably on the first power play, during Tarasenko’s absence in the regular season, leading the Blues in power-play points (27) and ranking second in scoring (60 points) behind center linemate Ryan O’Reilly (61). With Tarasenko likely sidelined for much of next season, Perron should be considered a top 75 overall player; he finished 40th in standard leagues this season.
Kapanen traded to Penguins by Maple Leafs
The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired wing Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package that includes a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Kapanen had 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 regular-season games and two assists in five games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It’s worth noting Kapanen, who scored 20 goals in 2018-19, did not hold a top-six spot with exposure to elite centers Auston Matthews and John Tavares for much of the past two seasons but could be a top-six fixture for the Penguins.
Kapanen, who has two years remaining on his contract, could slot in on the top line with elite forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel at even strength, with the second line being center Evgeni Malkin with wings Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker, giving Kapanen top-100 upside in standard leagues. For now, fantasy owners should temper their expectations for Kapanen, a fantasy sleeper candidate, with Pittsburgh likely to make additional moves in the offseason.
This move has little to no fantasy impact on the Maple Leafs with Toronto’s main draft targets being Matthews, Tavares, wings Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Zach Hyman and possibly Ilya Mikheyev rounding out their top six.
Islanders sign goalie prospect Sorokin
The New York Islanders signed top goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to a one-year entry-level contract and one-year extension for the 2020-21 season on July 14. Sorokin was 26-10-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and nine shutouts in 40 Kontinental Hockey League games this season. He was tied for second in wins, third in GAA, tied for fourth in SV% among KHL goalies to play at least 20 games and led the league in shutouts.
With fellow Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov‘s impressive play this postseason, Sorokin will likely either begin next season as the Islanders backup or temporarily play with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League (similar to New York Rangers rookie Igor Shesterkin) but could earn close to a 50-50 workload over the course of the season, similar to Thomas Greiss (potential 2020 unrestricted free agent) in recent years. Sorokin, 25, should be targeted in later rounds as a high-upside fantasy rookie and much higher in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Wild land forward prospect Kaprizov
The Minnesota Wild agreed to terms with top forward prospect Kirill Kaprizov on a two-year, entry-level contract. Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick (No. 135) in the 2015 NHL Draft, led the Kontinental Hockey League with 33 goals and ranked third with 62 points in 57 games this season. He is expected to make his NHL debut with the Wild next season
Kaprizov, 23, could be a top-100 fantasy asset next season for the up-and-coming Wild, who also feature breakout wing Kevin Fiala, one of the most valuable fantasy forwards in the second half of the season. Fiala, 24, led Minnesota with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 regular-season games and three goals in four postseason games. Kaprizov would likely either play on the first line with Fiala or second unit with left wing Zach Parise (led Minnesota with 25 goals in regular season).
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