Fantasy hockey: Free agency losers
Ah, summertime. Some people take advantage of this time of year by golfing, camping, sunbathing or generally being outdoors and enjoying life. For others, this is the time of year when there's money to be made. Many NHLers have cashed in by signing lucrative contracts. Though it's fair to say that those players are certainly enjoying life right now, other hockey players may already be spending their time worrying about the upcoming hockey season after just a few short weeks of trades and free agency.
We previously looked at returning NHL players who could benefit greatly from the arrival of new teammates.
Here's a look at the returning players most likely to suffer as a result of transactions made this summer.
Matt Carle, D, Philadelphia Flyers
With all the major changes the Flyers made this off-season, it's anyone's guess how the team is going to perform in 2011-12. Philadelphia overhauled their roster by replacing Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Ville Leino with Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr, along with Ilya Bryzgalov.
But will those additions really fill the holes left by Carter and Richards?
Perhaps Voracek makes up for the loss of Leino, but Simmonds has never scored more than 40 points in a season. As for Schenn, he has nine career games under his belt and may not even make the team, while 39-year-old Jagr hasn't played in the NHL since the 2007-08 season.
A number of players could suffer from this makeover, like Chris Pronger and even Scott Hartnell, but I've chosen to highlight Carle here. Carle was not a very productive player before joining the Flyers, totalling just 68 assists and 89 points in four seasons. During his two seasons with Phile so far, Carle has 68 assists and 75 points in 162 games. If the firepower up front cools off, expect some individual Flyers' point totals to drop, starting with Carle.
Loui Eriksson, F, Dallas Stars
When Brad Richards decided to bolt Dallas for the bright lights of Broadway, the Stars offence was knocked down more than a few pegs. You simply can't remove a top-tier player from a lineup and expect to have the same type of production.
In just over three seasons with Dallas, Richards averaged more than a point per game (227 points overall), set new career-highs in goals (28), power-play goals (13), power-play assists (27) and tied his career best standard in points (91).
What's more is that his linemate Eriksson improved leaps and bounds during their tenure together. Coincidence? Probably not. Before Richards came over from the Lightning, Eriksson had a total of 20 goals and 50 points in 128 games in his career. Since then, Eriksson has scored 92 goals and 207 points in 243 games.
Yes, of course age and experience has played a role and Eriksson has loads of talent, but you can't discount the impact and playmaking abilities of Richards. Even fellow winger Brenden Morrow reached a career high in goals last season with 33 after 11 years in the NHL. Though Mike Ribeiro is a respectable replacement in that first line centre position, expect Eriksson's pattern of yearly stat increases to end.
Tomas Kopecky, F, Florida Panthers
During his career, Kopecky has had the fortune of playing with many different superstars. He's seen time with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, but mostly he's been lined up next to Marian Hossa in both Detroit and then Chicago. And yet, Kopecky's numbers really haven't been all that impressive.
Last season he did reach career-highs in goals (15), assists (27), points (42), power-play goals (three) and power-play assists (10) to go along with a minus-13 rating, but those numbers are mediocre.
Without all that star power around him, it remains to be seen how he'll fare in Florida. The Panthers added other second-tier players like Kopecky, including Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc and Kris Versteeg, but unless he plays with one or both of Stephen Weiss and David Booth, 2011-12 will be a disappointing one from a fantasy perspective.
Michal Neuvirth, G, Washington Capitals
Just when you thought the Capitals decided that Neuvirth was ready to take on the starting job after the team shipped fellow netminder Semyon Varlamov to Colorado, Washington went and signed one of the best goalies in the league in veteran Tomas Vokoun.
Last season, Neuvirth emerged as the Caps' starting netminder and one of the brightest young goalies in the league by posting a stellar 27-12-4 record with a 2.45 goals against average, a .914 save percentage and four shutouts in 48 games. As much as he probably deserved to take the reins without having to look over his shoulder in 2011-12, the Capitals completed perhaps the best signing of the summer by adding Vokoun for one year at $1.5 million US.
As examined last season in a fantasy blog with my colleague Jesse Campigotto, Vokoun is quite simply one of the best post-lockout goalies despite the fact he hasn't played on premier teams. Finally on a contender, this is Vokoun's chance to shine under the spotlight and I doubt Neuvirth will be able to stand in his way.
Antoine Vermette, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
For as much as the acquisition of centre Jeff Carter will elevate the play of Rick Nash in Columbus, it's just as likely that Carter's arrival will have the opposite effect on fellow centre Vermette. During his almost five full years in Ottawa, Vermette had one decent season.
Upon joining the Jackets at the end of the 2008-09 season, he immediately began to reap the rewards of playing alongside Nash by chipping in 13 points in his first 17 games. The following season he reached career-highs with 27 goals, 38 assists and 65 points, but followed that up last year with just 47 points.
With Carter now on the team, Vermette will surely lose his spot on the top line and his stats will subsequently falter.