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Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 15

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Probably the biggest story of the week happened this morning.  The Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they would make goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky a healthy scratch on Thursday for failing to meet “certain expectations and values that we have established for our players.”

 

That’s obviously a vague description of what happened and the Blue Jackets made it sound like they weren’t planning on offering any additional information.  Unless more details leak through something other than official channels, we’ve probably already learned as much about the situation as we’re going to.  Regardless of what happened though, this comes at an awkward time for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

Bobrovsky has been a key figure of the franchise over the last seven seasons.  When he’s been at his best, the Blue Jackets have been a competitor and when he’s been hurt or struggled, Columbus was usually lacking as well.  His highs-and-lows have largely mirrored the team’s, though he’s fallen short in the playoffs, his value to the franchise can’t be overstated.  At the same time, his era with the team might be drawing to a close.

 

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He’s in the final season of a four-year, $29.7 million contract and might end up leaving as an unrestricted free agent this summer.  Columbus might try to trade him before that happens, but the Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot, so moving him would be painful even if losing a two-time Vezina Trophy-winner for nothing over the summer would hurt more in the long-term.  If Columbus had a viable alternative, it would be more feasible, but backup Joonas Korpisalo has a 3.29 GAA and .889 save percentage in 15 contests, so handing him the reins of a potentially playoff-bound team is less than ideal.

 

That brings us back to Thursday’s announcement that Bobrovsky has been suspended by the team – or at least effectively suspended given that Columbus avoided using the word suspension.  With how little information we actually have, we can’t hope to do more than just speculate, but it’s hard not to wonder.  Is this another sign that Bobrovsky’s time with the Blue Jackets is essentially done?  Would this hurt his potential trade value if the Blue Jackets go that route?  Keep in mind that Bobrovsky also has a no-movement clause, so he has some control over the situation if the Blue Jackets did decide to shop him.

 

Further complicating things for Columbus is the fact that Artemi Panarin can also become an unrestricted free agent this summer.  Panarin’s agent recently told Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos that his client doesn’t want to be traded, but he’s not looking to re-sign at this time either.  It seems Panarin’s preference is to wait until after the campaign to make a decision on his future and it wouldn’t be surprising if this ends with him testing the UFA waters.

 

Bobrovsky and Panarin are two pillars of the Blue Jackets, so the idea that both of them could walk away this summer sets up a potentially big blow.  It also places more importance on this season for Columbus.  Keep in mind that the franchise has never gotten further than the first round and now is the time to demonstrate this the Blue Jackets are a team that veterans should want to play for.  Otherwise, they’re going to need to start from scratch with what could be a rather painful rebuild.

 

The Blue Jackets have been fairly good lately though with seven wins in their last 10 contests, so while this Bobrovsky incident has highlighted a major looming concern, there is still reason for optimism, at least in the short-term.  Other seemingly playoff-bound teams haven’t been so fortunate.  The Anaheim Ducks are on a nine-game losing streak while the Avalanche are on a 3-9-3 run.  Those two clubs now occupy Wild Card spots in the Western Conference and need to bounce back quickly to avoid slipping further.

 

The Ducks and Avalanche have polar opposite problems.  For Anaheim, the issue is a lack of scoring.  The Ducks have just 12 goals in their last nine games and have the second-worst goals for/game in the league at 2.32.  Corey Perry hasn’t played at all this season so that hasn’t helped, but Rickard Rakell’s struggles have been a major factor too. 

 

Rakell had 33 and 34 goals in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively, but he’s been limited to five goals and 20 points in 31 contests this season.  His shooting percentage is just 5.6% this season compared to his career average of 12.7%, so you could certainly make the argument that he’s due at this point.  He also missed 13 games with an ankle injury before returning on Wednesday.  Maybe that unwanted time off will act as a reset that results in him picking up the pace.

 

In contrast, the Avalanche aren’t hurting for goals scored.  They could certainly do with more depth, but Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog have 68, 66, and 51 points respectively, so they have an enviable top line.  The bigger issue here is their goaltending.  Semyon Varlamov has been hit-and-miss this season and lately, he’s been a miss.  Dating back to Dec. 4, he has a 4.46 GAA and .849 save percentage in eight starts.  That’s just horrific.  Unfortunately, Philipp Grubauer, who was brought in to serve as a possible successor to Varlamov, hasn’t been the answer either.   Grubauer has a 3.29 GAA and .895 save percentage in 20 contests.  If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Avalanche didn’t make a big commitment to Grubauer as he’s in the first season of a three-year, $10 million contract.  In other words, it’s still within the realm of possibilities that the Avalanche could be in the market for a new starter this summer with Varlamov likely to exit as an unrestricted free agent.

 

Who knows, maybe it will be Bobrovsky between the pipes in Colorado come 2019-20.  That’s pure speculation, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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