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After an offseason full of notable free-agent signings and significant trades, there will be plenty of new faces in new places in 2023-24. It’s important to take a player’s team situation into account when determining their fantasy value, so let’s take a look at some of this summer’s biggest moves in preparation for draft day.
Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2022-23 after posting 25 goals and 101 points in 82 games for San Jose. He became the first rearguard to crack the 100-point barrier since the 1991-92 campaign. Karlsson was on the trade block all summer before being dealt to the Penguins, which was widely considered his most likely destination, in early August.
Karlsson is certainly in a better situation from a team standpoint, and it’s safe to assume he’ll be used on Pittsburgh's No. 1 power-play unit this year, but expecting anything close to a repeat performance from the 33-year-old is a potential recipe for disaster for fantasy managers.
DeBrincat's one season in Ottawa was underwhelming. He scored just 27 goals (and 66 points) in 82 games while finishing with a horrific minus-31 rating in 2022-23. That said, DeBrincat is still just 25 years of age, exceedingly durable, and he’ll be joining a team on the rise in the Red Wings. The Farmington Hills, Michigan native should be extremely motivated for a bounce-back performance with his new club.
Toffoli has been one of the more underrated players in the league for years. He was about the only bright spot for the Flames a season ago, appearing in all 82 games and posting career-best marks in both goals (34) and points (73). He's now in an ideal situation, as he’ll be surrounded by a ton of offensive talent in New Jersey including one of the best young centers in the league in Jack Hughes. Draft him with confidence.
It was widely assumed Dubois was waiting to reach unrestricted free agency after the upcoming season to sign with his hometown Canadiens. Well, a trade to the Kings and an eight-year, $68 million deal apparently changed his mind. Dubois should slot in as the No. 2 center for the Kings this year before eventually taking over the No. 1 job whenever veteran Anze Kopitar — who recently signed a two-year extension that will take him through 2025-26 — finally hangs them up.
Seeking to surround 2023 No. 1 overall selection Connor Bedard with some actual NHL talent, the Blackhawks acquired Hall from Boston in June in what was essentially a salary dump. Hall's MVP days have long since passed, but he should see as much playing time as he can handle this year on a Chicago club that remains one of the thinnest in the league.
THE FREE AGENTS
Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi to Toronto Maple Leafs
Seeking to lengthen their lineup, the Maple Leafs inked both Domi ($3M) and Bertuzzi ($5.5M) to one-year contracts this summer. Both are agitators who can fill a variety of roles in addition to being solid offensive contributors. The fantasy value of each player will be dependent on whom they end up lining up with, but there's zero doubt that both make Toronto a better team and, on paper, more formidable for the postseason. Currently, it’s looking like Bertuzzi and Domi could both end up in top-six spots to start the season, with the former potentially skating with Auston Matthews on the first line and the latter potentially lining up with John Tavares on the second.
There's a real case to be made that Orlov was the best available player in this year’s free-agent class. He was good early in the 2022-23 season with Washington and great late in the campaign for Boston, ultimately deciding to ink a two-year, $15.5 million deal with the Hurricanes. The presence of Brent Burns and the return of Tony DeAngelo are going to limit Orlov's power-play time, and thus his fantasy value, but he's undoubtedly going to help Carolina win hockey games in 2023-24.
Tarasenko reportedly wanted to return to the Rangers in free agency, but New York had no room for him from a salary cap standpoint, so he ultimately signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Ottawa in late July after firing his agent and hiring a new one. Tarasenko will essentially be taking the spot of DeBrincat, whom I touched on earlier. It wouldn't be a shock to see Tarasenko pot 25-30 goals with his new club in 2023-24. However, the days of him posting 40 markers in a season are likely over.
Duchene (Nashville, 22 goals, 56 points in 71 games) and Wheeler (Winnipeg, 16 goals, 55 points in 72 games) were both bought out this summer despite having perfectly solid offensive years in 2022-23. Duchene ended up signing a one-year, $3 million deal with the Stars, while Wheeler inked a one-year, $800K contract with New York. Both are ridiculously team-friendly deals with the potential to pay off handsomely. Look for both of them to see middle-six minutes at even strength and regular power-play time for teams that shouldn’t have any trouble making the playoffs in 2023-24.
Joonas Korpisalo to Ottawa Senators
Cam Talbot to Los Angeles Kings
There was surprisingly little movement involving goaltenders this offseason. Korpisalo seems like the only locked-in starter who will be joining a new team. He got a five-year, $20 million deal from Ottawa on the heels of a mediocre season (18-14-1, 2.87 GAA, .914 save percentage) split between Columbus and the Kings. I don't have much confidence that this move is going to work out for the Senators, but Korpi should nonetheless see the bulk of the playing time for Ottawa this year.
Korpisalo will be replacing Talbot, who found an ice-cold free-agent market on the heels of a poor year (17-14-2, 2.93 GAA, .898 save percentage) with the Sens. Now 36 years of age, Talbot appears ticketed for a timeshare with Pheonix Copley for the Kings, a scary proposition for a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations in 2023-24.
DEEP-LEAGUE QUICK HITS
- Coming off an Achilles injury, the speedster should get a ton of playing time for one of the NHL's weakest teams this year.
J.T. Compher to Detroit Red Wings
- The University of Michigan product is fresh off a career-best 52-point season with Colorado.
John Klingberg to Toronto Maple Leafs
- The offensive rearguard will be entering an ideal situation following a poor season in Anaheim. He should see plenty of power-play time with the Maple Leafs.
Shayne Gostisbehere to Detroit Red Wings
- The left-handed shooting defender should be an option to play alongside the right-handed Moritz Seider on Detroit's No. 1 power-play unit.
Reilly Smith to Pittsburgh Penguins
- The Stanley Cup champ is a lock to begin the year in a top-six role for a Penguins team with championship aspirations of its own.
- Durzi has a real chance to serve as Arizona's No. 1 defender in 2023-24. He broke out to the tune of nine goals, 38 points and 142 blocked shots in 72 appearances with LA last year.
- The Flyers wanted Hayes gone and ate a ton of his salary to make it happen, but his production a season ago (18 goals, 54 points in 81 games) suggests he’s still got some gas left in the tank.
- Hell-bent on upgrading their defensive corps by any means necessary, the Blue Jackets acquired a pair of top-four guys in Provorov and Severson this summer. I have more confidence in the latter, but perhaps Provorov will thrive after getting out of a bad situation in Philadelphia.