Hopefully everyone had their fill of turkey, Chinese food, or whatever other holiday traditions exist, because the NHL is back from the mini-break and has resumed its normal scheduling. There are only two games on New Yearís Day (Friday), but everything else is pretty much back to normal.
As always, there will be one skater listed per position in this bargain bin column that is priced at $4,000 or less. There will also be a couple of goalies at the end that are very reasonably priced as well.
For the most part, these will be cap relief options to use in cash games (50/50, head-to-head). Also, there will be ideal days on which to use these options.
Adam Lowry (Winnipeg) - $3,600
Jets center Mark Scheifele has been forced out of the Winnipeg lineup due to a concussion. With Scheifele out, the Jets have called up Adam Lowry from their AHL affiliate. In his first game with the Jets, Lowry played nearly 17 minutes while skating on what could be called the second line with Alex Burmistrov and Andrew Ladd.
It is worth noting his linemates because in about 10 gamesí worth of ice time Lowry has played with Ladd in his brief career, the Jets have generated roughly a shot attempt per minute of five-on-five play. That mark is about 15% higher than Lowry on the ice without Ladd. In other words, thatís a significant improvement. I will note the sample isnít large enough to make definitive statements about their chemistry, but good indicators are better than poor ones.
Winnipeg has two pretty positive matchups this week, being at home Tuesday to a Detroit team playing their second game in as many nights on the road, and going into Arizona on Thursday. As long as Lowry stays with Ladd, and it seems like he will for the short-term, heís fine to use either night.
Troy Brouwer (St. Louis) - $4,000
It hasnít been a great season for Brouwer so far. His current pace sees him with his lowest goals and point-per-game pace since his rookie season in 2008-2009, and his worst assists-per-game rate since 2011-2012. Most of this, though, can be chalked up to low percentages and a drop in minutes; his on-ice goals for percentages at five-on-five are well within career norms. In that sense, his drop in overall production is normal.
The curious development was that in St. Louisís most recent game, the top power play unit of forwards for the Blues consisted of Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, and David Backes. On the two power plays the team had, though, Backes was taken off the ice after the power play started, and replaced by Brouwer. It wasnít a line change, either; the rest of the unit stayed on the ice as is.
Thursday, the Minnesota Wild travel to St. Louis. While the Wild are one of the least-penalized teams in the NHL, their penalty kill is abysmal: they are 28th by efficiency, and 26th by scoring chances allowed. Using Brouwer on Thursday, assuming he still gets some top power play minutes, is a nice, sneaky option.
Dainius Zubrus (San Jose) - $3,400
Like many top offensive pairings in the NHL, the duo of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have seen a lot of turnover on their left wing. At times, it has been Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, and even Patrick Marleau. Of late, though, that spot has gone to Dainius Zubrus.
The two Joes are truly one of the top pairs in the NHL for a winger to play with. Consider these numbers since the start of the 2013-2014 season (all at five-on-five, from Puckalytics.com):
ē Pavelski/Thornton: 2.99 goals per 60 minutes, 68.35 shot attempts per 60 minutes
ē Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlaf: 3.31 goals/60 minutes, 56.56 shot attempts/60 minutes
ē Nicklas Backstrom/Alex Ovechkin: 2.41 goals/60 minutes, 61.74 shot attempts/60 minutes
ē Daniel Sedin/Henrik Sedin: 2.42 goals/60 minutes, 57.42 shot attempts/60 minutes
ē Nathan MacKinnon/Gabriel Landeskog: 2.83 goals/60 minutes, 56.45 shot attempts/60 minutes
Other than Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the duo of Thornton and Pavelski are as dangerous as any in the NHL. Zubrus, who joined the team in November as a free agent, is in a great spot to produce.
The Sharks are home to Philadelphia on Wednesday, and the defensive struggles of the Flyers are hardly a secret. Zubrus is a very good cash game option on a short Wednesday slate.
Brad Hunt (Edmonton) - $3,000
At the time of writing (Monday night during games), the Oilers are set to face two of the five most penalized teams in the NHL this week: Arizona and Los Angeles. While neither teamís underlying penalty kill numbers other than PK efficiency (which can vary in small-ish samples), the volume of penalties is always a good thing for the opposition.
Brad Hunt was called up by the Oilers and the presumption is he is there to help the power play. The Oilers are three for 30 with the man advantage this month, and goalless in their previous five games. Hunt put up at least 50 points in each of his last two seasons in the AHL, with 23 points in 27 games this year.
While itís preferable Hunt be on the Taylor Hall PP unit for the man advantage, there is a lot of firepower on both of them so it doesnít matter too much on which one he lands. He is a defenceman that should strictly be used in offensive situations, at even-strength or otherwise. As a minimum-priced D who probably wonít have a very high ownership rate due to a lack of familiarity, Hunt is fine to use at any point this week in both cash games and tournaments.
Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) - $6,200
His price has increased a bit, but Hellebuyck is still near-basement in cost. He has been very solid so far this year for the Jets, with a .926 save percentage in nine games.
As I mentioned earlier with Lowry, the two best matchups for the Jets this week are at home Tuesday to Detroit and on the road in Arizona Thursday. Hellebuyck is fine for both cash games and tournaments in each of those games.
Cam Talbot (Edmonton) - $6,500
After a very bad start to his season, Talbot has posted a .938 save percentage in five appearances in December. Things have a way of evening themselves out for goalies and considering what we had seen from Talbot in his career, itís unlikely he was the sub-.900 save percentage goalie from October and November.
Of the three games this week for Edmonton, their Saturday game against Arizona is the only time I would use Talbot in a cash game. He is a decent tournament option for Tuesday night as well, as with Los Angeles in town, there is always the chance of facing 40-plus shots.