Special to Yahoo Sports
With any luck to hockey fans, the NHL and its associated players' union will be amenable in helping the league avoid a lockout in 2020. Until then, it's business as usual for players and head honchos pulling strings in the front offices. This preview highlights significant offseason moves that promise to shake up the fantasy hockey landscape.
Erik Karlsson (Defenseman) San Jose Sharks
Sharks Take the Bait, Sign Karlsson for eight years, $92 million
Karlsson's first season in the Bay Area yielded predictably strong results. The two-time Norris Trophy winner averaged 0.85 points per game, including two goals and 18 assists on the power play. While Sharks coach Peter DeBoer primarily deployed Karlsson alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic in 5-on-5 situations, the Swede saw most of his rink run with six-time NHL All-Star defenseman (and fellow Norris recipient) Brent Burns. Regardless of position, elite skaters make each other better.
Last season, Burns enjoyed a career year offensively while Karlsson, in a slightly reduced role working around injuries, outpaced his career average in points as measured against his nine years of service time in Ottawa. Having secured an eight-year, $92 million contract extension, all eyes are on Karlsson to make a huge splash in his second year with Team Teal. Forward Joe Pavelski's dispatch to the Stars may lead to more scoring opportunities for Karlsson, though it's clear from his 129:434 goals-to-assist ratio that he doesn't even need to light the lamp to make a ton of noise in fantasy hockey.
Samuel Girard (Defenseman) Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche retain burgeoning rearguard with seven-year, $35 million contract extension
Girard has debunked the theory that defensemen have to be imposing ice warriors to make a tangible offensive impact. The Quebec native blazes a trail and always seems to be ahead of the play due to his supreme hockey IQ. While Girard's points-per-game average (0.32) through 155 top-level appearances doesn't jump off the page, there's reason to believe he'll break out this year. Tyson Barrie holds the career points record among Avalanche defensemen, but he was shipped off to the Maple Leafs in a blockbuster deal, and it's difficult to imagine a better vote of confidence for Girard than his seven-year, $35 million pact to stick around in Colorado. A corresponding rise in ice time figures to launch him into an elite tier.
Jack Hughes (Center) New Jersey Devils
Hughes and the battle between two first-round picks
There was never any doubt that Hughes would be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but now that we know the Devils are the lucky suitor, it's time to size up his fantasy prospects. Now 18 years old, Hughes flashed his breakneck speed, skating ability, and slick handles to the tune of 228 points (74 goals, 154 assists) with the USA National Team Development Program starting with the 2017-18 campaign.
Hughes will likely foster internal competition with Nico Hischier, who was New Jersey's No. 1 overall pick from 2017, in a bid for a second-line role that naturally comes with power-play responsibilities. Remember, the Devils ranked 10th on the power play two seasons back, only to drop to the 21st spot last year, and it'll largely be up to newcomers Hughes, KHL standout Nikita Gusev and physical scoring winger Wayne Simmonds to buck that ominous man-advantage trend.
Joe Pavelski (Center) Dallas Stars
Pavelski arrives in Big D
It's exceedingly rare for a team captain to vacate his post, but Pavelski was due to become an unrestricted free agent anyway, and now he'll be immersed in a Dallas offense that ranked second only to Calgary in high-danger scoring goals-for percentage (56.59) in 2018-19. This is particularly relevant given Pavelski's penchant for tipping shots. The 14th-year center's leadership skills and proven track record make him a really nice fit for the Stars. Better yet, his transition from the Sharks should be rather seamless, especially since he's staying put in the Western Conference. Pavelski shouldn't have any trouble surpassing the 20-goal, 60-point thresholds for a fourth consecutive campaign this year.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (Goalie) Tampa Bay Lightning
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner garners eight-year, $76 million deal
Only Carey Price of Montreal has a heavier contract than the one that'll kick in for Vasilevskiy following the 2019-20 campaign. Julien BriseBois faces several hurdles in filling Steve Yzerman's canoe-sized shoes as a relatively new GM for the Lightning, but his granting the Russian a max deal soon after he won the Vezina Trophy checks out as a no-brainer transaction. Indeed, Vasilevskiy — who went 39-10-4 with a 2.40 GAA and a .925 save percentage on top of six shutouts last season — is the backbone of an Eastern Conference club that won the Presidents' Trophy in 2019-20. The Bolts figure to play with a greater sense of urgency after a highly disappointing series sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, and in that case, Vasi would be a prime beneficiary. The 25 year old should be viewed as the No. 1 option at his position in this year's fantasy drafts.
Robin Lehner (Goalie) Chicago Blackhawks
Rejuvenated Lehner brimming with confidence as he takes talents to The Windy City
Lehner's courageous admission that he'd been struggling mightily with addiction and bipolar disorder preceded his banner campaign with the Islanders in 2018-19. Under the tutelage of renowned goalie coach Mitch Korn, the Swede fashioned a 25-13-5 record to complement a 2.13 GAA and a .930 save percentage in 43 starts and 46 total appearances, not to mention doubling down on his previous career-high in shutouts with six.
He cleaned up at the NHL awards ceremony as well, claiming the William Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss, and the Bill Masterton hardware for his perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Still, Lehner's last three contracts have each been one-year deals, and now he finds himself in Chicago as a battle-tested alternate to the oft-injured Corey Crawford. Handcuffing the two goalies could prove to be a solid strategy for risk-averse fantasy owners.