I play in four fantasy hockey leagues, and I own Kris Letang in three of them. If you read my preseason work, you’ll know that I was extremely high on Letang. I took my own advice, and I was rewarded for that. (I can’t say the same for every player I recommended; case in point, Christian Ehrhoff.)
Letang must have been a difference maker, as I am currently competing for a league title in each of the three leagues that I own him in. I am currently in a two-week final in one league, while I will be competing in the semifinal next week in the other two leagues. (In the league I don’t own Letang in, I’m dead last. But we won’t talk about that one.)
How much of a difference maker has Letang been? In spite of missing seven games this season, Letang is still fourth among NHL defensemen with 54 points, as well as tied for fourth among d-men with 24 power-play points. Letang has not played a full season since 2010-11, so imagine what he’d be capable of if he managed to stay injury-free for one whole season.
What should you do if you own Letang? I think it depends on your league. I’ll go through the settings in each of my leagues and explain how it will affect my decision. Keep in mind that Letang has a concussion, which would likely sideline him for at least a week. Cat Silverman has more on Letang’s situation.
League A: As mentioned earlier, this league has a two-week final round that I am currently competing in. This is a salary cap keeper league, where Letang is signed to a multi-year contract. I’ve moved him to my injured list (fairly liberal definition in this league – look for the red cross next to the name – it is a CBS league), but I certainly can’t and won’t drop him.
League B: This is a Yahoo non-keeper league that has an IR+ spot. The advantage of this league is that players who are day-to-day can be moved off the regular roster. Yahoo tends to follow each team’s IR designation to a tee before allowing a player to be moved to IR.
In order to alleviate the frustration of having to hang onto a player that is injured for several weeks but never moved to IR, Yahoo created the IR+ designation. However, your league commissioner has to activate it first. I will be keeping Letang on IR+ as long as I can just in case he returns before the end of the regular season.
League C: This is a Yahoo non-keeper league that has IR, but no IR+. I’m going to have to make a difficult decision here soon about whether to keep Letang. Since he will likely sit for at least seven days given the NHL’s concussion protocol, and since my season may only last another seven days, it would be in my best interests to drop Letang. Since I make daily roster moves, there’s no point in holding onto a player that I know can’t contribute this week.
If you are in a similar situation that I’m in with League C, you’ll want to start looking for some possible replacements. Usually I’d say that you won’t find a player of Letang’s caliber on the waiver wire, but will it matter that much with such a short time frame left? Obviously there’s the perception that you’re losing one of your top players when you need him the most, but injuries are a fact of life in fantasy hockey. They could happen in the first week or the last week of the season.
Are there any possible replacements on the Penguins’ blueline? On Sunday the Penguins coped by dressing just five defensemen (both Ehrhoff and Olli Maatta are injured), with forward Daniel Winnik serving as a modern-day version of the rover. The following is a breakdown of their icetime:
Ben Lovejoy: 27:44
Paul Martin: 27:25
Rob Scuderi: 25:36
Ian Cole: 25:05
Derrick Pouliot: 18:21
Pouliot seems to be the option with the most offensive upside at the moment, but it’s difficult to recommend him in single-season leagues given his lack of icetime and production this season (7 points in 30 games). The blueliner who could benefit the most from Letang’s injury is Martin, who has 18 points and a +21 in 67 games this season. He’s currently owned in very few Yahoo leagues, so deep leaguers could consider him.
But your best bet might be to look for blueliners available on the waiver wire. In the aforementioned league, some of the options available include Hampus Lindholm, John Klingberg, Nick Leddy, Kris Russell, David Savard, and Tyler Myers. I won’t lie: None of these players score as often as Letang. But be sure to try to get every advantage you can in adding the right defenseman. Use the Fantasy Hockey Weekly Planner to help project possible returns.
In the meantime, I’ll be tracking the return of my replacement to determine what I would have had with Letang in my lineup. As well, I’ll also try to determine whether Letang would have made a difference, if I happen to lose. With three leagues going, the law of averages and experience tell me that I’ll lose at least one of them.