Fantasy Hockey

Fantasy Hockey: UFA 2023 defenders to target in contract years

A simple case study has shown that the contract year effect is probably more real than not. It’s a defensible strategy that fantasy managers can rely on and it could make the difference in finding those valuable late-round picks that can win your league.

After taking stock of some imminent UFA forwards to bet on in the fantasy season ahead, here are the defenders with a Yahoo ADP of 50 or less to target in your respective leagues.

MacKenzie Weegar, D, Florida Panthers (ADP: 111.0)

Another fantastic season that saw Weegar earn votes for Norris for the second straight season should push his ADP into at least the 80s and close the gap to Aaron Ekblad (ADP: 46.8). Maybe the Panthers offense will be toned down a bit for better defensive play, but Weegar looks more like a 1B option than a No. 2 option behind Ekblad, whose injury history is still a concern. Weegar ticks all of the stat categories, making it a high-value game in the banger leagues.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild (138.1)

Dumba is their most dynamic defender, but he struggles to stay healthy. Remember, he has a 50-point cap, and after losing Kevin Fiala, the Wild will want to generate more offense from their defense. Dumba is an excellent all-around player who has scored at a 40-point pace over the past two seasons.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes (169.9)

It’s mission accomplished for Gostisbehere, who rejuvenated his career and clawed back a ton of free agent value with a 51-point season after a disappointing Philly outing. He’s a great power-play option, which gives him the edge over the rest of the defensemen on this list, and he’s expected to play a big part again for the Coyotes. He finished the season ranked 15th in points despite being the 71st defenseman eliminated by ADP.

Travis Sanheim, D, Philadelphia Flyers (n/a)

It will be difficult to gauge the value of Philadelphia’s defensemen, as there is expected to be a ton of roster rotation. Despite the noise, Sanheim was quietly one of their most productive defensemen and broke the 30-point milestone for the second time in his career, but also the first time in three seasons. There’s a potential 40 points depending on how Sanheim is deployed, especially if used on the power play.

Damon Severson, D, New Jersey Devils (n/a)

Severson scored a career-high 46 points last season and it would be shocking if he wasn’t drafted this fantastic season. He has a chance to really cash in as a free agent because he’s a right-hander, and despite a slightly congested Devils blue line, he’s considered the oldest statesman in the group and gets the first crack for playing time. The addition of Dougie Hamilton, another puck-moving right-hander, doesn’t seem to have diminished Severson’s value or production much.