NHL Power Rankings: 30 big-bargain players

The best plays from the week that was in the NHL, including Martin St. Louis picking pockets, outlet passes from goalies, and Vladimir Tarasenko dazzling.

“They’re the best team in the league, and that’s clear,” Darryl Sutter said this week. “If you give them two [bad] goals, you’re probably going to get your ass kicked.”

When the head coach of the Stanley Cup champion calls another team the best in the NHL, you gotta give it up.

So we were tempted to elevate the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks to No. 1 in our rankings, and we would have had the Pittsburgh Penguins lost a step (they haven’t) or Corey Crawford not lost a step (he did, literally).

Still, the ‘Hawks — winners of four straight — rise again, as do fellow Original Six teams heating up: Detroit, New York and Toronto.

We rank the strongest teams in the NHL right now from 1 through 30. Each team’s write-up focuses on a player from whom it’s getting the most bang for its buck.

Shoutout to CapGeek.com for helping with the info for our first NHL Power Ranking: Bargain Edition.

Rank Team

Two game-winning goals, 15 points, plus-7 rating, and a seamless fit amongst the NHL’s scariest forward group: 28-year-old Blake Comeau ($700,000 cap hit) plays a simple, smart game, and it’s paying off huge.

Previous: 1


Brandon Saad ($894,167 cap hit) has 15 points for the Blackhawks, but his strength rests in his all-around value, as the winger kills penalties and contributes on the second power-play unit. A restricted free agent come season’s end, cap-strapped Chicago should do its best to keep the 22-year-old in the fold.

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A rare defenceman on this list, Thomas Hickey ($675,000 cap hit) has been invaluable for the Isles, who have succeeded in spite of an ailing blue line (Johnny Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky hit the IR Wednesday). Hickey plays nearly 19 minutes a game and has contributed with nine points despite being used on the kill and not the power play.

Previous: 2


Top centre Mike Ribeiro ($1.05 million cap hit) is either playing like a man in a contract year or like a man who knows he’s on his last chance. The only behavioural problem we see this year is the problem of hanging points (19 of them) on the opposition. A plus player for just the second time in seven seasons.

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That he’s one of the most expensive on this list shows just how fantastic Vladimir Tarasenko ($1.75 million cap hit) is. Not only is Tarasenko tied for eighth in NHL scoring (26 points), he has more shorthanded goals (two) and a better plus/minus (+17) than everyone ahead of him on the leaderboard. The pending RFA should be priority No. 1 for Doug Armstrong this summer.

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Forward Nikita Kucherov ($894,167 cap hit) has more even-strength points (21) than Steven Stamkos (15), despite averaging 6:14 less ice time per game. His plus-14 rating plops him in the league’s top 10 in that category, and he’s super fun to watch. No sophomore slump here.

Previous: 5


Oh, Vey. Linden ($735,000 cap hit) has made an immediate impact since being acquired from the L.A. Kings. The young winger has 12 points and is chipping in on a much improved power play.

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With 10 points through 26 games, Paul Byron ($600,000 cap hit) has provided the Flames with something they desperately needed — scoring from the bottom six. A modest breakout season for an Ottawa kid drafted in the sixth-round by Buffalo back in 2007.

Previous: 13


Gustav Nyquist ($950,000 cap hit) was supposed to fall off this year; he couldn’t possibly repeat his 18.3 shooting percentage of 2013-14. Well, they were right. He’s up to shooting 18.5 per cent and has a team-high 12 goals.

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Jason Zucker ($900,250 cap hit) has helped picked up the slack for under-producers like Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu. Zucker’s nine goals give him seven more than UFA prize Thomas Vanek.

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Brendan Gallagher ($685,000) is in his last year playing for cheap; he inked a six-year, $22.5-million extension on the weekend. The feisty forward is everything you want in a teammate and nothing you want to put up with as an opponent.

Previous: 7


The Los Angeles Kings’ leading scorer is not Anze Kopitar or Marian Gaborik or Jeff Carter. It’s 22-year-old Tyler Toffoli ($870,000 cap hit), the NHL leader in shorthanded goals with four through 25 games.

Previous: 10


Centre Peter Holland ($775,000) asked coach Randy Carlyle to jump on the penalty killing unit because he wanted more ice time. He got it, and he’s delivered. Now Holland’s been rewarded with some PP time, too. Four special teams points (two of each) for the do-anything role player.

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Even though he’s missed eight games due to injury, Patrick Maroon ($575,000 cap hit) has been a beast for the Ducks — a 231-pound presence who can chip in a point every other game. Even smarter: After this season, he’s signed through 2017-18 at a modest $2 million cap hit. Well done, Mr. Murray.

Previous: 9


New York Rangers, generally, don’t come cheap. Yet 29-year-old defenceman Matt Hunwick ($600,000 cap hit) — getting an elevated role on a banged-up blue line — is taking his lowest NHL salary ever. Top-four minutes, seven assists, plus-8 for the journeyman, a seventh-rounder in 2004.

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Carl Soderberg ($1.01 million cap hit) leads the Bruins in scoring (17 points), despite averaging third-line-centre minutes. He’s an unrestricted free agent come July and should expect a hefty raise.

Previous: 11


A team low on bargains can thank the stars for young talents Tomas Hertl and — even more of a bargain — Matt Nieto ($925,000 cap hit). With nine points already, the 22-year-old winger is on pace to improve last season’s nice rookie campaign.

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Rookie Andre Burakovsky ($894,167 cap hit) has adapted to the NHL nicely. The teenager has 13 points, 10 of them even strength.

Previous: 19


One must dig deep to find a bargain in Winnipeg. We’ll go with depth defenceman Adam Pardy ($700,000 cap hit), who logs nearly 15 minutes a night for the Jets, can pitch in on the penalty kill and plays a simple, soild game.

Previous: 16


Jimmy Hayes ($925,000 cap hit) leads all Panthers — a team desperate for scoring — in points per game with 0.75. His time on ice average, however, ranks 19th on the club. Maybe Gerard Gallant needs to give him a few more shifts?

Previous: 25


Defence is an issue in Colorado, but you can’t put that on Zach Redmond ($750,000 cap hit), who is earning his keep. Leads all Avs in plus/minus (+3) while contributing six points in 14 games, including a game-winning goal.

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Mike Hoffman ($750,000 cap hit) leads all Senators in plus/minus (+7), he stays out of the box (four penalty minutes), and he scores goals — eight of them, already a career high two times over.

Previous: 14


Zegmus Girgensons ($894,167) is not only a demigod in Latvia, he’s head and shoulders above all NHL All-Star Game vote-getters and the Sabres’ most prolific goal-scorer. He also leads the team in plus/minus (+6) despite skating on the first penalty-kill unit. He’s 20, and the Sabres will get another season of ZG at this price.

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Patrick Eaves ($650,000 cap hit) became more valuable after he took a nearly 50% pay cut from the $1.2 million he banked last season. Eight points through 19 games for the bottom-six winger.

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Defenceman Eric Gelinas ($900,000 cap hit) has contributed seven points and is a plus-3 player playing 17 and a half minutes a night for a minus-14 club.

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Tobias Rieder ($925,000 cap hit) has four goals and three assists through 16 games, including two shorthanded points and a game-winning goal. Great start for a rookie on a struggling team.

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Riley Nash ($575,000 cap hit) is tied with Eric Staal in team scoring with 15 points, but his minus-2 is seven points better than the captain’s and he has three more even-strength points. The 24-year-old is also winning 52.6% of his draws.

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Notorious for overpaying its players, it’s difficult to find a bargain on Philly’s roster. Brayden Schenn ($2.5 million cap hit) is great value, though. He’s third in team scoring with 17 points. But when you consider he’s good for an even-strength point every other game, Philly’s fortunate to have Schenn through 2015-16 at this rate.

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Defenceman Tim Erixon ($600,000 cap hit) has contributed six points from the back end. Five of them have come on the NHL’s eighth-ranked power play — one of the few things working for injury-ravaged Columbus this season.

Previous: 28


No Oilers forward who has played at least 20 games has a better plus/minus than Mark Arcobello’s minus-3. The 23-year-old with a $600,000 cap hit might have trouble seeing substantial minutes for an elite NHL team, but here he’s playing well for a 5-foot-8, 172-pound undrafted pivot.

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