The recipe for team success in the National Hockey League calls for high-priced, high-end talent. But the salary-cap league also demands significant contributions from the young and underpaid.
Players who over-deliver on their entry-level deals or veteran role players who made good on their modest contracts are essential.
It’s a fun exercise to look at players’ cost-per-point rates and determine which skaters are giving their teams the most bang for their buck. Is a checking winger chipping in with an abundance of offence? A cheap backup goalie standing on his head?
Only five players on this list — Brayden Point, Connor McDavid, Dylan Larkin, and Nikolaj Ehlers — have held on to the title of their team’s best bargain from a year ago.
With Black Friday less than 10 shopping days away, we present our annual NHL Power Rankings: 31 Big Bargains Edition.
As always, teams are ranked in order of current strength. The write-ups zero in on a single value find for each club.
Enjoy these guys while they’re still cheap, owners.
For the disgusting amount of points Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are stacking, we owe a nod to another league-leader on the first-place Lightning. No individual in the NHL is providing points at a cheaper rate than the aptly named Brayden Point: $49,048 a pop. (Proof that life’s not fair: Tampa also owns the best defence bargain, rookie Mikhail Sergachev.)
As fantastic as the Blues are, they pay their best players well. Scottie Upshall, essentially a roster afterthought, has provided valuable depth. But the real bargain here may be backup goalie Carter Hutton, who is a perfect 4-0-0 (.943 save percentage) for just $1.125 million. How many clubs would give a week’s worth of beer sales for a Number 2 goalie so reliable and inexpensive?
Nikolaj Ehlers doesn’t become a $6-million man until 2018-19, so for now the Jets can enjoy his hat tricks at an entry-level rate. Ehlers is well on pace to smash last year’s career high of 25 goals.
With two goals and seven points, Tim Heed ($650,000 cap hit)) is the San Jose Sharks’ highest-scoring defenceman. Not Brent Burns ($8 million).
Firmly positioned as a win-now franchise, Nashville is light on bargain-bin finds. Forward Kevin Fiala, 21, is in the final year of his first deal and has contributed seven assists. He’s still searching for his first goal, though.
If you need to excuse yourself to go Google third-round find Pavel Buchnevich, we’ll give you a minute. The entry-level winger has found success on New York’s top line to the tune of eight goals and 15 points alongside the handsomely paid Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
A 2014 first-rounder, the speedy Adrian Kempe is off to what is shaping up to be his breakout season in L.A. The Swedish import has made a top-six impact with seven goals and 11 points.
Until 2019-20, when Auston Matthews’ salary could hit McDavidian heights, Leafs Nation will take sweet comfort in knowing that one of the sport’s best players is also one of its cheapest. Before taking three games off to rest his upper-body “soreness,” Toronto’s No. 1 centre was costing the franchise just $57,812 a point—the second-cheapest offensive production in the league. Plus, the word is out: he also backchecks.
Will Butcher’s free-agency entry-level deal with New Jersey is restricted to two seasons coming out of the NCAA. That equates to two winters of high value for the young defenceman, whose $84,091 per assist rate is the best value for helpers in the whole league.
For two years, Isles GM Garth Snow let Mathew Barzal’s entry-level contract slide. Now Brooklyn is reaping the payoff of letting its prospect steep. Barzal already has 14 points. Imagine: The Islanders get two more years of this dynamic forward at a bargain price.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is in the final year of deal that carries a modest $655,833 cap hit. With five goals and 11 points through 18 games, he’s taking direct aim at GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s 2018-19 budget.
12. Ottawa Senators
Twenty-eight-year-old AHL call-up Chris DiDomenico has made the most of his first real NHL break by scoring six points through nine games in a limited checking role.
13. Minnesota Wild
Until Jason Zucker decided he was the only Wild player who could put the puck in the net, veteran wing Chris Stewart ($1.15 million cap hit) was the leader in Minnesota goals with six. That Stewart has been able to produce with seeing the ninth-most average ice time among Wild forwards makes his start that much more impressive.
14. Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk knows not the sophomore slump. Keith’s kid already has 13 points and is well on track to eclipse the gaudy numbers he put up as a rookie.
Unassuming, undrafted defenceman Brad Hunt, 29, has essentially been a career AHLer until logging meaningful minutes and putting up seven assists for the expansion Knights. Not too shabby for a $650,000 cap hit.
Brock Boeser is a point-per-game rookie worthy of top-line status on the rebuilding Canucks. At about $100,000 per point, he’s not worth scratching when healthy.
When you have $21 million worth of cap space tied up in two superstars, you need inexpensive forwards like winger Ryan Hartman ($86,333 per point) to chip in. The 23-year-old nearly scored 20 goals and put up 31 points last season. This year he’s on track to improve his production.
Twenty-year-old blueliner Ivan Provorov logs an average of 24:36 minutes per night and is second to Shayne Gostisbehere in Philly defencemen scoring. Not bad for a guy in Year 2 of his entry-level contract.
19. Dallas Stars
Defenceman Stephen Johns will be hunting for a raise when he turns RFA in the summer. In the meantime Dallas is getting 18 minutes a night, decent scoring and a plus rating from a young blueliner making less than $1 million.
Jakub Vrana ($863,333 cap hit) has proven to be the most valuable of the Capitals’ influx of inexperienced forwards, putting up four goals and seven points in 18 games.
For one more year, the budget-conscious Hurricanes have the benefit of dressing the least-expensive D core in the game. Only Justin Faulk carries more than a $925,000 cap hit. Jaccob Slavin provides the best value, skating a team-high 23:52 per game and contributing all five of his points at even strength.
Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin—both coming in at less than $87,000 per point—are neck and neck, but with centre Larkin playing more minutes at a more difficult position, we’ll give him the nod.
Sophomore Mikko Rantanen (13 points in 16 games) is on his way to breakout campaign for an Avalanche group taking positive steps back toward respectability.
As mystery continues to surround the gravity of Carey Price’s injury, this Charlie Lindgren kid ($700,000 cap hit) has stopped more 96.4 per cent of the pucks he’s faced.
25. Edmonton Oilers
It’s not every day you can employ a Hart and Art Ross winner for just $84,091 per point, and those days end on July 1, when Connor McDavid’s record-breaking extension kicks in with a vengeance.
26. Anaheim Ducks
A rash of injuries to Ducks forwards has allowed unsung Chris Wagner ($637,500 cap hit) to skate more than 15 minutes per game. He’s delivered eight points and a plus-4 rating.
27. Florida Panthers
Depth centre Connor Brickley ($750,000 cap hit) is enjoying a nice start to the season, contributing seven points in his first 12 games—all at even strength.
28. Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy has fast become a fixture in the transitioning Bruins’ top four. The rookie defenceman is second only to captain Zdeno Chara in average ice time (22:59), and chips in with a point every other game.
Bryan Rust, arguably the least-discussed member of the Penguins’ top six, provides better offensive value ($71,111 per point) than any skater who has passed his entry-level deal. Rust put up nine playoff points in each of the Penguins’ consecutive Cup runs and has jumped off with 11 points in 19 games, easily on pace for his best regular season. Oh, yeah, and he’s arbitration-eligible this summer.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Like McDavid, Jack Eichel probably won’t get within sniffing distance of this list next year, but for now he’s providing tremendous bang for his entry-level bucks. The 21-year-old top-line centre is costing the Sabres a shade over $77,000 per point. Y’know, until July 1.
31. Arizona Coyotes
The only NHLer who costs less than $100,000 a goal is rookie sensation and fast Calder Trophy front-runner Clayton Keller, who is tapping the Coyotes for just $98,426 per red lamp.