The recipe for team success in the National Hockey League calls for a collection of high-priced, high-end talent. But the nature of the salary cap also demands contributions from the young (or old) and underpaid.
Players who over-deliver on their entry-level deals or veteran role players able to make good on their modest contracts are essential.
It’s a fun exercise to look at players’ cost-per-point rates — lovingly calculated by the fine folks at CapFreindly.com — 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 goalie standing on his head?
We present our NHL Power Rankings: 31 Best 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.
Jake DeBrusk may be having a slightly down year by his standards, but the second-line winger is still providing Boston with the cheapest cost-per-point ratio and should hit 20 goals and 40 points for consecutive seasons.
On Doug Armstrong’s veteran-laden, defence-first roster, Vince Dunn is the only regular blue-liner making under $1 million. The 23-year-old will come knocking for a significant raise this summer, the same time as captain Alex Pietrangelo.
Even though Quinn Hughes — the biggest bargain not on this list — was named February’s Rookie of the Month and is gaining steam in the Calder race, rookie Cale Makar, 21, is easily one of the top-10 bargains in the sport. So, too, is Avs defenceman Ryan Graves. The NHL’s runaway plus/minus leader makes only $735,000.
Anthony Cirelli is killing it in his platform season. That the 22-year-old has a shot at 20 goals and 50 points underscores the ridiculous forward depth in Tampa. Something the Bolts will lean on with the absence of Steven Stamkos.
The soaring Flyers are now gunning for top spot in the Metropolitan, and their 21-year-old backbone, Carter Hart, will only scoop $730,833 off the books until his gazillion per cent raise on July 1, 2021.
Backup goalie Ilya Samsonov’s transition to the NHL has been seamless. The Russian rookie has provided 16 wins for the low cost of $925,000 — and he’s locked up at that rate for next season, too. He’s quietly helping off-set all those Capitals on big tickets.
7. Dallas Stars
A significant reason for Dallas’s success can be found from the contributions its getting from young, affordable talent like Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz and Justin Dowling. None of those forwards are as critical to the core, however, than defenceman Miro Heiskanen, who will carry a silly-good cap hit of $894,166 through 2020-21.
For all he contributes offensively and defensively, Reilly Smith—hunting down his first 30-goal season—arguably provides the best value of any veteran forward in his $5-million tax bracket.
Tristan Jarry, 24, has put up incredible numbers (20-11-1, .924, three shutouts) for any price. That he’s doing this for a $675,000 salary is even more remarkable, and the Penguins will have a compelling decision this summer with its 1A and 1B both in need of pay bumps come Canada Day. (Two-time Cup champ Matt Murray, too, turns RFA on July 1.)
10. Edmonton Oilers
The nifty Tyler Ennis ($800,000) has gone from one of the best value skaters in Ottawa to one of best in Edmonton, but we’ll give this nod to old guy Mike Smith — a $2-million No. 1 goalie, entertaining pugilist and dressing room leader of what is shaping nicely into a playoff team.
Not only did Andrei Svechnikov make history in 2019-20, doubling down on taking the Michigan goal to the pros, but the crafty winger still has another season on his entry-level deal. He will cruise past the 60-point benchmark.
No one on a 35-plus NHL contract provides better production value than league-minimum-earning Jason Spezza. The man they call “Vintage” is taking home just $28,000 for every point he’s chipped in on this renaissance campaign. (Honourable mention: Zach Hyman, for putting up consecutive 20-goal seasons and becoming an essential cog of the Leafs’ top six despite his modest $2.25-million AAV.)
13. Calgary Flames
Bargain contributor Andrew Mangiapane might hit 20 goals, but we’ll side with defenceman Rasmus Andersson, who has shown so well in his platform year that he already earned a six-year, $27.3-million extension in January.
14. New York Rangers
Despite being on his second deal, Anthony DeAngelo still makes entry-level money ($925,000). The defenceman is enjoying a breakout campaign, destined to cruise past 50 points. Sensing the need to give DeAngelo a monster raise this summer (or get slaughtered in arbitration), GM Jeff Gorton traded away Brady Skjei at the deadline to accommodate.
With Mathew Barzal speeding towards restricted free agency, this should be the last season he appears on a list like this. But by chipping in with 38 helpers, Barzal’s assists are the cheapest of any forward ($22,719) and his points are the second cheapest, next only to Pettersson’s.
16. Winnipeg Jets
Jack Roslovic’s assists and goals are the least expensive on the Jets’ roster. He’ll be an RFA for the first time this summer and is ready to put the squeeze on Winnipeg’s cap picture. Sound familiar?
David Poile was so impressed by the greatest bargain on his roster, Rocco Grimaldi, that the GM doubled the winger’s $1-million salary last week to $2 million for 2020-21 and 2021-22.
With Elias Pettersson still on his entry-level deal, no one in the league provides points for less money. At $14,683 per point, I think I paid more for my first Corolla — no power windows — when the taxes and interest were through with me.
The Blue Jackets have the greatest bargain crease in business by a country mile. Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins and Matiss Kivlenieks have the club in the hunt while raking a combined $2.9 million, which we will give you if you can spell all three without the aid of Google. The Jackets’ leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, ranks top-10 in the NHL in cost-per-point, making him a terrific bargain… until July 1.
20. Arizona Coyotes
Conor Garland leads all Coyotes in goals (22) and only makes $775,000. An absolute steal for a guy on his second contract, Garland is knocking his bridge deal out of the park.
21. Florida Panthers
Cy Young candidate Noel Acciari (20 goals, six assists, $1.67 million cap hit) was the greatest bargain in Florida until Dale Tallon traded for Lucas Wallmark, who has nearly the same number of points at less than half the cost ($675,000 cap hit).
22. Minnesota Wild
The Wild’s winter has been short of good-news stories, but entry-level forwards Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway have become nice contributors without giving headaches to the payroll department.
In their effort to get younger, the Blackhawks have two solid contributors up front still on their ELCs in Alex DeBrincat and rookie Dominik Kubalik. The latter is flirting with 30 goals and has provided a little more bang for his buck. At $31,897 a pop, Kubalik’s goals are the cheapest in the entire league.
The best thing about Nick Suzuki ($863,333) being the Canadiens’ best bargain is that the kid won’t be due a raise until 2022-23.
25. Buffalo Sabres
Seventh-round gem Victor Olfosson should hit 20 goals as a rookie, and he makes under a million bucks. Should be an interesting negotiation in the off-season, considering Olofsson has just the one stellar season and has boosted his stat line heavily through the power play and riding shotgun with one of the premier centremen in hockey.
While hockey fans outside of the Tri-State Area stopped paying the Devils much mind around December, young goalie Mackenzie Blackwood ($697,500) has personally built a winning record behind a bad team. The last time New Jersey extended a No. 1, they got aggressive on term and dollars, so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle Blackwood’s next contract.
27. San Jose Sharks
That bargains on the Sharks’ roster are few and far between helps explain this lost season. Kevin Labanc gets the honours after taking a discounted, $1-million prove-it deal. He sits seventh in club scoring but is a team-worst minus-32.
Call-up Calvin Petersen has posted better numbers than starting goalie Jonathan Quick in a tiny sample size, but undrafted forward Alex Iafallo has already posted career bests in goals, assists and points while earning a modest $2.4 million. He’ll be a bargain again next season.
29. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are a mix with young guys earning more than their keep and older ones still cashing big cheques from past achievements. At a modest $41,000 per point, Sam Steel has contributed the most for the least in his first full NHL campaign.
30. Ottawa Senators
Until Thomas Chabot becomes an $8-million player on July 1, we’ll give the workhorse defenceman this nod — by a hair over Brady Tkachuk, who still has a season beyond this one on his entry-level deal.
Filip Hronek, 22, had his entry-level contract slide not once but twice, and the right-shot defender could be a repeat champion in this category (Alexis Lafreniere notwithstanding) next season, when he’ll still be on his ELC.