There may be no skill more important in today’s NHL than the ability of a front office to stretch every dollar.
Elite talent is crucially important, the foundation for finding success in today’s game, but in a league that’s seen minimal salary cap movement for half a decade, just as crucial is how many bargain value performers teams can stock in their lineups — players who can outperform the dollars invested in them and can influence team success while leaving room for the club to add more contributors.
That remains true in 2023-24, with the NHL’s salary cap set to once again rise by just $1 million, that modest increase coming after a 2022-23 season that saw the same increase, and three years prior that saw the cap frozen. The impact of that hard-cap reality has already been made clear this off-season, with the free-agency and trade markets reflecting teams’ cautious approach to eating up their all-important cap space.
With that in mind, looking back at this past season, who around the league proved best at maximizing their value? Here’s a look at the 10 players who topped that list, contributing meaningfully for their clubs at the lowest price point.
2022-23’s TOP 10 VALUE PERFORMERS
The players below came in at the lowest cost per point league-wide, per CapFriendly. Note: We didn’t include players signed to entry-level deals, as these contracts are determined based on draft year rather than a player’s value. ELC players who outperformed their contracts are represented in the 2022-23 All-ELC Team at the bottom of this story.
1. Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres
2022-23 Impact: 94 points, $1.4-million cap hit
Cost per point: $14,893
Signed to a three-year bridge deal in 2020 that carried a cap hit of $1.4 million, Thompson enjoyed a meteoric rise over the final two years of the pact. His breakout season came in 2021-22 courtesy of a 38-goal, 68-point effort. But the 2016 26th-overall pick took his game to an even more dominant level this past season, amassing 47 goals (sixth in the league) and 94 points (15th) for that modest $1.4-million sum. Costing the Buffalo Sabres just $14,893 per each of those points, Thompson ranked as the top bargain performer of 2022-23. The breakout earned him a hefty seven-year, $50-million extension that kicks in next season, carrying a much weightier $7.14-million cap hit moving forward.
2. Daniel Sprong, Seattle Kraken
2022-23 Impact: 46 points, $750,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $16,304
After bouncing around the league and showing glimpses of his potential during stints in Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Washington, Sprong put together a breakout season with Seattle in 2022-23, potting 21 goals and 46 points through just 66 games. Having taken time to find his footing in the league, the young sniper was playing out his third post-ELC contract, meaning his strong depth scoring season came with a price tag of just $750,000 for the Kraken. The 20-goal effort earned Sprong a one-year, $2-million deal with Detroit for 2023-24.
3. Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers
2022-23 Impact: 46 points, $800,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $17,391
Playing out his first post-ELC deal in 2022-23 — a one-year, $800,000 contract — Frost made good on his potential in Philly with a career year. The 24-year-old scored 19 goals and 46 points for the Flyers, finishing top-four on the club’s roster in both categories. Currently a restricted free agent, the 2017 first-round pick is still awaiting a new deal for the coming season.
4. Thomas Novak, Nashville Predators
2022-23 Impact: 43 points, $750,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $17,441
Novak found himself in a similar situation this past season, playing out his first post-ELC deal and similarly coming up with a breakout year. The 26-year-old posted 17 goals and 43 points for the Predators through just 51 games — a 27-goal, 69-point pace over a full 82-game season — all on a one-year, $750,000 deal. Despite playing only two-thirds of the season, Novak finished as Nashville’s third-highest scorer, earning himself a one-year, $800,000 deal for next season.
5. David Krejci, Boston Bruins
2022-23 Impact: 56 points, $1-million cap hit
Cost per point: $17,857
After playing the Czech Republic in 2021-22, Krejci returned to Boston on a one-year deal with a $1-million cap hit. And the veteran picked up right where he left off, collecting 16 goals and 56 points (fifth on the team) through 70 games as the B’s marched through a record-breaking regular season. The 36-year-old remains unsigned for 2023-24, with retirement potentially on the table for the 2011 Cup champ. If 2022-23 was in fact his last NHL season, there’s no question he gave the Bruins plenty in his final run.
6. Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals / Toronto Maple Leafs
2022-23 Impact: 42 points, $800,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $19,047
The only defenceman to crack the top 10, Gustafsson’s bargain performance came largely for the Washington Capitals. While a trade-deadline move took him to Toronto, where he played nine games and collected four points, the veteran rearguard appeared in 61 games for the Caps in 2022-23 and put up 38 points — hefty value considering the one-year, $800,000 deal he was playing out. The resurgent season — his first above the 40-point plateau since 2018-19 — earned him a one-year, $825,000 deal with the New York Rangers for next season.
7. Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs
2022-23 Impact: 49 points, $950,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $19,387
While his extracurricular antics might’ve rubbed plenty a Maple Leafs fan the wrong way, Bunting undeniably brought outsized value for the modest $950,000 he counted against the club’s cap. The 27-year-old put up 23 goals and 49 points as a useful depth scorer for the blue and white in 2022-23, putting him among the league’s top value performers for the second straight year — with 69 points and the same cap hit a year prior, Bunting ranked as the league’s best bargain producer of 2021-22, costing the Leafs just $15,079 per point. The two-year run earned him a far weightier three-year, $13.5-million deal with Carolina that kicks in next season.
8. Gabriel Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings
2022-23 Impact: 41 points, $825,000 cap hit
Cost per point: $20,121
Like some of the others, Vilardi’s 2022-23 season was his first following the completion of his ELC, the young forward granted a one-year, $825,000 deal to prove his worth to the Kings. He made the most of the opportunity, posting 23 goals and 41 points through 63 games for the club — roughly a 30-goal, 50-point pace over a full 82-game season. The 20-goal effort earned him a raise on his new deal, Vilardi signing a two-year, $6.88-million contract with the Winnipeg Jets, who acquired the forward in a trade last month.
9. Taylor Raddysh, Chicago Blackhawks
2022-23 Impact: 37 points, $758,333 cap hit
Cost per point: $20,495
Playing out his entry-level deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning and signing on for a three-year extension with the Bolts, a 2022 trade sent Raddysh to Chicago as part of the deal that landed Brandon Hagel in Tampa. Counting just $758,333 against the cap in 2022-23, Raddysh came up with a career-best 20-goal, 37-point season for his new club. And although he’s ninth on this list, that 20-goal effort ranked him fourth in the league in terms of players who cost the least per goal. The 25-year-old still has one more year at that modest cap hit in Chicago, making him a likely candidate to wind up on this list again a year from now.
10. Stefan Noesen, Carolina Hurricanes
2022-23 Impact: 36 points, $762,500 cap hit
Cost per point: $21,180
Noesen might be one of the most interesting names on this list, given the path he took to get here. The journeyman landed in Carolina in 2022-23 on a one-year, $762,500 deal after a near-decade run that took him through Anaheim, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Toronto, with a number of those stops featuring limited game-time at the NHL level. His ninth NHL campaign brought his first full season in the big leagues, and a career year of production with 13 goals and 36 points to his name in just over 12 minutes of ice per night — valuable contributions for a Canes offence that has plenty of other talent farther up the lineup. The veteran is set to return for 2023-24 at that same cap hit for the second season of his two-year pact.
2022-23’s ALL-BARGAIN TEAM
To fill out our All-Bargain Team for the 2022-23 campaign, we looked at the 12 forwards and six defenders who cost their teams the least per point, beginning with the 10 names above.
As for goaltending, we looked to the netminders who cost their teams the least per save (not including entry-level deals) — unsurprisingly, Edmonton Oilers star Stuart Skinner led that list, costing his club just $534 per save as he broke out in the second season of his two-year, $1.5-million deal.
The rest of the bargain goalie top 10 for the 2022-23 season: Filip Gustavsson ($721 per save), Logan Thompson ($740 per save), Sam Montembeault ($825 per save), Connor Ingram ($841 per save), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen ($891 per save), Pheonix Copley ($964 per save), Alex Stalock ($1,027 per save), Spencer Martin ($1,054 per save) and Joonas Korpisalo ($1,179 per save).
Taking all that into account, here’s our 2022-23 All-Bargain Team:
Brandon Hagel (TBL) — Tage Thompson (BUF) — Daniel Sprong (SEA)
Michael Bunting (TOR) — David Krejci (BOS) — Gabriel Vilardi (LAK)
Zach Parise (NYI) — Morgan Frost (PHI) — Taylor Raddysh (CHI)
Stefan Noesen (CAR) — Thomas Novak (NSH) — Sonny Milano (WSH)
Erik Gustafsson (WSH/TOR) — Luke Schenn (VAN/TOR)
Mark Giordano (TOR) — Rasmus Sandin (TOR/WSH)
P.O. Joseph (PIT) — Sebastian Aho (NYI)
Stuart Skinner (EDM)
Filip Gustavsson (MIN)
2022-23’s ALL-ELC TEAM
As mentioned, a number of young stars massively outperformed their entry-level cap hits in 2022-23. Ottawa’s Tim Stutzle headlined that list, the 2020 third-overall pick dominating to the tune of a 39-goal, 90-point effort, while counting just $925,000 against the cap in the final year of his ELC (leaving his cost per point at $10,278). The breakout set up the young German for an eight-year, $66.8-million extension that will kick in next season.
Here’s how the rest of the 2022-23 All-ELC Team shook out, composed of the 12 entry-level forwards, six entry-level defenders and two entry-level netminders who cost their clubs the least per point, and save, over the past season.
Andrei Kuzmenko (VAN) — Tim Stutzle (OTT) — Matthew Boldy (MIN)
Trevor Zegras (ANA) — Dylan Cozens (BUF) — Dawson Mercer (NJD)
Mason McTavish (ANA) — Matty Beniers (SEA) — Lucas Raymond (DET)
Matias Maccelli (ARI) — Wyatt Johnston (DAL) — Seth Jarvis (CAR)
K’Andre Miller (NYR) — Mo Seider (DET)
Owen Power (BUF) — Evan Bouchard (EDM)
J.J. Moser (ARI) — Calen Addison (MIN)
Jeremy Swayman (BOS)
Lukas Dostal (ANA)