The 10 Biggest Bargains in the 2013 NHL Playoffs
Depth is one of the essential ingredients in winning the Stanley Cup.
Having great depth at forward and on the blue line is required of all teams with championship aspirations because relying on just one or two lines to be effective consistently puts too much pressure on superstar players.
In the salary cap era (2005-present), teams are unable to fill their rosters with high-paid talent at every position, so every offseason, general managers are forced to find depth players who will play a specific role and sign them to bargain contracts.
Let's look at the 10 biggest bargains in the 2013 NHL playoffs thus far.
All salary information courtesy of Capgeek.
Arron Asham, New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers signed Arron Asham last summer to give the team some of the grit, experience and penalty killing that it lost when general manager Glen Sather had to give up some depth to acquire superstar winger Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
To the surprise of many, it was Asham's impact offensively that turned out to be his strongest contribution to the Blueshirts' first-round playoff series victory over the Washington Capitals.
Asham scored the first goal of the Rangers' convincing 5-0 Game 7 victory over the Capitals on Monday, which was his second goal of the series. His two goals through the seven games were more than star forwards Brad Richards and Rick Nash combined. (They totaled just one goal.)
This is good offensive production for a fourth-line player whose contract includes a small $1 million salary cap hit.
As Dan Rosen of NHL.com noted on Twitter, Asham also found the back of the net more than Maurice Richard Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin:
Asham on having more goals than Ovi: "He's one of the best players in the world and I'm just a fourth-line plug. It's definitely nice."— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 14, 2013
For the Rangers to beat a deep Boston Bruins team in the second round, head coach John Tortorella needs his fourth line to be physical and make an impact in the attacking zone.
Wade Redden, Boston Bruins
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Wade Redden has revived his career as a member of the Boston Bruins following two years of playing in the AHL.
The veteran defenseman has provided the Bruins with a steady presence on the blue line as a player who excels in his own end, blocks shots and is capable of contributing on the power play and the penalty kill.
Redden scored a goal and added an assist in Boston's 4-1 Game 1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also finished the series with nine hits, five blocked shots and a plus/minus rating of two.
"The games that he played, he moved the puck extremely well," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien prior to Game 1.
"His experience is invaluable, and his confidence right now is pretty good. When you have Wade [Redden] in that zone, he becomes a pretty good player."
Since the Bruins have dealt with several injuries on the blue line during the playoffs, Redden has become an important part of the team's success on defense. Just like how baseball teams can never have enough pitching, NHL teams always need a large number of quality defensemen.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was able to acquire Redden from the St. Blues at the trade deadline for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, which has become one of the most underrated deals of the regular season. Redden's cap hit in 2013 was only $1 million.
Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Pascal Dupuis scored 20 goals with 18 assists during the regular season, which was his best scoring pace (.792 points/game) as an NHL player.
He has continued to produce offensively in the playoffs with a team-leading six goals (also is first in the NHL in playoff goals), eight points and a plus/minus rating of two.
His consistency is also impressive, evidenced by the fact that he found the back of the net in four of the Pittsburgh Penguins' six games in the first round against the New York Islanders.
Dupuis does a great job battling for pucks in the dirty areas and drives hard to the net on almost every shift. This kind of hard work sets a good example for his teammates to follow.
As a player with a small salary cap hit of $1.5 million, Dupuis is giving the Penguins incredible value as a top-six forward. Re-signing him in the summer could be an expensive move for Penguins general manager Ray Shero when he's eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
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Jean-Gabriel Pageau was not expected to make much of an impact with the Ottawa Senators this year, but injuries opened up an opportunity for the young forward to prove himself late in the regular season and in the playoffs.
To his credit, Pageau has become an important part of the team's offense with five points in the postseason thus far (second-most on the team), including a hat trick in Game 3 of Ottawa's first-round series versus the rival Montreal Canadiens. He also brings good speed and a high hockey IQ to the Senators lineup.
The 20-year-old center will need to continue his impressive scoring production in the second round when the Senators take on a high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins team with more depth at forward than any club in the Eastern Conference.
Pageau's contract has a tiny $613,000 salary cap hit, which is great value for the Senators.
Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks
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How good was Chicago Blackhawks role player Bryan Bickell in the team's first-round playoff series versus the Minnesota Wild?
His three goals were three times the amount that superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined for in the five games against the Wild. He's tied for third on the team in scoring with four points, which is impressive for a bottom-six forward whose contract includes a $541,667 salary cap hit (lowest among Chicago forwards).
Bickell's role on the Blackhawks is to play physical (he ranks second on the team in hits with 13), excel defensively and contribute to the penalty kill. When he also contributes offensively and gives a solid two-way performance, Bickell becomes a key part of his team's success.
Matt Martin, New York Islanders
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The New York Islanders were a tougher team to play against this year compared to last season, and one of the reasons for that was Matt Martin's physical play in all three zones.
The fourth-line forward led all players in the first round with 41 hits and played an average of 0:52 of short-handed time on ice per game. He also scored a goal in the Islanders' 4-3 Game 2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to the series at a game apiece.
Every team needs an enforcer who adds toughness, energy, defense and penalty killing to the lineup, and Martin does a great job fulfilling these roles on the Islanders.
He has three more years on his current contract with a $1 million salary cap hit.
Raffi Torres, San Jose Sharks
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Raffi Torres was unable to be in the lineup for most of last year's playoffs because of the 25-game suspension he received for an illegal hit on Chicago Blackhawks star forward Marian Hossa.
After spending most of the regular season with the Phoenix Coyotes, the 31-year-old veteran was dealt to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. During the playoffs, Torres has given the Sharks a bottom-six forward who adds toughness, penalty killing and some scoring to the lineup.
Torres is playing hard with maximum effort on each shift, but more importantly, he's making sure his hits are legal and won't get him suspended.
In addition to his 17:46 of ice time per game, Torres finished the first round ranked second on the team in hits (14) and takeaways (five). He also won five of his six faceoffs.
Torres' cap hit this year was only $1.75 million, which is good value for a reliable third-line player with lots of postseason experience.
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings
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Justin Abdelkader gave the Detroit Red Wings some valuable secondary scoring in their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks with two goals and an assist in five games.
Abdelkader also made an impact defensively with 18 hits (most on the team), six blocked shots and a team-leading plus/minus rating of four. His shorthanded goal in Game 7 in Anaheim was a turning point for the Red Wings, who eliminated the Ducks from the playoffs with a 3-2 win on Sunday night.
As a gritty forward capable of fulfilling different roles with his scoring ability and defensive skill, Abdelkader is an important role player on a Red Wings team that will give the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks a challenging second-round series.
Not only is Abdelkader signed for four more years, his salary cap hit is just $1.8 million. This will prove to be a team-friendly deal for the Red Wings, who will need to use their cap space to re-sign important top-six forwards such as Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner over the next two years.
Cody Franson, Toronto Maple Leafs
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Cody Franson gave the Toronto Maple Leafs some great scoring production from the blue line with six points (three goals, three assists) in the team's seven-game first-round series against the rival Boston Bruins.
His two goals in Game 7 gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but unfortunately for the 25-year-old defenseman, his team was unable to close out the Bruins with a 5-4 overtime loss.
Franson was a reliable presence on the blue line with 22:49 of ice time per game, which was the third-most on the team. The young blueliner also played well defensively with 33 hits, seven blocked shots and three takeaways.
Toronto killed 85 percent of its penalties in Round 1 (sixth-best among playoff teams), and Franson played an important role in this success with 1:42 of short-handed time on ice per game.
Franson played very well for a player whose contract has a $1.2 million salary cap hit.
Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers
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Mats Zuccarello returned to the New York Rangers during the regular season after spending the NHL lockout playing in the KHL, and his arrival to the lineup gave the team a much-needed boost of speed, offensive skill, playmaking and power-play ability.
The 25-year-old left winger finished the Rangers' first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals as the team's second-leading scorer with five points, including a fantastic goal (watch here) in Monday's Game 7 victory. That is great production from a player with a contract that has a $700,000 salary cap hit.
New York will need his speed and goal scoring ability in the second round against a Boston Bruins team that plays well defensively and has a great goaltender in Tuukka Rask.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand.