10 NHL Players Who Will Outperform Their Current Contracts
To be successful in the NHL, savvy general managers must lock up outstanding talent while not brutally overpaying. The squads that typically win the Stanley Cup aren't littered with bad contracts.
Occasionally there will be one or two, but the best team in the NHL is almost never overpaying members of its team.
GMs do a decent job in locking up their homegrown talent for the most part. Some folks lose their minds during free agency, only to see their team sink to the bottom of the standings the following year. This leads to an obvious division between bad contracts and good ones.
Then there are the deals that are outright steals—top performers who aren't due to make ridiculous amounts of money. One needn't look any farther than Martin St. Louis in Tampa Bay with the Lightning for a prime example.
He was the league's leading scorer in 2013, yet only hauled in $5.5 million. Not too shabby, but he's not alone in outperforming his contract.
Taylor Hall (EDM): It's tough to call a guy making $6 million a year a steal, but if Taylor Hall plays to his full potential, there's a good chance that his cap hit will look tiny.
Cam Atkinson (CLB): The diminutive but dynamic forward will be given every chance to outplay his $1.15 cap hit for the Columbus Blue Jackets, where they are long in attitude but a little short on finish.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX): Another outstanding young defenseman for the Phoenix Coyotes, Keith Yandle represents the team in this particular slideshow. On another day, it could have easily been OEL jumping onto the list.
Marian Hossa (CHI): The guy is a Stanley Cup magnet, and only frequent injuries prevent him from making this list with his $5.275 cap hit.
Niklas Kronwall (DET): Defenseman don't come much more versatile than Kronwall, who is Mr. Do-It-All for the Detroit Red Wings. He's worth his $4.75 million annual cap number for his hitting alone.
Travis Hamonic (NYI): You'll be hard-pressed to find a more rough and tumble customer than Hamonic. He's an anchor for the Islanders on the blue line and is worth every cent of his $3.857 cap hit.
Jonathan Quick (LAK): Again, it's tough to call a guy who makes nearly $6 million a year a massive steal, but Quick is just too good not to be mentioned as a guy who could outplay his cap hit substantially.
As always, just because your guy didn't make the list here doesn't mean he's not going to outperform his contract. We'd love to hear your opinions in the comments section below.
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
Current Contract: Six years, $25.5 million ($4.250 annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Ryan Callahan (NYR), Mike Fisher (NAS), Kris Versteeg (FLA)
2014 Performance Projection: It didn't take Loui Eriksson long to decide that he liked the sound of heading to the Boston Bruins. He told Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe that “it was an easy decision for me to make that decision to go and play with Boston. I know it’s a good team. They really wanted me too. I’m really looking forward to that.”
He left the Dallas Stars, where he'd developed into the NHL's most steady and underrated players, for a chance to win the Stanley Cup with the B's.
Eriksson will slot in nicely on Boston's second line, and he will likely spend a majority of his playing time with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. If the trio develops some solid chemistry—a likely development given all three players have a knack for playing hard in all three zones—a 60-point season won't be out of the question for the 28-year-old winger.
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Current Contract: Six years, $33 million ($5.5 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Daniel Alfredsson (DET—weird), Shawn Horcoff (DAL), Mike Ribeiro (PHX)
2014 Performance Projection: John Tavares is a rare player of destiny who just has an intangible air about him. He's going to be a top-10 player in the NHL for a long time and could start his assault on Sidney Crosby's choke-hold on all things offense as soon as this season.
While expecting Tavares to post Crosby-esque numbers may be asking a bit much, there's no doubt that his cap hit is one of the most team-friendly in the NHL.
Even in an offseason, Tavares would have no issues outperforming his ridiculously low cap number. He's one of the league's elite playmakers, and his game could receive a massive boost if Ryan Strome can translate quickly to the NHL.
Could Tavares break the century mark for the first time in his career in 2014?
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Current Contract: Five years, $25.25 million ($5.25 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Ales Hemsky (EDM), Nathan Horton (CLB), David Clarkson (TOR)
2014 Performance Projection: After Eriksson was traded to the Boston Bruins, two things became clear: Jamie Benn wouldn't be playing center anymore, and the Dallas Stars were now his team.
He's seen a lot of turnover during his time in Texas, from the departure of Brad Richards to the trades of Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy to the unforeseen Eriksson deal this summer. One of the few constants for Dallas up front has been Benn.
With a strong center—likely Tyler Seguin—and a fresh season in 2014, Benn could approach the 70-point plateau. Sixty points is almost a given, and he'll continue to bring the kind of intangibles that make him so valuable to Dallas.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Current Contract: Four years, $22.5 million ($5.625 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Shawn Horcoff (DAL), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Jeff Skinner (CAR)
2014 Performance Projection: The Internet might implode if we too compare Martin St. Louis to a fine wine that only gets better with age, but you get the drift. He was the NHL's leading scorer in 2013, and he managed that while pushing 40.
He outscored the youthful likes of Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby (kind of) and Alex Ovechkin to win another scoring trophy.
Arguably the biggest bargain in all of hockey, St. Louis is a yearly lock to outperform his team-friendly cap hits. 2014 won't be any different, and as the Lightning continue to improve, St. Louis could actually see a small spike in his numbers.
A point-per-game season is very achievable alongside Steven Stamkos, especially considering health has never been an issue for St. Louis.
Slava Voynov, Los Angeles Kings
Current Contract: Six years, $25 million ($4.166 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Ed Jovanovski (FLA), Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Anton Volchenkov (NJD)
2014 Performance Projection: The going rate for young, offensively talented defenseman is seemingly lower than that of over-the-hill has-beens who can perhaps put up 20 or 30 points from the blue line.
That could be because savvy teams like the Los Angeles Kings lock up their stud blueliners to long-term deals, sapping the market of such players. Slava Voynov is one of the best young defenders in the NHL, and he should receive a lot more press than he does.
He could have cracked the 50-point barrier in 2013 had a majority of the season not been lost to a lockout, and Voynov is poised to be even better this season. He's only 23 and is still learning some of the finer points of the game, but he's in no way a detriment in his own end.
The Kings have an outstanding player in Voynov, and it may not be long until you think of him instead of Drew Doughty when considering LA's excellent defensive corps.
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Current Contract: Four years, $15.2 million ($3.8 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Jaroslav Halak (STL), Ondrej Pavelec (WPG), Cory Schneider (NJD)
2014 Performance Projection: In 2013, there wasn't a bigger bargain in net than Antti Niemi. If not for an otherworldly performance from Sergei Bobrovsky, it's likely that the San Jose Shark would have taken home his first Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL.
He was tied for the most wins with Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875 cap hit annually) with 24, sported a solid 2.16 GAA and an equally sound .924 save percentage.
All for the price of a mid-range starter.
No disrespect to Halak and Pavelec, but Niemi was in a different league from those guys entirely in 2013. Those were the best numbers of Niemi's young NHL career, and another season like that in 2014 could see him added to the short list of elite, game-stealing talents in goal.
David Perron, Edmonton Oilers
Current Contract: Four years, $15.25 million ($3.812 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Pascal Dupuis (PIT), Antoine Vermette (PHX), Chris Kunitz (PIT)
2014 Performance Projection: 2014 could be a bit of a make-or-break year for David Perron. He struggled with concussion problems for much of his time as a St. Louis Blue and didn't really light it up like some thought he would in 2013.
That said, the Blues aren't exactly the creme de la creme offensive powerhouse of the NHL. St. Louis wins games with sound defense and an outstanding structure in the neutral and defensive zones.
The Edmonton Oilers utilize a different game plan—one much more suited for Perron and his awesome finishing skills. If he can play his way into a top-six role with the Oilers, a 30-goal season isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Health off the ice and chemistry on it will be necessary, but Perron's sub-$4 million cap hit could look like a steal at this time next season.
Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
Current Contract: Five years, $26.25 million ($5.25 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Dennis Wideman (BOS), Mark Streit (PHI), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG)
2014 Performance Projection: Keith Yandle has quietly become one of the best offensive-defenseman in the NHL while playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. He posted 30 points in 48 games in 2013 and could have possibly broken the 60-point barrier had the season been a full one.
That kind of production for a shade over $5 million is outstanding.
Take into consideration that Yandle is only 26 and is entering his prime; he could be set to blow the doors off of the NHL much like Mike Green did back in 2008-09. Yandle isn't playing for a team with as much firepower as those Washington Capitals teams, but his impact will be similar.
Yandle is a monster on the power play and his play in his own end continues to improve. With Eriksson heading to the Boston Bruins this summer, Yandle may now be the heir apparent to the title of "best kept secret in hockey."
Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers
Current Contract: Four years, $18 million ($4.5 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Ville Leino (BUF), Teddy Purcell (TBL), Ryan Malone (TBL)
2014 Performance Projection: One of the fastest players in the NHL, Tomas Fleischmann is an outstanding goal scorer and is a threat to light the lamp every time he hits the ice. He's an outstanding performer on the power play and has one of the most lethal shots from the slot in the game.
His 35 points in 48 games was tops on a Florida Panthers team that struggled with injury in 2013. Fleischmann stayed healthy and was the most steady performer on the team alongside Jonathan Huberdeau.
He scores at a rate that could earn him a much bigger paycheck on the open market, and the Florida Panthers have quite a bargain going for the next two seasons. A 30-goal, 60-point performance from Fleischmann seems very doable, especially considering the ridiculous amount of young talent that is about to join the Panthers' lineup this year.
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
Current Contract: Six years, $31.5 million ($5.25 million annual cap hit)
Cap Hit Comparables: Joffrey Lupul (TOR), David Clarkson (TOR), David Krejci (BOS)
2014 Performance Projection: Evander Kane is set to explode. He's slowly improved each and every season since entering the NHL in 2009-10, 2014 could be the year where we see him reach his full potential.
It took him some time to get acclimated to playing in the best league in the world, and receiving his entry-level hockey education on an awful Atlanta Thrashers team likely stunted his growth a touch.
He's 21 years old now, and the Winnipeg Jets are taking steps to get better. The biggest boon to Kane could be the long-awaited arrival of Mark Scheifele. The highly touted center is a supreme playmaker who also possesses a wicked shot.
Scheifele could end up on a line with Kane, and the duo could be very difficult to defend against if chemistry developed. Toss in criminally underrated players such as Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler and the Jets are poised to take a step forward.
Any forward motion will likely be spurred on by a best-yet season from Kane. Thirty goals wouldn't be surprising in any way.
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