The 10 Biggest Bargains in the NHL for the 2013-14 Season
In the salary-cap era, it is no longer enough to acquire the league's best players, but now you have to get them for the right price. Pay too much, and even a quality player can actually hurt the team by using up too much cap space. In those cases, you're actually better off with an inferior player if the extra savings allow the team to be upgraded somewhere else.
To find the league's top values, we're using a statistic called goals versus salary (GVS). It is a variation of Tom Awad's high-level statistic, goals versus threshold, which attempts to measure all of a player's contributions in terms of the total goals he either helped score or prevent, relative to what would have been achieved by a replacement-level AHL call-up.
The only difference with GVS is that it is calculated relative to what would have been achieved by a player with the same cap hit instead. All cap data, incidentally, comes from CapGeek.
There are only a couple of ground rules that apply to this list. First of all, there are no players on entry-level contracts (ELCs). They all have such tremendous value that it's probably more challenging to cost your team money with these deals than to find a bargain. That being said, Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Saad are the highest values among those on ELCs.
The only other players left out are goalies, whose results are a little too unpredictable and team-dependent to compare straight up with skaters. As for their top values, Antti Niemi, Cory Schneider, Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson are all worthy of consideration.
One final word before we begin. There are a lot of great bargain players who missed the cut, many of whom contribute in the types of ways that won't be identified with this particular approach. We will try to catch those players in a future study.
All advanced statistics are via the writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.
Jiri Tlusty, LW, Carolina Hurricanes, Age 25
Cap Hit/Salary: $1.6M/$1.7M
Added Value: 8.4 goals
Status: Becomes an RFA at season's end
Jiri Tlusty has scored 40 goals and 74 points over the past two seasons and is actually one of only 48 players to do so. Interestingly, two other bargain players have similar totals, Curtis Glencross and Alexandre Burrows (who is actually starting on his new deal now). This is potentially the level of scoring that is undervalued at the negotiating table.
Acquired from Toronto during the 2009-10 season for Philippe Paradis, Tlusty played on Carolina's offensive-minded top line last year, alongside Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. He led the Canes in even-strength goals (19) and shooting percentage (19.7 percent).
Matt Read, RW, Philadelphia Flyers, Age 27
Cap Hit/Salary: $0.9M/$1.0M
Added Value: 8.1 goals
Status: New 4-year, $14.5M deal in 2014-15
Matt Read made his NHL debut for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 at age 25 and unexpectedly scored 47 points in 79 games. Last year's 24 points in 42 games would be on pace for 47 points in 82 games.
Over these past two seasons, Read is tied with Claude Giroux for second on the team with 28 even-strength goals and leads the team with a 15.4 percent shooting percentage. He also draws several more penalties than he takes and is 5-of-9 when helping with the shootout.
Logan Couture, C, San Jose Sharks, Age 24
Cap Hit/Salary: $2.875M/$3.0M
Added Value: 8.0 goals
Status: New 5-year, $30M deal in 2014-15
Logan Couture was riding back-to-back 30-goal seasons entering the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, one of only 13 players to do so. He led the Sharks with 21 goals last year and with 84 goals over the past three seasons.
Couture is tied for third behind Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau with 158 points over those same three seasons. Those two players are both 34 years old, however, and Couture was the youngest player on the Sharks roster last year (save the four games played by Matt Tennyson).
This will be the last bargain year for the Sharks, who have already signed Couture to a new five-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6.0 million per season that kicks in next year.
Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers, Age 25
Cap Hit/Salary: $3.75M/$5.0M
Added Value: 7.9 goals
Status: New 8-year, $66.2M deal in 2014-15
Claude Giroux's accomplishments over the past three seasons hardly require enumeration. Given his new eight-year deal that carries a whopping $8.275 million cap hit per season, the Flyers obviously agree.
For at least one more season, the Flyers will have one of the league's top two-way centers at the ridiculous bargain price of $5.0 million in salary and $3.75 million in cap hit. That's the same cap hit as Antoine Vermette and Pascal Dupuis, and roughly the same as David Perron and Troy Brouwer.
When looking around the dressing room this year, Giroux will see nine Flyers with higher cap hits than his and three more within a few hundred thousand.
Jannik Hansen, RW, Vancouver Canucks, Age 27
Cap Hit/Salary: $1.35M/$1.1M
Added Value: 6.6 goals
Status: Becomes a UFA at season's end
Jannik Hansen has missed just one game over the past three seasons, during which time he has scored 35 goals and added 60 assists while also serving as one of Vancouver's regular penalty-killers.
Playing mostly with Christopher Higgins, Hansen was within three goals of the team lead and finished third on the team in points in 2013. He could be just the type of value player that new coach John Tortorella may promote this year.
P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens, Age 24
Cap Hit/Salary: $2.875M/$3.75M
Added Value: 6.5 goals
Status: Remains an RFA at season's end
Obviously, any player who wins the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman while carrying a cap hit under $3.0 million is going to show up somewhere on the list of the league's best bargain players. The so-called bridge contract continues into this season, after which the Habs will no doubt have to pay big.
Montreal is blessed with quite a few bargain players, including Brendan Gallagher's entry-level deal mentioned in the opening slide and 24-year-old center Lars Eller, who just missed this list.
Andrew MacDonald, D, New York Islanders, Age 27
Cap Hit/Salary: $0.55M/$0.575M
Added Value: 6.3 goals
Status: Becomes a UFA at season's end
On a team with contracts like Matt Moulson's and Frans Nielsen's, it takes a special kind of player to have the greatest contract value of all.
First of all, any time you can get a legitimate NHL defenseman on a four-year deal at the league minimum, you have a great bargain. And when that player takes on the toughest assignments, in the defensive zone and against top competition, well, that's just incredible.
Andrew MacDonald has averaged over 23 minutes a night for the past three seasons. His and partner Travis Hamonic's most frequent opponents last year included Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel and even Sidney Crosby. There's no question MacDonald has one of the league's toughest jobs.
Mark Letestu, C, Columbus Blue Jackets, Age 28
Cap Hit/Salary: $1.25M/$1.2M
Added Value: 6.2 goals
Status: UFA after 2014-15 season
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded a fourth-round selection to Pittsburgh for lesser known value player Mark Letestu. A decent two-way center, Letestu found chemistry with the now-departed Vinny Prospal on a dandy secondary line where he amazingly led the team with 13 goals while finishing second to his linemate with 27 points.
Letestu has also gone 5-of-9 in the shootout over the past two seasons, an added bonus for a player already earning his modest salary.
Benoit Pouliot, LW, New York Rangers, Age 26
Cap Hit/Salary: $1.3M/$1.3M
Added Value: 4.5 goals
Status: UFA at season's end
Signed this offseason by the New York Rangers, Benoit Pouliot is actually tied with Martin Biron as the 17th-highest-paid player on the team. This will be his fifth team in as many years, and there will perhaps be a sixth team next year. Pouliot is one of 18 players whose contracts expire at season's end, including star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Pouliot played in Tampa Bay last season, predominantly in a secondary role but sometimes with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in an attempt to spread out the offense.
Mason Raymond, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs, Age 28
Cap Hit/Salary: $1.0M/$1.0M
Added Value: 4.0 goals
Status: UFA at season's end
It's hard to believe a player like Mason Raymond wouldn't get snapped up sooner and for a lot more, but the Toronto Maple Leafs got themselves a potentially huge bargain a few days ago.
When Ryan Kesler was healthy, it was usually Raymond skating on the left side on Vancouver's vaunted two-way second line. Last year, he mostly played with Jannik Hansen and Jordan Schroeder, finishing three back of the team lead in goals scored and adding 12 helpers.