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.