Each summer, General Managers across the National Hockey League have dreams of their free agent signees exceeding the expectations set in front of them, therefore making them bargains in the eyes of analysts, fans and rival clubs.
For a player to be considered a "bargain," one has to perform at a level that would normally call for a bigger payday than what their contract demands.
Since the league instituted the salary cap prior to the 2005-06 season, teams have become (for the most part) more conservative with their spending, as each dollar spent counts more than ever.
For that reason, bargain-bin players are more useful than ever, as their production often outweighs their salary cap hit.
With that in mind, here are a look at the eight best bargains in the NHL today.
Just a season ago, Niclas Bergfors was considered one of the most promising young forwards in the National Hockey League, as he was coming off a 44-point debut campaign that saw him make the league's All-Rookie Team.
Fast-forward twelve months, and Bergfors isn't much more than an afterthought, as he waited until July 19th to sign a one-year deal with Nashville worth just $575,000.
For a 24-year-old who has proven he can put up top-nine numbers at the NHL level, the Predators got an absolute steal with this deal, as Bergfors could be a valuable addition to the offensively-starved Nashville lineup.
After an ugly falling out with Head Coach Jacques Martin in Montreal, the Canadiens dealt enigmatic winger Sergei Kostitsyn to Nashville, where he signed a one-year deal worth $550,000.
From there, Kostitsyn proved his worth, as he lead the low-scoring Predators in points with 23 goals and 50 points in 2010-11.
His performance during the regular season earned him a big pay raise, as he inked another one-year contact, this time worth $2.5 million.
Kostitsyn is one of the only game-breakers in the Predators' lineup, and though he's relatively inconsistent, he has the potential to be a 60-point scorer every season.
As one of the best goaltenders of the last decade, at just under $600,000, Evgeni Nabokov has to be considered one of the most underpaid players in the NHL, even if he didn't play in the league in 2010-11.
Nabokov instantly gives the Islanders some credibility between the pipes, and will help the fans on Long Island forget about Rick DiPietro's albatross of a contract.
He has the ability to steal some games, and seeing as the Islanders have an up-and-coming team, he could help them make a run towards the postseason.
Since the Summer of 2007, Scott Hannan's value has dropped immensely, though, his level his play has not.
That year, Hannan inked a four-year deal worth $18 million, as he was widely regarded as one of the best shutdown defenseman in the game, and the Colorado Avalanche believed they had signed a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
However, the Avalanche struggled towards the end of Hannan's stay in Denver, so the team dealt him to Washington where he assumed a smaller role on a very good Capitals team.
After the 2010-11 season, Washington opted not to re-sign Hannan, and he remained on the market until mid-August when Calgary offered the veteran stay-at-home rearguard a one-year, $1 million contact.
Considering the fact that Hannan is still one of the more effective shutdown defenseman in the game, this contract will undoubtedly turn out to be one that pays big dividends for a Flames team that has little cap room in the short term.
When a player ups his career high in points from eight to 53, usually one would expect that they'd receive a hefty pay raise in return, but such is not the case with New York Islanders forward P.A. Parenteau.
After tallying 20 goals and 53 points in 2010-11 for a mediocre Islanders team, Parenteau's salary jumped from a meager $600,000 to $1.25 million, which is still very inexpensive for a 50-point scorer.
If Parenteau continues to play a gritty style of hockey and put points on the board on Long Island, he'll be due for a much richer contract this time next year. It's unclear as to why the Islanders wouldn't lock him up to a long-term deal, especially at such a favorably low price tag.
After making just $550,000 in 2010-11 with the St. Louis Blues, Matt D'Agostini enjoyed a relatively big payday this offseason, inking a two-year extension with a cap hit of $1.65 annually.
Although it's a big raise from his salary last season, D'Agostini will likely prove to be worth much more than his two-year, $3.3 million deal, as he put up 21 goals and 46 points in his first full NHL season last year.
On a young Blues team deep in talent, D'Agostini could become one of the go-to guys, as he demonstrated he has the skill to do so last season. At just 24, he's not even close to reaching his potential as a player, so this deal will likely become a big-time bargain for St. Louis.
If the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs told us anything about Alexandre Burrows, it's that his $2 million annual salary is one of the biggest bargains in the National Hockey League.
As one of the most valuable players on the Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks, Burrows came through in the clutch time and time again, including a breathtaking overtime-winner in Game 2 of the Finals.
He's posted at least 25 goals and 48 points in each of the last three seasons, including a career-high 35 goals and 67 points in 2009-10. He's proven to be the perfect compliment to the Sedin twins, as he plays the role of skilled yet gritty agitator, allowing the Sedins to work their magic with the puck in the offensive zone.
When his contract is up in 2012-13, he'll be due for a big pay raise.
Heading into the 2011 offseason, there were two goaltenders that were considered to be the cream of the crop among pending unrestricted free agents.
They were Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov and Florida's Tomas Vokoun, and after Bryzgalov was dealt to Philadelphia prior to July 1st, Vokoun became the de facto best goaltender on the market.
However, Vokoun misjudged the market, and for a variety of reasons, he ended up signing a one-year deal worth a paltry $1.5 million with the Stanley Cup-contending Washington Capitals.
This deal could end up being ideal for both parties, as the two-time All-Star could ultimately become the piece that pushes the Caps over the top, while helping him land a big-money contract next summer.