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NHL's Top 30 Players: Who's Overpaid and Who's a Bargain?

Patrick DrottarCorrespondent IOctober 27, 2011

NHL's Top 30 Players: Who's Overpaid and Who's a Bargain?

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    There is no doubt that the top players in the National Hockey League deserve the big bucks.

    Whether it's because of their tremendous skill or their leadership abilities, these players earn the right to be called the best.

    However, as much as these players deserve the recognition as well as some compensation, some receive a little more than is deserved.

    Some receive large contracts because they are the benefactors of the bidding war that is free agency, while others do so because their agent will not budge in contract negotiations and the owners decide to just give in.

    While some deserve a pay decrease, there are other top players that deserve a raise for what they have been able to accomplish.

    Compared to those sporting larger contracts, some of the lower-paid players have accomplished more, some even in a quicker amount of time. Their teams have hit the jackpot after signing them and have put a competitive team on the ice without spending a ton on just one player.

    This won't last long if their impressive play continues as owners will be forced to pay up when their contracts expire. If they don't then there is a good chance these bargain players will join those that are overpaid due to free agency.

    So let's take a look at some of the top players in the NHL and see who is overpaid and who is a bargain.

Keith Yandle

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    Contract: Five-year, $26,250,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,250,000

    Since 2008, Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has drastically increased his numbers season after season. Last season was no different, as the 25-year-old increased his point total from 41 points the previous season to a career-high 59 points.

    Yandle's play earned him a large contract extension, making him the highest paid player on the team. Getting the most money on the team puts a lot of pressure on any player, but Yandle has had no problem backing it up.

    The Boston native takes plenty of shots, plays a monster share of minutes and leads the team on the man advantage. With veteran leader Ed Jovanovski no longer with the team, Yandle will now assume the leadership role on the blue line.

    Yandle is one of the top defensemen in the league and has yet to hit the prime of his career.

    Bargain

Eric Staal

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    Contract: Seven-year, $57,750,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $8,250,000

    In Eric Staal's sophomore season in the NHL, the Carolina centerman put up an impressive 100-point season. Since then, the 26-year-old's numbers have never again reached that height, but he's never had a season under 70 points.

    Staal is one of the most consistent players in the league and is a lock for high numbers every season. 

    This was one of the main reasons why the Hurricanes locked him up for seven years and made him one of the highest paid players in the league.

    He will be 31 years old when his contract expires and if he is still putting up consistent numbers, the contract could be even higher than his current one.

    Bargain

David Backes

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    Contract: Five-year, $22 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $4,500,000

    St. Louis Blues captain David Backes had a career year last season where he had a 30-30-30 season. For the first time in his career, the 27-year-old recorded 30 goals, 30 assists and an astounding plus/minus rating of plus-32.

    Backes' play earned him an increase in pay, almost double what he made in his previous contract. 

    As well as his point totals, Backes is also known for racking up some big penalty minutes (93 minutes last season), which makes him one of the top all-category contributors in the league.

    Backes is one of the lowest-paid players on this list as he is not one of the top scoring threats, but makes up for it elsewhere. Any team in the league would kill to have a player of his caliber.

    Bargain

Ryan Kesler

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    Contract: Six-year, $30 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,000,000

    One of the biggest contributors during the postseason last season was Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler.

    During their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Kesler totaled seven goals and 12 assists and was key to the Canucks' success. With the Sedin twins on the first line, having a player of Kesler's caliber on the second line is something many teams only dream of having.

    When the Canucks go to the power play, Kesler lines up with the Sedin twins, making them one of the best power-play lines in the league, if not the best.

    Kesler may be the highest-paid second-line player in the league; he may be one of the best second-line centers (with a career-high 41 goals last season) along with Los Angeles' Mike Richards and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.

    Seeing what the Canucks pay Kesler (compared to Malkin), they have got themselves a steal.

    Bargain

Tim Thomas

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    Contract: Four-year, $20 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $5 million

    No goaltender had a better year last season than Boston's Tim Thomas. The Michigan native helped Boston capture its first Stanley Cup since 1972.

    The Conn Smythe winner led all goaltenders with a .938 save percentage (NHL record) and a goals against average of 2.00. Thomas rebounded nicely from the previous season where he only won 17 games in 43 starts.

    However, as good as Thomas has played last season, it is no secret that he is getting up there in age (37). Two seasons ago when Thomas struggled, the bulk of the starts went to Finnish youngster Tuukka Rask.

    Thomas only has two years left on his deal and it is unclear whether or not the Bruins will re-sign him or if he will retire. Over the course of the next two seasons, Rask may slowly take over as the team's No. 1 goaltender if the team re-signs him at the end of the season.

    If Thomas slips to the backup role, he will be the best backup in the league, but will also be the highest paid.

    Overpaid (if Rask takes over as the team's No. 1)

Jarome Iginla

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    Contract: Five-year, $35 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $7 million

    Plain and simple, when Jarome Iginla is on the ice, the Calgary Flames are a dangerous hockey team. Unfortunately for Iginla and the rest of the team, when he is not on the ice, the Flames are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.

    The depth behind Iginla is slowly decreasing as each year passes and the Flames are clearly in a rebuilding phase. Last season, Iginla was one of the most talked-about players that could have been traded before the deadline.

    However, Iginla stayed with the Flames and will most likely be the talk of the trade deadline once again. He has two years left on his contract and it is clear if the 34-year-old will finish it with the Flames.

    Even through the uncertainty of his future, Iginla has been able to put up 80-point seasons in three of the past four years. If he is traded to a contender before the deadline, Iginla could have a career year.

    Bargain

Ilya Bryzgalov

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    Contract: Nine-year, $51 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $5 million

    At the end of last season, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was told to do whatever it took to fix the team's poor goaltending position. Holmgren did just that, trading two of the team's young leaders in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

    The moves made enough room for the team to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a huge contract extension. In his four years with the Phoenix Coyotes, Bryzgalov had his ups and downs, but really turned in on in the 2009-2010 season, winning 42 games and a goals against average at 2.29, his lowest in any season where he started more than 30 games.

    Bryzgalov helped lead the Coyotes to the playoffs where they fell short to the Detroit Red Wings, showing that they could compete with the best in the West. The next season, the Coyotes would once again reach the postseason with the Russian in net, but his numbers decreased from the previous year.

    His goals against average moved up to 2.48 and he won six fewer games (36) than the season before. Bryzgalov looked horrific in the first round of the playoffs, again against the Red Wings, as the team was swept in four games.

    Still, Bryzgalov got a huge payday from the Flyers, the most of any free-agent goaltender. Some have even argued that the 31-year-old was not even the best goaltender available as Tomas Vokoun also tried his hand in free agency.

    Bryzgalov will have to have another monster season to prove to everyone he was worth the money. If the team makes it to the postseason and he falters yet again, look for the blame game to start again in Philly.

    Overpaid

Mike Richards

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    Contract: 12-year, $69 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,750,000

    Like mentioned earlier, in able for the Flyers to be able to lock up Ilya Bryzgalov, they had to dump the large contracts of Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards.

    After a career year in 2008-2009, the next two seasons for Richards saw a slip in production. He went from an 80-point seasons to back-to-back 60-point seasons.

    The move to Los Angeles could be a fresh start for Richards as he will play alongside some tremendous talent in Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

    The pressure will be on Richards to get back to his old point-per-game self with his new team or else the Kings may regret taking on his large contract. It should be no trouble for the 26-year-old with the team he has around him, but it is up to him to get it done.

    Overpaid (unless he returns to his old form)

Joe Thornton

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    Contract: Three-year, $21,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $7,000,000

    Back in 2006-2007, San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton had a career year with 114 points. Since then, however, Thornton has never been able to reach the 100-point mark and his numbers have slipped since.

    Known for his playmaking abilities, Thornton's assist total last season were the worst they've been in his time with the Sharks at only 49.

    Although his regular-season numbers have slipped since 2007, his postseason numbers have seen a nice improvement. Last season, as the Sharks battled the Vancouver Canucks for the Western Conference crown, Thornton totaled three goals as well as 14 assists.

    However, once again the Sharks fell short and missed out on an opportunity to challenge for the Cup.

    Season after season, the Sharks are one of the most powerful teams in the West and a championship contender, but they always seem to fall short when it counts. A lot of that responsibility for a team's misfortunes falls on the captain's shoulders.

    When looking at his numbers, Thornton will most likely never make it back to a 100-point season.

    Overpaid

Jonathan Toews

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    Contract: Five-year, $31,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,300,000

    In just one year, Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews took over the leadership role in the locker room and earned the spot of team captain the following season.

    Alongside Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks had one of the most powerful tandems in the league and the Hawks were becoming one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Midway through the 2009 season, Toews, as well as Kane and defenseman Duncan Kieth, agreed to contract extensions.

    They would quickly earn those extensions when they achieved something that hasn't been achieved since 1961, the Stanley Cup.

    Although the Hawks were not able to repeat as champions the following season, Toews came close to the point-a-game barrier with a career-high 76-points.

    The 23-year-old has achieved so much in such a little time and his game will only improve over time.

    Bargain

Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Contract: 15-year, $100 million

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,666,667

    Before the end of the 2009-2010 season, the Atlanta Thrashers realized that they could not reach an agreement with captain Ilya Kovalchuk. Instead of letting him walk without getting anything in return, the Thrashers traded the winger to the New Jersey Devils.

    At the end of the year, Kovalchuk entered free agency and controversy surrounded him for up to three weeks. There were times when it seemed Kovalchuk would be going elsewhere, possibly Los Angeles, but those rumors were soon put to rest.

    In the end, Kovalchuk signed a massive multi-year deal with the Devils that will end when he is 42 years old.

    His first full season as a Devil was not the best as he went into the All-Star break with 29 points and a minus-29 plus/minus rating. However, he would rebound after the break scoring 31 points in 33 games.

    The Devils were not the best of teams last season and not all of the blame can be put on the 28-year-old. However, if he cannot rebound from his below-average season, his large contract could be a regret for New Jersey.

    Overpaid

Evgeni Malkin

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    Contract: Five-year, $43,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $8,700,000

    During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin had two impressive seasons, tallying 106 and 113 points as he helped lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals and winning the Cup on their second try.

    His 36 points in the playoffs were the highest of any player since Wayne Gretzky in 1993.

    Malkin's play earned him a five-year deal with a substantial annual salary as he and captain Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins two of the top lines in the NHL.

    However, since signing his long extension, the 25-year-old has battled with injuries. In 2009-2010, Malkin only was only able to play in 67 games and his point total slipped to 77. The following season, the Russian suffered both a torn ACL and MCL in February and only played in 43 games.

    Malkin claims that he is healed after undergoing knee surgery, but no one will know until he plays an entire season.

    Overpaid (unless injuries are behind him this season)

Tomas Vokoun

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    Contract: One-year, $1,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $1,500,000

    Like mentioned earlier, goaltender Tomas Vokoun was one of the top free agents available this past offseason. Vokoun showed in his past few seasons with the Florida Panthers that age was only a number as the 35-year-old was the team's best player.

    Once free agency began, the Washington Capitals decided to give Vokoun a shot and signed him to a one-year deal. His $1.5 million contract was a whopping $4 million less than the highest-paid free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

    So far this season, Vokoun is clearly having the better start with his new team as he has won his first six starts as the team is the only remaining unbeaten team in the league.

    Vokoun is in the top 10 in goals against average with an impressive 1.80 and a save percentage of .944. The Capitals got an offseason steal if he can continue to succeed throughout the season and into the postseason. If he does, Vokoun could be in for a huge payday to end his career.

    Bargain

Zdeno Chara

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    Contract: Seven-year, $45,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,916,667

    When Zdeno Chara is on the ice, everyone in the arena and watching at home knows it as the 6'9" defenseman towers over everyone else. His size paired with his powerful shot make Chara one of the most dangerous players in the league.

    Chara is one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league as he takes plenty of shots, which creates a lot of scoring opportunities.

    Since coming to the Bruins in 2006-2007, he has had 40-plus-point seasons every year.

    Last season, the Boston Bruins captain was able to lead the team to its first Stanley Cup since 1972. Chara put up seven assists and nine points during the postseason, as well as a plus-16 plus/minus rating.

    Doing something six previous captains were unsuccessful at doing is priceless.

    Bargain

Henrik Lundqvist

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    Contract: Six-year, $41,250,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,875,000

    Twenty-nine-year-old Henrik Lundqvist finds himself as the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL.

    The Swedish goaltender is one of the most consistent goaltenders in the league, if not the most, as he has been able to put together 30-win seasons every season since his rookie season in 2005-2006.

    Last season, Lundqvist has his best goals against average (2.28) since the 2007-2008 season and had a career-high .923 save percentage.

    However, the Rangers fell short in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Capitals. Since Lundqvist came to the Rangers, they have made the playoffs every year except for one.

    However, every year that the team has made the playoffs, they have never finished in the top two in their division and have never been able to make it past the semifinals.

    Lundqvist's skill is what earned him such a massive contract, but skill can only take a player so far. Sooner or later, he is going to have to deliver in the playoffs and take his team farther than the second round.

    Overpaid

Zach Parise

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    Contract: One-year, $6,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,000,000

    New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise put up some impressive numbers in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. After a career-high 94 points, he finished last season with 82 points and showed that he can be a point-per-game player consistently.

    However, last season, Parise's knee gave out and he was only able to play 13 games. The Devils struggled throughout the season and it was clear that the 27-year-old's presence was missed on the ice.

    In the offseason, the Devils and Parise tried to work out a long-term deal, but could not do so and decided to sign a one-year deal before it went to arbitration.

    The one-year deal could be a blessing in disguise for the Devils as there are still plenty of questions surrounding Parise's knee. Is he still the same player? Can he still burn defenders with his incredible speed?

    If he can then he will be one of the top free agents in the offseason. However, if he has slowed since his surgery, he could receive a significant pay decrease.

    Overpaid (unless his knee is 100 percent)

Dustin Byfuglien

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    Contract: Five-year, $26,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,200,000

    When the Chicago Blackhawks moved 6'5" 265-lb Dustin Byfuglien to right wing to give a big-body presence in front the net, they hoped it would prove successful.

    The decision proved to be a good one as Byfuglien put together three straight 30-point seasons and helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 with his impressive postseason play.

    However, at the end of the year, the Blackhawks were forced to clear some of their large salaries and Byfuglien was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers. After being traded, the 26-year-old was moved back to his more natural position of defenseman.

    In an unimpressive season for Atlanta, Byfuglien had a career year, finishing with 20 goals and 53 points, finishing in the top five in points for defenders. Now with the team in Winnipeg, Byfuglien will be given the luxury of playing to a full house every night, something he could not enjoy while in Atlanta.

    Byfuglien will continue to improve as he still has a long career ahead of him.

    Bargain

Rick Nash

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    Contract: Eight-year, $62,400,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $7,800,000

    In 2009-2010, the Columbus Blue Jackets reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history. The success of the team could be credited to the team's captain Rick Nash.

    The Jackets were swept in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings and it was unclear whether or not Nash would choose to stay with the team as he was a free agent at the end of the season. Several teams were interested in Nash, but in the end, the 27-year-old decided to stay in Columbus because he wanted to help this team become a contender.

    Year after year, Nash has carried the team on his shoulders and has been the center of the team's scoring. The problem, however, is the fact that Nash never had the necessary pieces around him to make him a point-per-game player.

    Columbus hoped to help with that this offseason when they finally gave Nash a top-line center to play with in Jeff Carter and a power-play defenseman in James Wisniewski. With the pieces coming together, the sky is the limit for the Canadian winger as he takes the next step in his career.

    Bargain

Brad Richards

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    Contract: Nine-year, $60,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,666,6667

    At the end of last season, it was clear that Brad Richards had spent his last season with the Dallas Stars. Richards' three season tenure with the Stars was a rocky one, but Richards put up good numbers in his last two seasons, tying his career high of 91 points in 2009-2010.

    The 31-year-old entered free agency as the top free agent and he was going to get the big bucks. Every year in free agency, the top free agents receive expensive deals and this year was no different as Richards received a large contract from the New York Rangers. Richards was getting highers offers from other teams, but chose location over money.

    Even though he didn't take the highest bid, he still will make a whopping $12 million in his first two years with the team.

    The 10-year veteran has shown in the past two seasons that he can be a point-per-game player and now with a Rangers team full of talent, Richards should excel.

    As good as Richards is (finishing in the top 10 in points the past two years), it is just another example of the top-ranked free agent being the winner in a bidding war.

    I believe that he deserves a big contract for how he plays, just not that big.

    Overpaid

Shea Weber

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    Contract: One-year, $7,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $7,500,000

    One of the names tossed around this offseason was that of defenseman Shea Weber. The 26-year-old is one of the top-ranked defenseman in the league, if not the top.

    Weber was looking for a long-term deal after he led the Nashville Predators to the franchise's first playoff series win. After falling short to the Vancouver Canucks, the Preds' main concern was locking up Weber for the next few seasons.

    Weber averaged 48 points the past three seasons and has helped lead Nashville to contender status in the Western Conference.

    However, the two could not come to terms and it led to arbitration where he was awarded a contract that made him the highest-paid defenseman. It will be tough for the Predators to lock up Weber this offseason as they also have Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne entering free agency as well.

    Weber is playing for a long-term deal this season and if he does well, he will once again be the top name in free agency and his contract could be even higher.

    Bargain (only because his next contract could be substantially higher)

Patrick Kane

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    Contract: Five-year, $31,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,300,000

    When Patrick Kane entered the NHL, his contract was three years worth around $2 million. After back-to-back 70-point seasons and a Calder Trophy under his belt, the Chicago Blackhawks felt that he needed a pay raise and gave him a contract extension almost 15 times his original contract.

    He was not done there as shortly after he received his contract extension, he helped lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals where they won their first Cup in 49 years. Kane was the Game 6 MVP as he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    The way Kane moves on the ice with his speed and agility is exciting to watch and his playmaking ability is some of the best in the league. If you need an example, take a look at the Hawks' game against the Anaheim Ducks earlier this week where Kane delivered a no-look pass to Marian Hossa across the ice that led to an easy goal.

    At only 22 years old, Kane is one of the best young players in the game and will only get better, as will his contract when this one is up.

    Bargain

Anze Kopitar

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    Contract: Seven-year, $47,600,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,800,000

    Unlike some of the young players that have been mentioned in this slideshow, 23-year-old Anze Kopitar has yet to have a breakthrough season. Through his five years with the Los Angeles Kings, he has only been able to surpass the 30-goal mark twice and his plus/minus ratings in his first three years were negative.

    Although they are not superstar numbers, Kopitar's plus/minus has improved as he finished last season at plus-25. As the Kings are continuing to improve the talent around the 24-year-old, this year could be his breakout season.

    The Slovenian center has gotten off to a hot start this season with four goals and six assists in just eight games and if he continues to play how he has early on in the season, he could have his first 100-point season.

    The Kings are only getting better every season and this could be the year they finally reach the Stanley Cup Finals. If they do, one of the main reasons will be the play of Kopitar.

    Bargain

Roberto Luongo

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    Contract: 12-year, $64,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,333,333

    At the end of the 2009-2010 season, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo recorded his first 40-win season since 2007.

    His play earned him a massive 12-year contract that will be up when he is 43 years old, an age only few hockey players are able to reach in their careers.

    Luongo started right where he left off in 2010 as he finished with a 38-win season last year and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, Luongo struggled in the finals and the Canucks fell short to the Boston Bruins.

    The Canucks have always been one of the top teams in the Western Conference, as well as the league, but have continually fallen short when it came to success in the postseason. A lot of the blame has fallen onto Luongo, who has to take the next step in his career and leading his team to a Cup victory.

    Talented young backup Cory Schneider has stepped in when Luongo struggled and has shown that he has the ability to handle the role as a team's No. 1.

    With Schneider's contract to expire at the end of this season as he will most likely want more money, the Canucks will not be able to keep both of them and find themselves in a dilemma. The season is still young, and there has already been a call from The Vancouver Province to ship Luongo out of town.

    There are a lot of teams out there that need a goalie, but not many that want to take on such a large contract like Luongo's.

    Overpaid

Corey Perry

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    Contract: Five-year, $26,625,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $5,325,000

    Since coming to the Anaheim Ducks in 2005, winger Corey Perry has gradually improved season after season. His point totals have increased every year since and he finished with a career-high 98 points last season.

    His play last year earned him plenty of hardware as the 26-year-old won both the "Rocket" Richard Trophy as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's MVP.

    With looking at Perry's progression over time, his first 50-goal season last year will certainly not be his last. Perry is slowly becoming one of the best players in the league and it would be smart for the Ducks to re-sign him before his contract expires at the end of next season.

    If Perry has another impressive season this year, it could happen a lot sooner than 2013.

    Bargain

Sidney Crosby

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    Contract: Five-year, $43,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $8,700,000

    Whether you love him or you hate him, you cannot deny the fact that Sidney Crosby is in the top three players in the league. In his past six seasons, Crosby has finished with over 100 points. In 2009, Crosby helped lead the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup since 1992.

    Even last season, when he missed half of the year with post-concussion symptoms, Crosby still finished with 66 points in 41 games.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are timid when it comes to bringing Crosby back as they do not want to rush his recovery where his symptoms could re-emerge and could hurt his career like that of Boston's Marc Savard.

    Whenever he is back to 100 percent, it will be interesting to see how quickly it takes for him to return to his old form. So far this season, the Penguins have shown that they are still competitive without Crosby. Just wait until they get him back into the lineup.

    The Penguins will once again rise to the top as one of the best teams in the league, if not the best, and a Stanley Cup contender once again.

    Bargain

Pavel Datsyuk

27 of 30

    Contract: Seven-year, $46,900,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,700,000

    After back-to-back 97-point seasons, the next two years for the Detroit Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk did not go the Russian's way. In 2009-2010, Datsyuk saw his point total drop to 70.

    The following season, a broken hand took a large chunk of the season away from Datsyuk and it was the first time since 2007 that he did not play at least 80 games.

    Even with the shortened season, however, Datsyuk still averaged better than a point per game. If he didn't hurt his hand, it could have been a career year.

    Now that the 33-year-old is back to 100 percent, he will look to bounce back from the injury and take the Wings back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Datsyuk may not have the highest point total in the NHL, but he has proven to have some of the best moves and puck-handling skills around, which is no easy task. He contributes in almost every game and is an important piece to the Wings' success.

    Bargain 

Steven Stamkos

28 of 30

    Contract: Five-year, $37,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $7,500,000

    One of the biggest stories of the offseason was whether or not Tampa Bay would be able to re-sign young star Steven Stamkos.

    The 21-year-old was a key to the Lightning's success during the season as well as the playoffs and was looking for a long-term deal with the team. However, with star players like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis under contract, it was unclear whether or not the team could afford to keep all three of them.

    Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers showed their interest in Stamkos and were planning a possible offer sheet for the Canadian center. However, in the end the Lightning were able to sign Stamkos to a five-year deal.

    It may have not been the years or the amount that Stamkos and company were looking for, but he chose to stay in Tampa Bay and help this team win another Cup.

    What is scary about Stamkos is that he has achieved so much in his short career at such a young age. He has yet to even hit his prime and when he does he could be the best player in the league. When his contract expires, the 26-year-old will have almost every team looking to sign him and his salary will most likely increase.

    Stamkos has put up back-to-back 90-point seasons and could be on the verge of achieving his first of many 100-point seasons this year. The "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner has earned his big payday.

    Bargain

The Sedin Twins

29 of 30

    Daniel Sedin Contract: Five-year, $30,500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,100,000

    Henrik Sedin Contract: Five-year, $30, 500,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $6,100,000

    The Vancouver Canucks hit the jackpot when they were able to draft the Sedin twins in 1999. Since then, the two have slowly made their way up the ranks as top players in the league.

    Together, they are the top pairing in the NHL and have proved it by winning the Art Ross Trophy the past two seasons. In the 2009-2010 season, Henrik took home the hardware with 112 points and Daniel the following season with 104 points.

    When looking at the other contracts that are on the this list, the Canucks have gotten these two at a bargain. Brad Richards, owner of the league's highest salary, is only $200,000 short of the Sedins' contracts combined. The twins are not even in the top 25 in the league for highest salaries. For what these two can do on the ice together, they should be.

    One Hell of a Bargain

Alex Ovechkin

30 of 30

    Contract: 13-year, $124,000,000

    Annual Cap Hit: $9,538,462

    When you are one of the best players in the NHL, if not the best, and the face of an organization, you are going to get the big bucks, which is why Alexander Ovechkin is one of the highest-paid players on this list.

    Ovechkin has been a force to be reckoned with since coming into the league in 2005, as he put together an impressive 100-point season in his rookie year. Since then, he has averaged a little over 102 points a season, including a career-high 112 in 2007-2008.

    However, as impressive as the Russian's numbers are, he has yet to achieve what he was brought into Washington to do, which is bring home Lord Stanley's Cup. Unfortunately, when a team as powerful as the Capitals falls short year after year, the blame falls on the coach, as well as the captain.

    The only reason teams pay such astounding salaries to players like Ovechkin is in the hopes of winning multiple championships and being the next dynasty in sports history. Until the Caps are able to finish the job and win the Cup, Ovechkin will just be another high-profile athlete that has yet to win a championship.

    Overpaid (until he gets what the Capitals pay him to get).

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