Ranking the Biggest Bargains so Far in the 2015-16 NHL Season
The first month of the 2015-16 NHL season has allowed the cream to rise to the top of the statistics. Perusing some of those top players so far and the contracts they hold reveal some serious bang for the buck.
That definition comes with some subjectivity. If you're looking purely at points per dollar, this would be an easy list featuring most of the top rookies and guys on bridge deals. But there's more to a bargain contract than dollar value or term in a mathematical equation with points produced.
The bargain bin here contains some names you wouldn't expect to see given their relatively fat wallets. But if they could renegotiate at any time, there would be some big raises handed out already.
Click ahead to check out our picks for biggest bargains so far in the 2015-16 NHL season. Offer your own in the comments section.
John Tavares, New York Islanders: Few NHLers give you the bang for the buck John Tavares offers, even at the $5 million mark. He's signed at $5.5 million through 2018 and has five goals and 11 points through 10 games this season. He was the runner-up for the Art Ross Trophy last season.
Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets: If there was an All-Underrated team, Little would probably be the top center. His minutes are spread out across all facets of the game, and he takes on the opponents' top lines on a nightly basis. He's got five goals and 11 points in 12 games so far, and that just bumps his value even more.
Joel Ward, San Jose Sharks: The unrestricted free-agency pickup has been stellar so far for the Sharks. He leads the team in goals with seven and ranks third in the league in that category. Considering he was one of the top free agents available, his $3.28 million contract through 2018 is looking like a bargain.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars: The sophomore defenseman has quickly become a cornerstone for the Stars. He has two goals and 11 points in 11 games and helps feed a tremendously talented group of forwards. In April, he signed a seven-year deal worth $4.25 million per season, and his production so far has him mentioned up there with the league's elite defensemen. This will be a bargain deal for a long time.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
Salary-cap hit: $4.5 million through 2019
Statistically speaking: The Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty has seven goals and 11 points in 13 games this year. The winger has taken 44 shots and has a plus-10 rating, as well as two game-winning goals and a shorthanded marker.
The bottom line: Few teams have elite goalscorers locked up to deals worth south of $5 million a season. Pacioretty has 83 goals in 166 games in the past three years. Only Alex Ovechkin has more in that span. But it's not just Pacioretty's knack for netting pucks that makes the latest Canadiens captain such a bargain, even at a relatively high salary.
Pacioretty drives possession, shoots a ton and even kills penalties. His plus/minus is second best in the league, and his goal total is tied for second.
John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Salary-cap hit: $3.97 million through 2018
Statistically speaking: John Carlson has two goals and 10 points in 10 games for the Washington Capitals so far. He has a plus-four rating and averages nearly 25 minutes per game.
The bottom line: Carlson is the Caps' best do-it-all defenseman. Not only is he the fifth-highest-scoring defenseman so far this season and within just a couple of points of leaders P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens—who have played three more games—but Carlson is 12th in minutes played on average and contributes in all areas of the game.
Separating him from his equals offensively, such as John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars, is the fact Carlson logs nearly three minutes a night on the penalty kill and well over that on the power play.
Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators
Salary-cap hit: $3.5 million through 2018
Statistically speaking: Kyle Turris has seven goals and 12 points through 11 games this season for the Ottawa Senators.
The bottom line: The Senators wasted no time in signing the now-26-year-old center to a five-year extension in 2012, the same season they acquired the young center from the Arizona Coyotes. The move has paid off. He's producing at an elite level, ranking third in goals scored so far this season, and he is being paid at bridge-contract value for another two seasons after this one.
You can add linemates Mark Stone ($3.5 million) and Mike Hoffman ($2 million) to this list given their low salaries and high production. Only the removal of trigger man Turris from that line, though, would dramatically affect production.
Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers
Salary-cap hit: $3.5 million through 2016
Statistically speaking: The Florida Panthers' Jaromir Jagr has six goals and 10 points through nine games this season, along with a plus-three rating.
The bottom line: The 43-year-old winger is a top-10 goal man so far this year. It may be a small sample size, but Jagr has flourished on the top line in Florida alongside Panthers young guns Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The leadership and knowledge Jagr is able to pass on through his words, work ethic and on-ice tutelage make him even more valuable than the raw offensive numbers he's putting up.
Max Domi, Arizona Coyotes:
Salary-cap hit: $863,333 through 2018
Statistically speaking: Rookie Max Domi has five goals and 11 points in 11 games so far for the Arizona Coyotes.
The bottom line: It's a great thing when you can get an entry-level player to perform well beyond his paycheck, and that's what Domi is doing for the Coyotes. The young forward has electrified the ice on occasion and has the Coyotes fanbase excited about the future. He may be challenging for the most highlight-reel plays per dollar this year.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Salary-cap hit: $925,000 through 2016
Statistically speaking: Johnny Gaudreau has a point-per-game pace for the Calgary Flames so far, with a goal and 11 assists through 12 contests.
The bottom line: The super sophomore's performance has been one of the only positive aspects of the Flames' early-season play. The winger is quickly becoming one of the NHL's most dynamic and creative players. He'll be in line for a massive raise as a restricted free agent this summer, so the team will have to enjoy the incredible entry-level deal bargain this year.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Salary-cap hit: $925,000 through 2018
Statistically speaking: Connor McDavid has five goals and 12 points through his first dozen NHL games.
The bottom line: McDavid appears destined to change the fortunes of the Edmonton Oilers, and the center won't cost a fortune to help do so for the next three years thanks to his capped entry-level deal. His next contract will likely be even bigger than the ones given to previous core members coming out of their rookie deals. His value right now is sky high in terms of bang for the buck.
Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
Salary-cap hit: $3.25 million through 2018
Statistically speaking: With nine goals through 10 games, Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings is tied for first in the league. He has an assist as well to rank among the 32 players with at least a point per game having played five games or more.
The bottom line: The Kings signed Toffoli to a two-year bridge deal kicking in this year, anticipating big things from the 23-year-old winger. He's found a great fit on a line with Jeff Carter and newcomer Milan Lucic, and his next contract will be much more lucrative if he keeps up his production.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
Salary-cap hit: $3 million through 2017
Statistically speaking: Evgeny Kuznetsov has five goals and 13 points through 10 games this season and has a plus-six rating.
The bottom line: Kuznetsov is benefiting from centering Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin because his regular center, Nicklas Backstrom, was injured at the start of the season. But Kuznetsov is proving his talent is right up there with the guy he's replaced and has given the Caps no reason to replace him. His points-per-game rate of 1.3 is just off Ovechkin's pace and good for fifth among those who have played at least nine games.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
Salary-cap hit: $3 million through 2018
Statistically speaking: Martin Jones is among the five best goalies to have started at least five games so far with a 1.88 goals-against average. The San Jose Sharks starter ranks tied for seventh with a .932 goals-against average. His six wins are the second-highest total.
The bottom line: The Jones acquisition this summer is paying off in a big way. The Sharks inked him to a speculative three-year deal without knowing how he would handle the starting role. The answer, based on a relatively small number of games so far, is extremely positive. It's even better considering their former No. 1, Antti Niemi, is part of a two-goalie rotation in Dallas that is absorbing more than $10 million in cap room for three seasons.
Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Salary-cap hit: $5.25 million through 2017 (Jamie Benn); $5.75 million through 2019 (Tyler Seguin)
Statistically speaking: Jamie Benn leads the NHL in scoring with nine goals and 17 points in 11 games. Tyler Seguin is second in the league with five goals and 16 points.
The bottom line: There's no better one-two punch in the league, and the Dallas Stars are fortunate to have the league's best offensive forwards locked up for a combined total of just a half-million more than what a single one of Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews makes.
Both of these players will ultimately make double-digit annual salaries, but for now the Stars benefit from long-term deals signed coming out of entry-level contracts.