Since NHL contracts have been revealed to the public, pundits have always judge the players’ performances based on how much money they make. If a player makes a lot of money, he should produce accordingly. Expectations are raised or lowered due to the almighty dollar. All general managers try to sign or trade for players that bring the best value for the money they earn. In all intents and purposes, the best player should make the most money. Some reach expectations, some don’t and some exceed them. Let’s solely focus on the ones who exceed them. While we’re at it, we’ll exclude those players on rookie contracts like Blues phenom Vladimir Tarasenko and Predators wonder-kid Filip Forsberg.
15. Sidney Crosby, $8.7 Million
Sid the Kid has to be on the list. When healthy, he is the best regular season player in the game and always ranks within the top three in points. At this moment in time, there are three players who have a bigger cap hit than Crosby and that list will grow as soon as next season with the dynamic duo in Chicago entering their new contracts. He has two Hart trophies for being the M.V.P., two Art Ross trophies for having amassed the most points and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard for most goals. Not too bad. He is still 27 years old and his cap hit will be the same until 2024-25. What’s even more remarkable is the way he is constantly able to make his linemates highly productive. Consider the fact that Alex Ovechkin carries a $9.5 million cap hit, and it’s easy to see this is a good contract for Pittsburgh.
14. Steven Stamkos, $7.5 Million
At 24 years old, Steven Stamkos is widely regarded as the best pure goal-scorer in the league. He is a perennial threat to score at least 60 goals per season. I would also rank him as the second most dangerous player in the league after the afore-mentioned Crosby. His right-handed one-timer has terrorized and victimized countless goalies throughout his career. That’s why they call him the Macedonian Assassin. He already has two Rocket Richard trophies to his name and more are sure to come. His current deal expires after the 2015-16 season.
13. Tyler Johnson/Ondrej Palat, $3.3 Million
These two Lightning sophomores took the league by storm last year in their rookie campaigns and they are showing that the sophomore jinx is just a myth. They were both finalists for the Calder trophy last year as rookie of the year, but bowed out to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. You can often find these two youngsters on the same line. It really does not matter who they play with; they produce. Whether it be Stamkos or Kucherov, they keep racking up those points. Both their contracts are good until the end of 2016-17 season.
12. Ryan Johansen $4 Million
Ryan Johansen, 22, anchored the Blue Jackets’ offence to a playoff berth last season as he broke out and set career highs in goals (33) and assists (30). Despite having limited resources on offence again this year due to a lack of creativity and injuries, Columbus is banking again on the former Winterhawk and he has yet to disappoint. His contract negotiations seemed to be quite nasty and public over the past summer, but Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was able to keep his prized asset under contract until 2016-17.
11. Jamie Benn $5.25 Million
Back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, countless teams underestimated this power winger and allowed him to slip to the fifth round. He made his debut in 2009-10. He has progressed every year since, seeing his point-per-game average rise. Fast forward to now and this 25-year-old is among the few point-per-game players in the league. He was also a key member on Canada’s last Olympic Gold and was the most dangerous forward on that star-studded lineup. The Stars’ captain will be on his current contract until 2016-17.
10. Patric Hornqvist $4.25 Million
Off to a fast start to the 2014-15 season, Hornqvist has found instant chemistry with Sidney Crosby. For many years, the Penguins have tried to find someone that can play with the superstar centre and it seems that they have found their man. Coming along with Nick Spaling from Nashville in the trade for James Neal, this Swede is averaging more than a point per game. He could be a lot higher on this list, but it is still early to tell if he is a player that can keep his production going at this rate. Since starting his career with the Predators in 2008-09, the 27-year-old has managed four seasons of at least 20 goals on a very defensive-minded team. His chemistry with Crosby thus far bodes well for the future as his contract expires after the 2017-18 season.
9. Tyler Seguin $5.75 Million
It took him a short while and a change of scenery, but Tyler Seguin has arrived. The former second overall pick has been lighting the lamp like no one’s business since joining the Stars from Boston two summers ago. He is among the league leaders in goals and forms one of the best duos in the NHL with Jamie Benn. The 22-year-old Canadian possesses some the slickest hands in the game and combination of skill and lightning speed is almost unrivaled. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in his rookie season. He should be dazzling the folks in Dallas for the foreseeable future with his deal ending after the 2018-19 season.
8. Kyle Okposo $2.8 Million
This 26-year-old American has been a point-a-game player since last year. His robust style of play, lethal shot and quick stride help him rival the other power forwards in the Metropolitan Division. At under $3 million per year, he is an absolute steal. He has battled with injuries and inconsistency early on in his career, but the Islanders are counting on his progression to make some noise in this tough division. If he keeps this up, he will be looking at a substantial once his current deals expires after the 2015-16 season.
7. Jaden Schwartz $2.35 Million
There is no one singing the blues in St. Louis with this 22-year-old water bug zipping up and down the ice. After a good season on the last year of his contract, the Blues re-signed him to a two-year extension. He now forms one of, if not the most, electrifying young lines in the NHL today alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera. Despite his lack of size, he is constantly in opponents’ faces and battles for every inch of ice.
6. Max Pacioretty $4.5 Million
Soon after signing his six-year deal with the Habs, Max Pacioretty fired his agent at that time. This contract was so great for the Canadiens that it had casualties. Pacioretty, 26, is one of the most powerful skaters in the league with a lightning-quick release. Whether the Habs are good or bad, he can still rack up more than 30 goals in any given season. Tied to the hip with centre David Desharnais, one would be hard-pressed to believe that his point totals can rise even more because of the few assists he can complete with a non-shooter at centre. Expiring after the 2018-19 season, this contract will continue being a ridiculous bargain for years to come.
5. Victor Hedman $4 Million
Towering at 6’6” and tipping the scale at 233 lbs, Hedman is the perfect storm in Tampa, armed with a lightning-quick slap shot and an array of thundering checks. He broke out last year with Stamkos missing much of the season with a broken leg. This 23-year-old registered 13 goals and 42 assists. He was over the point-per-game mark at the beginning of this season but a fractured finger has kept him out of the lineup. This big Swedish defenceman should be an annual Norris trophy candidate for the next decade. His current deal is set to expire following the 2016-17 season.
4. Jakub Voracek $4.25 Million
Traded from Columbus for Jeff Carter in the summer of 2011, he has found himself a nice home on Claude Giroux’s wing in Philadelphia. While he had a productive season last year, amassing 62 points in 82 games, the 25-year-old Czech has exploded this season and is sitting at the top of the scoring race at the quarter mark of the year. There is no telling whether or not he will be able to keep this up, but what a bargain for the Flyers. This deal is still good until the end of the 2015-16 season.
3. Mark Giordano $4.02 Million
What can you say about Giordano that hasn’t been said already? He is without a doubt the best defenceman in the league so far this season and an argument can even be made for the last one too. The 31-year-old Flames captain is among the league leaders in points and has his team in a playoff spot at the moment. If the season ended today, he would win the Norris trophy for best blue-liner and would get a lot of votes for the Hart. It is about time Giordano join the conversation of elite NHL defencemen. The scary part is that his contract year is not this year, but next.
2. Ben Bishop $2.3 Million
He is the no.1 goaltender of arguably the best and most fearsome team in the Eastern Conference. He led his team to third in the East last season. A season during which Stamkos missed 45 games and the former Lightning captain Martin St-Louis asked to get traded to the Rangers mid-season. Standing at 6’7” without skates, he leaves very few openings to shoot at when in nets. Good as he is, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has rewarded him with a two-year deal with a cap hit of $5.95M starting after this season.
1. John Tavares $5.5 Million
John Tavares is a franchise player and gets paid like a second-line centre. This 24-year-old phenomenon is one of the smartest, most skilled and most dedicated players in the game today. He is one of those players who are worth the price of admission. He had his lowly Islanders vying for a playoff spot last season until he got injured during the Olympics. He has been a highly productive player since entering the league in 2009-10 and will continue doing so at a bargain price until 2017-18.
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