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The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Atlantic Division

Aug 13, 2011, 8:07 PM EDT

Claude Giroux AP

The hockey world tends to focus on the most regrettable contracts rather than the best ones because let’s face it: it’s more enjoyable to make fun of Brian Campbell‘s deal than to linger on Dustin Brown‘s bargain contract. That being said, clever GMs deserve credit for either finding the right timing to sign a player, judging their value better than most or simply fostering a climate in which a player will take a pay cut. This series of posts will take a look at every team to see which (if any) players deserve to be called bargains.

Notes: entry-level deals don’t count because they have built-in maximum levels. “Loophole” contracts will be considered, but they won’t receive as much consideration because of their inherent salary cap dishonesty. Bought out players will be considered for their current cap hits.

New Jersey Devils – Zach Parise‘s previous cap hit ($3.1M) was a true stroke of genius, but their current roster lacks many smart contracts. There was a point in which Martin Brodeur‘s $5.2 million cap hit was a minor bargain considering his prestige, but it’s been a while since he’s been worth anywhere near that much.

Travis Zajac ($3.88M) – Could put up bonkers numbers on the Devils’ top line.

source: Getty ImagesNew York Islanders - A young team with some nice steals and a few embarrassing albatrosses.

Matt Moulson ($3.13M) – Moulson’s deal is a borderline bargain, but he has two straight 30+ goal seasons to his credit. There’s a good chance he’ll maintain that pace, so that’s a solid value for the Isles.

Frans Nielsen ($525K) – Nielsen generated some dark horse buzz for the Selke Trophy, yet he’s basically a minimum wage player. His bargain deal will run out after next season, so it will be interesting to see how long he’ll be underpaid. He’s one of the league’s biggest steals right now, though.

Evgeni Nabokov ($570K) – I’ve gone on record of saying that the Isles would get the most out of him if they simply let him be their top goalie, but even if they only get a little bit of a return via the trade route, he’s still a steal. Sure, his contract is funky because it was only originally meant to cover a few months, but it still counts.

Rick DiPietro ($4.5M) – Just kidding.

Honorable mentions: Michael Grabner (we’ll see if he’s a one-hit wonder), Mark Streit (big steal if health permits) and Al Montoya ($600K would be cheap if he is their full-time starter).

source: Getty ImagesNew York Rangers – Glen Sather’s been embarrassing himself with far less regularity lately.

Ryan Callahan ($4.27M) and Brandon Dubinsky ($4.2M) – They’re not the bargains they once were, but could be well-worth the money if their scoring numbers match their intensity for the length of their new contracts.

Marc Staal ($3.98M) – Not a bad price at all considering his importance to the Rangers’ defense.

Honorable mentions: Sean Avery (could actually be worth the trouble if he lines up with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik) and Brian Boyle (a nice bargain if his 21-goal year wasn’t a fluke).

Philadelphia Flyers – They basically got rid of some of their best bargains during the off-season, but do they still have a few steals on their roster?

Claude Giroux ($3.75M) – Even if Giroux might get exposed now that they’re counting on him a lot more than before, he’s still a big-time bargain at this price. The best part is that his outstanding value won’t run out until after the 2014-15 season.

Braydon Coburn ($3.2M) – Not a bad deal for a pretty talented (if easily forgotten) defenseman. The Flyers pay a lot for their defensive corps overall, though.

Honorable mention: Jakub Voracek (could be the next Ville Leino) and Wayne Simmonds (might not score much, but could play the role that Dan Carcillo was too much of a knucklehead to ever pull off).

source: Getty ImagesPittsburgh Penguins – A well-run organization that might kick themselves for signing most of their deals before all the loophole contracts started filtering through.

James Neal ($2.88M) – This choice is a leap of faith based on the kind of numbers he could put up skating alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Kris Letang ($3.5M) – His numbers plummeted after Crosby and Malkin were out, but he’s a high-scoring blueliner when those two are healthy. It’s tough to argue with Letang at $2 million less than what Sergei Gonchar is making.

Honorable mentions: Jordan Staal (it’s tough to believe that his cap hit is evolving into a small bargain) and Brent Johnson (a cheap, dependable backup).

***

Feel free to point out any glaring omissions or faulty inclusions. Again, remember: players on their entry-level deals don’t count so that’s why you won’t see the James van Riemsdyks of the world.

  1. bcisleman - Aug 13, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    Actually RDP is really the only remaining albatross and even his per annum would not be unreasonable if he were healthy and playing like a #1. It’s the length of his deal that is albatross-like. Had he been given a more normal 5 year deal in ’06, the NYI could be walking away from him or at least negotiating a deal commensurate with what a backup or #1a should make. The bargains you have listed are the primary reason the NYI are under the cap floor.

    • James O'Brien - Aug 13, 2011 at 9:10 PM

      I consider Alexei Yashin’s buyout to be an invisible albatross. :-)

      • bcisleman - Aug 13, 2011 at 11:12 PM

        It’s not an albatross at all in the sense that has handicapped the organization in making any needed moves. It may be a bit of a psychological albatross in that the continued payouts will remind fans of the Milbury era. From that standpoint, it means a lot that he is no longer the highest paid forward on the payroll. Once the team starts winning, even that will be forgotten.

  2. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    Who were the bargains the Flyers got ride of? You can argue Zhredev. Maybe. But outside of that, I don’t see who else.

    • James O'Brien - Aug 13, 2011 at 9:09 PM

      I think Mike Richards’ deals is pretty reasonable (but I like his game) and Jeff Carter is a MINOR bargain too. Giroux’s contract beats both, though.

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 13, 2011 at 11:59 PM

        Yea but you are locked up for a long term deal. The yearly cap hit may be reasonable but I can’t sit here and say that both Richards ($5.75 mil/yr til 2019) and Carter’s (approx. $5.72 mil/yr til 2019) deals were bargains. Now I do agree with you about Giroux and his deal. It is more of a bargain ($2.75 mil this year).

  3. bcisleman - Aug 13, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    OBTW, you forgot AMac.

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