The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Northeast Division

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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. I also think $6 million is a reasonable – if arbitrary – cutoff point for a true bargain player.

Boston Bruins – The defending Stanley Cup champions are, for the most part, quite nicely constructed.

David Krejci ($3.75M) – I keep beating on this drum, but not enough has been made about Krejci being the leading scorer of the 2011 playoffs. In fact, let me ask: did you know that he was the top scorer of the postseason? (Be honest.)

source: Getty ImagesRich Peverley ($1.33M) – He looked pretty fantastic in the playoffs and should score around 20 goals next season.

David Seidenberg ($3.25M) – “The Pain Sponge” seemed overpaid until the playoffs, when he rarely looked out of place alongside Zdeno Chara on Boston’s top pairing.

Tim Thomas ($5M) – I won’t call many – if any – other goalies in Thomas’ price range a steal, but he was the best goalie in the world last season and one could make a reasonable argument that he had the best season of any NHLer, period.

Tuukka Rask ($1.25M) – Then again, if Thomas falters, his backup carried the load in 2009-10. Rask is expensive for a backup but could also have some great trade value if Boston goes that route (I wouldn’t, though).

Honorable mention: Patrice Bergeron is really good, but $5 million actually seems about right for him.

Buffalo Sabres – Are there any reasonable contracts left after Pegulamania ran wild during the off-season?

Derek Roy ($4M) – If Roy is over his injuries, he’ll go back to what he was before: a fantastic bargain for a point-per-game player.

Honorable mentions: Christian Ehrhoff’s cap hit is actually pretty cheap while Robyn Regehr could be a nice value as a shutdown defenseman, too.

source: APMontreal Canadiens – Don’t forget, Montreal didn’t sign Scott Gomez to his ludicrous contract. They actually traded for it years later, which is actually way worse.

Josh Gorges ($2.5M) – Gorges has been a surprisingly effective defensive player since going from San Jose to Montreal.

Carey Price ($2.75M) – I must admit, I didn’t expect Price to actually back up all of the hype last season. He was impressive and has the motivation of a contract year next season, which makes me think that Montreal will get a lot of value out of his two-year deal. Things might get fishy if he gets a big raise afterward, though.

Honorable mention: Max Pacioretty had 24 points in 37 games, which is a promising pace for a player as cheap as he is. He might be a steal if he can bounce back from THE HIT.

Ottawa Senators – Could this oddball team actually have some bargain deals?

Bobby Butler ($1.05M) – He has the potential to be a respectable scorer for the Senators and he’s really cheap. Plus there weren’t a whole lot of other options beyond Nick Foligno and … yeah that’s about it.

Honorable mentions: Daniel Alfredsson could be a bargain if he’s healthy and has enough left in the tank. I really like Craig Anderson, but I’m not crazy about his contract.

source: APToronto Maple Leafs – It seems like Brian Burke is starting to resemble the old Burkie again – before he seemed like Glen Sather in Burke’s clothing.

Mikhail Grabovski ($2.9M) and Nikolai Kulemin ($2.35M) – I’m skeptical that the Grabovski-Kulemin-Clarke MacArthur line will match their 2010-11 outputs, but the Maple Leafs would get a lot of value out of Grabovski and Kulemin if they did.

James Reimer ($1.8M) – Speaking of skepticism about repeated success, I have some concern that Reimer might be a one-hit wonder. Still, that one-hit was quite the top-tapper; he managed an impressive .920 save percentage in 37 games, which is enough of a sample to at least make the Leafs’ hopes reasonable. If he maintains something close to that level, then Toronto has a huge bargain contract for three seasons.

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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 P.K. Subbans of the world.

Click here for the Atlantic Division version.

Click here for the Central Division version.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.