In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at some players around the NHL that have been on team-friendly contracts under the salary cap. At least for now. Because given the way they all play they will not be bargains for much longer.
The benefit of these deals on a team level, especially for the star players, is that it enables them to build stronger teams around them. When the Avalanche have a top-three player in the league with the 92nd largest cap hit (as they do with Nathan MacKinnon), it gives you a lot of flexibility to build around that play.
The Avalanche have three of the top-six players on the list, while a Panthers duo also cracks the top-five.
It is also important to note that players on entry-level contracts are excluded from the list. Has to be players that have at least signed a second contract in the NHL, and contracts that are at least three years in length on the day they were signed.
Who else makes the cut for this week’s NHL Power Rankings?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the only players in the league that have more total points than MacKinnon over the past four regular seasons. He is the focal point of the league’s best line, and the key building block for what might be the league’s best team. And his salary cap hit is the 92nd largest in the league on a contract that runs for two more full seasons. It gives the Avalanche a ton of salary cap flexibility and has allowed them to build a ferocious team around him.
2. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers. A top-10 scorer and a Selke Trophy level defender. That is the type of player you can build a contender around, especially when their salary cap hit is under $6M ($5.9M) for another full season after this year.
3. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers. An identical salary cap hit to Barkov, only his contract runs for another season beyond. Getting these two players, with this level of production, for less than $12M combined should give the Panthers a massive advantage over most other teams in the league when it comes to roster construction. No reason for them to not be a contender with this duo at that price.
4. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. A goal scorer, a top-five scorer, a great defender, and an agitator that will knock anybody off of their game. And he is signed to one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league at a salary cap hit of $6.125M per season (98th in the league).
[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
5. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche. Whether he re-signs in Colorado or goes somewhere else he probably will not be on a list like this much longer. Landeskog has been a steal for the Avalanche for years, counting just $5.5M against the salary cap over the past seven seasons. He has been Colorado’s captain and a dominant two-way player that has played a major role on that top line. He is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
6. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche. The forgotten player in Colorado, lost in the shuffle of All-Star forwards and elite defenders. Since joining the Avalanche and becoming their starting goalie three years ago, Grubauer has been one of the league’s most productive goalies. Of the 59 goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games the past three seasons, Grubauer ranks 9th in all situations save percentage and eighth in even-strength save percentage. This season he is a Vezina Trophy finalist. His $3.3M salary cap hit is the 33rd highest among NHL goalies and 317th among all players. Like Landeskog, he is also a UFA after this season. So he will not be a bargain for much longer.
7. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars. A top-pairing defender, a possession driver, and a big-time point producer from the blue line. Klingberg has been a steal for the Stars over the past six years, counting just a little more than $4M against the salary cap. That is 74th among all defenders in the league and 248th among all players. He still has one more year remaining on that contract.
8. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. One of the NHL’s best goal scorers and a top-line center with the 165th largest salary cap hit in the league.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]
9. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes. Hamilton has been underappreciated his entire career, but when you get right down to his on-ice impact he is one of the best defensemen in the entire league. Scores at a top level, is one of the best possession players in the league, and is simply a Norris-level defender every year. His $5.75M salary cap hit is 136th in the league.
10. Blake Coleman, Tampa Bay Lightning. Coleman is not quite on the same level as the other players on this list in terms of star power, but do not overlook his impact. His arrival in Tampa Bay a year ago helped give the Lightning yet another dominant line that can control games and take over. He is one of the players that helped put the Lightning over the top thanks to his 20-goal ability, penalty killing, and defensive play. His current contract pays him under $2M per year when he is probably easily worth more than $4-5M based on his contributions. He might get that this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
Others just missing the cut with their cap hits: Patrice Bergeron ($6.875M), Sean Couturier ($4.33M), Jake Guentzel ($6M), Tyler Toffoli ($4.25M), Craig Smith ($3.1M), Devon Toews ($4.1M), Brett Pesce ($4.025M), Jaccob Slavin ($5.3M).
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.