Friday, September 6, 2013

15 Best Contracts In Hockey 2013

Which NHL player has the best contract in the league?  The word "best" is from the team's perspective, ergo looking for players whose NHL production rank is significantly higher than their salary rank. Claude Giroux and Kris Letang have dominated this list for the last two seasons (view 2012 best contracts and 2011 best contracts), but both have contracts set to expire. For a player to qualify for this list, his contract must extend beyond next summer. The best bargains on 1 year contracts would be Giroux $3.75M, Letang $3.5M, Couture $2.9M, Girardi $3.3M, and Brown $3.1M, all of whom are due big pay raises in 2014.

An honourable mention has to go out to Marc Bergevin for the PK Subban contract.  He got a Norris trophy season at a bargain basement price, and has one more year at a bargain price before he is going to get himself a big big pay raise. It would have been worth every penny had they paid PK the 5x5 he was asking for. They would have saved themselves money in the long run.

So, without further adieu, here are the 15 best contracts in the NHL in 2013.

1) John Tavares, NYI: 5 more years at $5.5M - JT has officially established himself as one of the NHL's elite players, and if he were to become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow, he would command north of $8M per season. There is no question that Tavares is the best bargain in hockey, and will continue to be for another 5 years.

2) David Backes, STL: 3 more years at $4.5M - Every single team in the NHL would love to have this guy, and with 3 more years at $4.5M, you can't beat that value. David Backes is the complete package. He is big, strong, can score, and has tremendous leadership ability.

3) Andrew Ladd, WPG: 3 more years at $4.4M - A natural leader with two Stanley Cup rings is a physical player and can produce at nearly a point per game; well worth this price. He is in his prime, and will be greatly valued for the next 3 years. The Jets are a first string goaltender away from being a legitimate contender, boasting a line-up with some championship calibre pieces.

4) Braden Holtby, WAS: 2 more years at $1.85M - I'm not exactly sure how Washington managed to convince their #1 goalie to accept this puny contract. They couldn't even get Holtby's back-up to take that little money, as Neuvirth signed a few months later at a higher price. Holtby started the season slowly, then picked it up and started playing much better after he signed the contract extension.

5) Niklas Kronwall, DET: 6 more years at $4.75M - The replacement for Nick Lidstrom is not quite as dominant as his predecessor, but every NHL team would love to have this guy at this price for that term. It's a far better option than paying twice as much for Ryan Suter. He is a heavy hitter who does not hit nearly often enough. He can quarterback the power play, but also disappear for weeks at a time.

6) Francois Beauchemin, ANA: 2 more years at $3.5M - After being a throw away in the Lupul-Gardiner trade to Toronto, Beauchemin stepped up in 2013 and played at a Norris calibre level. He blew out his knee late in the season, but continued playing at a diminished level. In the first round of the playoffs, the Ducks blueline was overwhelmed by the speed of Detroit's forwards. We will see which FB shows up this fall.

7) James Van Riemsdyk, TOR: 5 more years at $4.25M - JVR took a giant leap forward this year and is going to make Brian Burke look like a genius for trading Luke Schenn to get him. 32 PTS in 48 GP was a strong first season in Toronto. The 24 year old player is locked up until he's 29 years old, locking the Leafs into a good young player's prime years of production.

8) Kyle Turris, OTT: 5 more years at $3.5M - The lockout shortened season proved to be a breakout campaign for KT, who is thriving in his new surroundings and helped this team overcome a slew of critical injuries to make the playoffs. His production has risen 40% since being traded to Ottawa, a trade the Sens have clearly won.

9) Brendan Gallegher, MTL: 2 more years at $870K - God bless entry level contracts. Last season the rookie managed to produce at a top 100 level, despite his salary rank being close to 500th. No player in the NHL last season had a higher discrepancy from their production rank last season and this season's salary rank. The more players like this that you can get for a bargain price, the better off the franchise.

10) Jakub Voracek, PHI: 3 more years at $4.25M - The Flyers did get some good value back when they unloaded Jeff Carter. Voracek scored 46 PTS in 48 GP in 2013, and produced at a top 30 level. This is a case where the team benefited from choosing a 4x4 type bridge contract instead of a shorter 2 year deal. The last 3 years of this contract should return terrific value.

11) Marc Staal, NYR: 2 more yrs at $3.9M - Assuming the head injuries are behind him, this is a bargain price for a player rumoured to become a starter for Team Canada in the Olympics. When he's healthy, he's worth for more than this, and when he's injured, insurance covers their losses. No matter which way you look at it, this is a great contract. Let's hope his health holds strong.

12) Loui Eriksson, BOS: 3 more yrs at $4.25M - To Bruins fans who are upset over the abrupt departure of Tyler Seguin; if you don't already know Loui Eriksson, you're really going to like this guy. He has been one of the league's most undervalued assets for a few years now, but playing in Boston will certainly raise his profile to where it rightly deserves to be.

13) Keith Yandle, PHO: 3 more yrs at $5.25M - Count me on the list of pundits who never believed that Yandle was ever truly on the market, as Eklund reported. Why would the Coyotes want to unload one of the best contracts in hockey? It doesn't make any sense. Phoenix got Yandle to re-sign at an unbelievable bargain and good term. Whenever Yandle finally reaches the UFA market, he will become a very rich man.

14) John Carlson, WAS: 5 more yrs at $3.97M - Anytime you can get a top defenseman at a price like this, it's a great bargain. In my final player rankings of the 2013 season, Carlson finished between Andre Markov and Brent Seabrook (who are making $2M more per season). He is 23 years old and has played 234 games in the NHL.

15) Sergei Bobrovsky, PHI: 2 more years at $5.6M - It was astonishing that the Columbus Blue Jackets managed to retain the Vezina Trophy winner when it was rumoured that the KHL was offering big money to lure the Russian back home prior to the Sochi Olympics. He came out of obscurity to take the NHL by storm in one of the NHL's greatest leaps forward from one season to the next. The smart money says expect a small to moderate decrease in production/efficiency.

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