Who's the best scorer in the NHL? Statistically speaking, it's likely a competition between Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. But after taking annual salary into account, those players are far from the league's best bargain goal scorers. Rather, the best scoring threats for the buck are a combination of veterans on short-term deals and young stars on the verge of cashing in with new, long-term ones.
To figure out the league's best bargains in the offensive zone, we gave each NHL player two points per goal scored and one point for each assist over the last three seasons. Then, to keep things manageable and ensure we were only looking at the top scorers, we limited the pool of players to those with at least 150 points. That left 133 players once we excluded Sergei Kostitsyn and Ilya Kovalchuk, who both currently play in the KHL.
We then converted each scorer's numbers to a point-per-game rate to account for games lost to injuries, and from there it was simply a matter of dividing each player's 2013 cap hit by his point-per-game rate (again, using double points for goals). The ten players with the lowest cap hit per PPG are the NHL's best scorers for the money.
So who's number one? The best scorer for the buck also happens to be one of the best scorers of the last two decades: Jarome Iginla. The longtime Flames captain and current Bruins winger has 534 career goals; only 30 players have ever scored more in their careers. Though slowing down in recent years - Iginla turns 37 next summer - he's continued to produce, averaging more than 18 minutes a night while almost never missing a game (he was a pre-trade healthy scratch in 2012-13, ending a 441 game streak).
Iginla is closely followed by fellow veteran Teemu Selanne. The Finnish Flash's retirement has seemed imminent for years, and he's currently on his fourth consecutive one-year deal in Anaheim. Selanne may have also lost a step in recent years, failing to produce near a point-per-game rate since 2010-11, but with a cap hit of just $2 million he's an incredible bargain for a scary good Ducks team.
Third on the list is Brenden Morrow, another veteran at 34 years old, but then come the young guns. San Jose's Logan Couture, one of the game's most impressive rising stars, ranks fourth. He's been a top-20 goal scorer since 2010-11, his second year in the league, and is continuing his stellar play this season. Through the weekend, Couture has eight goals and 14 assists, putting him on pace for 30 goals and 50 assists for the season.
Couture, however, will soon be on his way off this list thanks to a new five-year, $30 million contract. The 24-year-old center's cap hit will increase from $2.9 million to $6 million. Another player on our list with a new deal is Flyers captain Claude Giroux (No. 7), whose impending eight-year, $66.2 million deal will more than double his cap hit to $8.3 million. Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz (No. 10) is also getting a new deal - three years, $11.6 million - but his cap hit will barely change.
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Some other interesting takeaways that you won't find in the above video or slideshow:
Kris Letang and P.K. Subban are the best-scoring defensemen for the money, and both rank ahead of Sidney Crosby. That of course has a lot more to do with pay than play. Crosby is easily the league's best player, leading the NHL with 30 points this season, but Letang and Subban's combined $6.4 million cap hit is considerably lower than Crosby's $8.7 million hit. And Crosby even has an influence on our list - Kunitz plays on the 26-year-old's wing in Pittsburgh, and their chemistry is so good that the two Canadians may be paired on a line in this year's Winter Olympics.
Among the worst scorers for the money? Unsurprisingly, Minnesota's Dany Heatley. The former second overall draft pick is in the final season of a six-year, $45 million contract that has a cap hit of $7.5 million. It was a well-earned deal when it was signed, coming after three monster seasons in which Heatley scored a combined 141 goals and 149 assists. Yet his production has slowed considerably since a 39-goal, 43-assist campaign in 2009-10, and this season he has just four goals and three assists playing on the Wild's lower lines.
If we expand the pool beyond the 135 top scorers, then some new names make the cut. First overall would be Brad Boyes, who is with the Panthers on a one-year, $1 million deal this season. Boyes has had decent production in recent seasons with the Islanders and Sabres, and he's impressing this season in Florida with a team-leading eight goals. Also jumping into the fray would be Detroit's Daiel Cleary. He's far from the league's most prolific scorers, crossing the 20-goal line just once since being drafted in 1997, but this year he's on a one-year, $1.75 million deal that makes him a steal for the Red Wings.
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