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Puck Money: who’s the most ‘valuable’ player in the NHL?

It's often difficult to separate a player's value from his salary, especially in a cap world. While the two are separate things, they're far more connected than they used to be: the salary cap makes it a necessity that the player's worth to the team aligns with the salary he's making. Otherwise, his contributions will always be mitigated by the cap space he eats us.

Statheads have attempted to measure the "bang for buck" ratio in the past, but generally, the mathematical formula has been simply to divide a player's salary by his points, and all this ever yields is a predictable list of NHL stars still on their entry-level contracts.

That's where Canadian Business Online's Puck Money differs. Like other studies, this one seeks to "Illustrate which NHL players and franchises offer the best value to their teams and fans based on their salaries or payrolls," but it offers a slightly more intricate methodology.

First, CBO normalizes the players by factoring in the quality of the teams on which they play. Then, they separate the players by position, explaining, "forwards, defensemen, and goalies use different skills so we applied different formulas to analyze these skills." And finally, they use mathematical formulas to weigh important criteria for each position.

Forwards

Must have at least 40 points. Eligible players were ranked in these four categories: points, time on ice, plus/minus and salary. Salary is worth 20% of the final and the other three categories are each valued at 26.67%.

Defencemen

Players with at least 60 games are ranked in these categories: salary (20%), points (15%), time on ice (15%) and plus/minus (50%).

Goaltenders

Goaltenders must have played a minimum 50 games and are evaluated in four categories: normalized goals against (26.67%), time on ice (26.67%), goals against average (26.67%) and salary (20%).

Sounds like buckets of fun. It's worth noting that, for advanced statisticians, these guys have a curiously high regard for plus/minus.

So which NHL players are truly the best bang for their buck, according to CBO's formula? How about the worst?

Even though the math is a little more complicated than simply dividing dollars by points, having a superstar on an entry-level contract remains the ideal scenario. As a result, each list of skaters, while populated with veterans on good contracts, is headed up by a player that's established himself as a star well before it's time to cash in.

Your top 5 forwards, according to the study: Claude Giroux(notes), David Backes(notes), Bobby Ryan(notes), Ryan Kesler(notes), and Jonathan Toews(notes).

In Giroux's case, his entry-level contract is what propelled him to the top of the list over better-compensated players in Backes, Ryan, Kesler and Toews.

From Sportsnet:

The Flyers 23-year-old right winger, playing in his second full season in the NHL, recorded career-highs in goals (25) and assists (51) for 76 points which ranked him 13th overall in league scoring. And he did it all for a mere $765,000. For those of you who don't have a calculator handy, that's $10,065.79 per point.

[...] "I did not know that," said Giroux with a laugh when told about his supreme ranking as the NHL best bargain in Canadian Business' second-annual Puck Money feature. "That is interesting."

Ha. Giroux couldn't care less. But Paul Holmgren definitely does. More money to give to Ilya Bryzgalov(notes).

Puck Money: who’s the most ‘valuable’ player in the NHL?I'm sure, by the way, that Ryan Kesler will be pleased to know that, after last year's Western Conference quarterfinals and the NHL awards, he has now narrowly edged out archnemesis Jonathan Toews three times in a row.

Your top 5 defensemen, in order, are John Carlson(notes), Alex Goligoski(notes), Keith Yandle(notes), Matt Carle(notes), and Christian Ehrhoff(notes).

Again, in Carlson's case, the entry-level contract is what propelled him to the top of the list. And it's probably safe to say that the $9 million increase in Christian Ehrhoff's salary from last season to this season immediately rules him out of next season's top 50.

For Kings fans: Drew Doughty(notes) ranked 13th among defensemen and Anze Kopitar(notes) ranked seventh among forwards, and this was before Doughty's salary doubled.

And finally, your top 5 goaltenders are Jonathan Quick(notes), Pekka Rinne(notes), Tim Thomas(notes), Corey Crawford(notes), and Carey Price(notes).

It's a strong list, with two Vezina nominees in the top three. That said, considering Quick wasn't even a lock to be the number one goalie coming out of training camp, one wonders if the methodology might require a few tweaks.

So those are the best. How about the worst?

Dead last among the 148 eligible forwards is Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Simon Gagne:

Last year, Simon Gagne(notes) was a major contributor to the Lightning in the playoffs, scoring 12 points. However, his regular season was spotty as compared with his 47-goal season with the Flyers in 2005-06. He scored 40 points for the Kings with a plus/minus of -12.

Salary: $3.9 million | Goals: 17 | Assists: 23 | Points: 40 | Plus/Minus: -12

Also among the bottom-feeders were Michael Ryder(notes) and Tim Connolly(notes), two players that signed free agent contracts this offseason. While Ryder's was for half a million less per season, Connolly actually saw a pay increase, meaning he could finish even lower on the list next year.

Speaking of Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike Komisarek finished dead last among 147 eligible defenseman:

While Komisarek's size at 6'4 and 245 pounds have made him an intimidating force, his $5.5 million salary may have some Leafs fans wondering if this is money well-spent. While he played 75 games this year, his actual time on the ice was at 1,032 minutes, among the lowest of rated defencemen. This all contributes to make him the least valuable among ranking defencemen.

Salary: $5.5 million | Goals: 1 | Assists: 9 | Points: 10 | Plus/Minus: -8

Back off, Canadian Business online. Komisarek scored the overtime winner the other night. He's clutch.

And finally, the worst of the 25 eligible goalies is... here's a hint: he plays for a Canadian team in the Western Conference. No, it's not Roberto Luongo(notes), you vultures, it's Miikka Kiprusoff:

One of the highest-paid goaltenders in the league, Kiprusoff, along with his team, struggled throughout the 2010-11 season. While Kiprusoff had a winning record of 37-24-6 with six shutouts, Calgary did not make the playoffs. He logged 4,155 minutes on the ice—the third most among goalies. However, his save percentage and goals against were near the bottom among rated goalies.

Salary: $7 million | GAA: 2.63 | GA: 182 | TOI: 4,155

In Kiprusoff's defense, Jay Bouwmeester(notes) isn't helping.

Puck Money: who’s the most ‘valuable’ player in the NHL?

This is an interesting list, although I'll admit to being a little disappointed that players on ELCs top each category. Yes, we all understand that it's nice to be paying a superstar less than a million dollars.

I'd be far more interested in a list that disregarded the obvious bargains and only factored in player's on second or third contracts.

Plus, I'm wary of a list that considers only the player's annual salary rather than his cap hit, although it gives me hope that Roberto Luongo will top this list in 2021.

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