The Best NHL ‘Bargain Roster’ Money Could Buy

The NHL is a hard-cap league, arguably the toughest salary cap to maneuver of all the major sports. One bad signing can set any team back years and it forces front offices to be cautious with their roster building. In a world of hypotheticals, any hockey fan has to wonder, what would a $1 million team look like? Moreover, what would a team look like if every player on the roster took up a salary in the $1 million range?

One rule that was applied was that only one entry-level contract (ELC) player was allowed per position (one forward, one defenseman, one goaltender), as many of the talented players in the NHL that are in the $1 million range are on their first deals and that would be the team without a limit.


Barclay Goodrow – Jack Hughes (ELC) – Conor Garland

Conor Sheary – Bobby Ryan – Patrick Maroon

Michael Raffl – Carter Verhaeghe – Mason Appleton

Teddy Blueger – Tyler Ennis – Carl Soderberg

Conor Garland Arizona Coyotes
Conor Garland, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The leading goal scorers on this team are Conor Garland and Carter Verhaeghe, with eight goals each in the 2020-21 season. One of the big surprises when looking at this unit is how two of the forwards are on the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Maroon, which is a reminder of how a team like the Bolts can find value to add to their lineup while balancing the salary cap. Some of the skaters, like Carl Soderberg and Bobby Ryan, are having strong seasons on bargain deals that will ultimately give them a larger payout this offseason but in the meantime, allow their teams to have more roster flexibility.


Cale Makar (ELC) – Zach Whitecloud

Jani Hakanpaa – Zach Bogosian

Derek Forbert – Jeremy Lauzon – (Connor Clifton)

Connor Clifton Boston Bruins
Connor Clifton, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Cale Makar is clearly giving the Colorado Avalanche its money’s worth on his first contract in the NHL, with his talent being unquestioned though only being in his third season in the NHL. Like some of the skaters on the forward lines, many of these defensemen are having breakout seasons and are helping their teams with valuable contracts and great defensive play. Zach Whitecloud and Zach Bogosian are two examples of defensemen that are on teams hoping to compete for the Stanley Cup and need the value from their defense without altering their salary cap.

Likewise, the Boston Bruins entered this season with the hopes of getting younger on defense and staying under the cap, leaving them with a pair of young valuable defensemen in 25-year-old Connor Clifton and 23-year-old Jeremy Lauzon who are both good defensemen to have on the backend of a competitive team.


Carter Hart (ELC) and Cal Peterson.

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Carter Hart has struggled at times this season, with the workload of a condensed 56-game season likely taking its toll on the Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltender (as well as many starters across the NHL). However, it’s hard to argue that the 21-year-old goaltender isn’t among the best in the NHL, with his great play in the net helping the Flyers look like a true contender in the East Division and NHL.

Cal Peterson meanwhile is only making $875,000 this season and $1 million next season as the LA Kings’ backup goaltender but has far exceeded his value, as the 26-year-old goalie is posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average, allowing himself to split time the team’s starting goaltender Jonathan Quick.

The Expectations for This Team

It’s hard to say how this team would fare considering how they would play together and if the talent would ultimately show with these lines. A million-dollar team might not be a Stanley Cup-caliber team but it’s better than one would think at first. The underlying lesson one can take from this team is that in a league that values stars and finds it more important than ever to pay their stars, there is a value that can be found for even the cheapest deals.

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