If you had told Florida Panthers forward Noel Acciari he’d score 18 goals with his new team, he’d probably have believed you. He just would have thought you had meant over the course of the three-year term of his $5 million contract (total). Instead he’s got a career-high 18 just past the halfway mark of his first season with the Cats.
Considering his $1.67 million cap hit, it works out to about $92,600 per goal, so far. League-leader David Pastrnak (37)? He’s scoring at a rate of over $180,000 per marker.
The hot streak probably won’t last, but everyone who’s been watching Acciari light the lamp has been saying that for over a month. He’s nevertheless been on a veritable rampage, scoring 13 goals in his last 16 contest as he makes the most of his career-high 15:53 of ice time per game.
Add it all up and it makes Acciari one the bigger bargains in the league this 2019-20 season. Looking at all players past their entry-level deals and with at least one more season to go on their current contracts, these four other NHLers are arguably the only ones who have got Acciari beat in terms of bang for their teams’ buck.
4. Brad Marchand
Cap Hit: $6.13 million; Term: 2017-25
Pastrnak may be leading the league in goals and his team in points (70). However, teammate Brad Marchand is arguably the more complete player… if you conveniently ignore his recent, hopefully temporary loss of motor skills.
Marchand signed his deal before the 2016-17 season, following a career-high 37-goal, 61-point campaign. If only he had waited, as he had one more year left on his deal at that point in time, during which he shattered his personal bests with 39 goals and 85 points. The following season, he tied that 85-point mark. In 2018-19, he hit the 100-point plateau.
A perennial Hart Memorial Trophy candidate, Marchand gets the nod here ahead of his almost-as-worthy linemates, Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million), because of his slightly lower cap hit. Acciari may have him beat in that regard and cost per point, but, in terms of sheer production, there’s no comparison.
3. Conor Garland
Cap Hit: $775,000; Term: 2019-21
Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper’s cost-effective deal ($1.875 million hit) ends at the end of the season, effectively rendering him ineligible for this list. Even if Kuemper’s extension is almost as team-friendly and worthy of consideration, forward Conor Garland is still the biggest bargain on the team.
Maybe Coyotes general manager John Chayka deserves more credit. More likely though, Garland himself does as one of the NHL’s best-kept secrets. For our purposes, Garland’s the leader in cost per point this 2019-20 season.
What you probably didn’t know is the Coyotes’ leading goal scorer (16) has picked up where he left off last season, when he came out of nowhere to score 13 in 47 games. Plus he’s doing it all in effectively bottom-six ice time (13:36).
2. Ben Bishop
Cap Hit: $4.9 million; Term: 2017-23
Everyone thought Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop was done. Rendered obsolete by the emergence of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Bishop got shipped to the Los Angeles Kings as a pending unrestricted free agent back in 2016-17. It’s easy to see why.
Bishop was 30 at the time. He had admittedly just come off a Vezina Trophy-caliber campaign in 2015-16 (35-21-4 with a .926 save percentage), his second time as a finalist. He nevertheless disappointed the following season, posting a 16-12-3 record (.911) with the Lightning. Following the trade, he struggled even more (2-3-2; .900).
So, it’s easy to understand why Bishop took somewhat of a discount from with the Stars. He’s since been nominated for a third Vezina (coincidentally losing to Vasilevskiy) after going 27-15-2 last season with a .934 save percentage (1.98 goals-against average).
He’s kept the success going in 2019-20 with a 16-10-3 record (.927), all at a cost of ~$307,000 per win. To put that figure into perspective along with how important it is to sign goalies entering the twilights of their careers to smart deals, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a hit of $8.5 million… and just nine wins this season.
1. Nathan MacKinnon
Cap Hit: $6.3 million; Term: 2016-23
Marchand may have entered into the conversation of perennial Hart candidates, but it wouldn’t be complete without Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon.
Not only has MacKinnon reshaped the landscape of the playing field in that regard in recent seasons, playing out a ridiculously team-friendly seven-year, $44.1 million contract. He’s also almost single-handedly helped the Avalanche enter contender status under Joe Sakic, which would have been unthinkable just two seasons ago, as a result. With his cost-effective deal, the Avalanche are in incredible shape, fiscally speaking, and the envy of the league.
With 30 goals and 72 points already, MacKinnon is within striking distance of a third-straight 90-point season. He can realistically hit 50 goals and 100 points for the first time and he is only 24 years old, with three years left on his deal after this one. He’ll obviously break the bank once 2023 rolls around, but Sakic and the Avalanche are laughing all the way to theirs until then. MacKinnon’s been nothing short of money.