In the salary cap era of the NHL, bargain contracts are just as important as the ones given to star players. It’s a way to add cheap depth to your lineup that improves the roster significantly.
Frank Seravalli and Steven Ellis took a look at some of the best bargain contracts in the NHL so far this season as we head into the new year.
Steven Ellis: “For me, it’s Ilya Samsonov, and that was the guy I was circling at the beginning of the year. He goes out there and signs a $1.8 million deal, not worth a lot, but he was a guy that we knew from an early age he was going to be something pretty special, and it didn’t really work out in Washington. In Washington, he’d play one good game and he’d be backup the next game, and he couldn’t build the momentum, and then [Vitek] Vanecek just outplayed him. It seemed like it got to his head, because the guy that would usually make these great saves was missing goals that he definitely should have stopped.
I think when you go into Toronto this year and you look at their goaltending, you’ve got Matt Murray and you’ve got Samsonov, two guys coming off tough seasons looking for something to prove. And I think that was the motivation those two needed to really impress. They’ve both been great, top 10 goalies this year; Samsonov’s top five in a few analytical categories. He’s only played 12 games, but if he was playing at a star’s pace, we’d be talking potentially about a Vezina Trophy candidate right now given some of his advanced stats.
So he’s come in there and he’s done exactly what he needs to do, and I have to wonder what his next contract’s going to look like. But if I’m Toronto, I’m making sure he’s there.”
Frank Seravalli: “Yeah, I was right with you at the beginning of the year saying this was going to be one of the true value buys of the season, and he’s certainly played to that level. The interesting thing is as good as the Leafs goaltending has been in the first third of the season, we were also talking about Jack Campbell being a Vezina candidate at this exact moment in time one year ago, and we all know how that ended up, so it goes to show you how much time is left to be played in the season and how quickly things can change, especially at the goaltending position, not just year-to-year, but also within the season. Consistency is key; Murray and Samsonov have both been that for the Maple Leafs.
For me, the guy that really stands out in a lower-case way is Dominik Kubalik. When you look at their hierarchy in terms of the points that have been produced this year for that Red Wings team, they’re in a spot where what they were able to get out of Kubalik for just $2.8 million, he’s a guy where he didn’t fall out of favor, but I think a lot of people in Chicago looked at him as sort of a one-dimensional player. If he’s not scoring, what’s he doing for your team? And to step in at that price, pump in 10 goals in the first third of the season and 26 points.
He’s a guy that wasn’t really sought after, team’s weren’t clamoring to get, and it just looks like a smart pickup for the Detroit Red Wings, a no-risk bet, and now as a guy that also is a pending UFA whenever his contract ends that they’re going to have to make a decision at some point. Is this guy going to be part of their future or not? Unheralded, but has certainly done the job in Detroit.”
You can watch the full episode here…