A key part of building a winning hockey team is knowing how to work around the salary cap. Despite the salary cap going up almost annually, it can be tough to manage teams both in the short term and long term, especially when you have multiple high talent players on your roster. Although they were signed a few years ago and the cap has gone up significantly since then, here are three contracts who have become steals for their respective teams.
The Boston Bruins are a perfect example of a team who have been able to build repeated success off of the management of the salary cap. Their top three players, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all make individually below $7 million a year. This allows the team to build around their top line and ensure their defense and goaltending is up to par with the rest of the league. Pastrnak, 23, has been one of the league’s rising superstars since breaking into the NHL in the 2014-15 season. Since then he has found a consistent spot next to Bergeron and Marchand and has evolved into one of the game’s best goal scorers.
Following his rookie contract Pastrnak signed a 6 year, $40 million contract which breaks down to an annual average value of $6.66 million per year. Since the contract began in the 2017-18 season, Pastrnak has scored at least 35 goals and 80 points in both seasons. Currently in his third year of his six year contract, Pastrnak currently leads the NHL in both goals and points, 11 and 23 respectively, and could break 40 goals by this season’s end.
Aside from Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon is arguably one of the best players in the NHL today. Since being drafted first overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013, he has gone from a promising prospect to an elite superstar. After taking home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year in the 2013-14 season, MacKinnon found himself putting up an average of 50 or so points per year in his first four years. These were respectable numbers for a player just coming into his own and the Avalanche locked him up to a 7 year, $44.1 million contract which breaks down to $6.3 million per year.
However, MacKinnon’s true breakout season began in the 2017-18 season where he tallied 39 goals and 97 points alongside Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog as one of the league’s best top lines. MacKinnon followed up his spectacular season by besting his career highs last season finishing the year with 41 goals, 99 points and leading the Avalanche to within one game of the Western Conference Finals. For the third consecutive year MacKinnon has gotten off to a hot start scoring 6 goals and 15 points in 11 games, but will have to pick a lot of the offensive production left by Landeskog and Rantanen being sidelined with injuries. Regardless, MacKinnon being one of the best players in the NHL and under a very team friendly contract for the next four years bodes well for the Avalanche and their continued success.
It’s no secret that if the Edmonton Oilers are to get back to the playoffs and have continued success, they will need the production of both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to be above the majority of players in the NHL. Following up the end of his rookie contract and helping the Oilers head back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season, Draisaitl signed a 8 year, $68 million contract that saw him earn $8.5 million per year. At the time of the signing, many people were calling the contract a complete overpayment and that Draisaitl wasn’t worth that kind of money. Today I would argue that Draisaitl’s contract has aged to become one of the league’s more underrated ones and could continue to trend in that direction as the years go on.
While Draisaitl does play with McDavid, he is a superstar player on his own and put this on display last season by scoring 50 goals and 105 points in 82 games played. By scoring his 50th goal Draisaitl became the first Oilers’ player since the 1986-87 to accomplish such a feat. In his two seasons prior to 2019, Draisaitl was putting up respectable numbers, but this explosion of offense officially put him on the map and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Draisaitl has gotten off to an incredible start as well scoring 9 goals and 21 points in 12 games thus far and has been a large factor in Edmonton’s 8-3-1 record. Not only will his contract continue to become more of a steal as he continues to grow and develop as a player, but by the time it’s all said and done Draisaitl may wind up being the best German born player to ever play in the NHL.