By: Chris Dagonas
This is our first edition of the NHL Trade Value Rankings, wherein Chris will discuss the 50 most valuable players in the NHL in terms of their production, age, and contracts. In theory, the player who finishes number 1 is considered untradeable for any other player. For example, the team that owns player number 15 would not want to trade him for anyone ranked lower on the list, but would entertain offers for the players ahead on the list (No. 14 to No.1). And so on.
For a refresher on the rules, check out yesterday’s column HERE. For everyone else, read on.
CATEGORY 12: 90s BABIES
35. Evander Kane – AGE: 21 – CAP HIT: 5.25 million – TERM: Signed until 2018
The other Kane made a name for himself in 2011-12, when he reached the 30-goal milestone for the first time in his career. His average point-per-game remained about the same in 2012-13, but he added some grit by amassing 80 Penalty Minutes in 48 games. He is the centre of the Jets franchise, and they will hope that he can maintain a 30-goal pace this season, while not backing down from opponents. As a 21-year-old, he is perhaps in the best position to develop rapidly this season.
34. Nazem Kadri – AGE: 22 – CAP HIT: 2.9 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
After months of back-and-forth haggling, the Maple Leafs and Kadri finally reached an agreement which mirrors the Montreal Canadiens’ deal with PK Subban. It’s a “prove yourself” contract, which is what the Leafs wanted, while Kadri likely was looking for an “I’ve already proven myself” deal. The hype for Kadri is at an all-time high after a lockout-shortened season in which he posted almost point-per-game stats. His April slump may have cooled Dave Nonis’ interest a bit, but there is still a good chance that Kadri produces at a level beyond his salary for the next two seasons.
CATEGORY 11: NORRIS SHORT-LISTERS
33. Kris Letang – AGE: 26 – CAP HIT: 3.5 million this season, 7.25 million afterwards – TERM: Signed until 2022 (NMC, limited NTC)
Letang is arguably the league’s best defenseman (at least in the top 3, by the NHL Award Panel’s standards), and in the best team situation of any of the other top D-men. He is a force in the defensive end, often in charge of handcuffing the opposition’s star player. He can also produce reasonably well for the offense. He’s not a Karlsson or Subban, but on the Penguins, he doesn’t have to be. Caveat here: Letang misses a lot of games. He’s only played a full season once in 5 tries, and nobody likes paying a guy 7 million to sit on the trainer’s table.
32. Shea Weber – AGE: 27 – CAP HIT: 7.86 million – TERM: Signed until 2026
Weber is simply one of the league’s best, and his contract is the model for Letang, Suter and others. He will always be around the Norris conversation, he helps the Predators, and Pekka Rinne specfically, keep the goals against numbers minuscule, and he’s only now set to enter his prime years. Buuuuuuut he’s signed until 2026!!!! He’ll be 40 years old when this contract expires, and that cap hit is going to look ridiculous.
31. Ryan Suter – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 7.54 million – TERM: Signed until 2025 (NMC/NTC)
Wow, so, this guy isn’t going anywhere. Suter is a monster on defense, probably the best defensive-defenseman in the league. He doesn’t produce a ton offensively, but enough to show that he knows what he’s doing. A lot of what Suter does goes un-counted; sealing off the front of the net, lifting a stick at the precise moment, positioning himself perfectly, and distributing sublime outlet passes. Also, he doesn’t miss many games, so you know what you’re getting. Like Weber, his loooooong-term deal will hamstring the Wild in the 2020’s, but that’s so long from now.
SUB-CATEGORY A: BLACKHAWKS D-MEN
30. Duncan Keith – AGE: 30 – CAP HIT: 5.5 million TERM: Signed until 2023 (NMC)
29. Brent Seabrook – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 5.8 million – TERM: Signed until 2016 (Limited NTC)
The elite Blackhawks defenders are almost as vital to their team’s success as their two elite forwards. Neither one misses many games, and while Keith gets a slight nod in offensive value, Seabrook is the more prototypical defensive defender. These are both once in a generation defenders, and both on the same team at the same time. Keith’s contract is far more punitive to the Blackhawks than Seabrook’s, which gives the edge to Seabrook.
CATEGORY 10: SLICK OILERS
28. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – AGE: 20 – CAP HIT: 3.775 million this year, 6 million afterwards – TERM: Signed until 2021
27.5. Jordan Eberle – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 6 million – TERM: Signed until 2019.
27. Sam Gagner – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 4.8 million – TERM: Signed until 2016 (NMC in 2014-15)
Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Gagner, along with Taylor Hall, are the bones of the Edmonton Oilers for at least another 3 seasons. Management has done well to keep all of these guys satisfied, but Gagner is definitely receiving the least financial love of the big three. Gagner is talented, and plays a premium position, but he does not have the same offensive flair as Hall and Eberle. At 23, these guys both still have a ton of potential. As for the Nuge, just last week he re-upped for the next seven years at a pretty reasonable price. He has 70-point potential, and could end up being more valuable than Eberle and Gagner to the Oilers in the long term.
CATEGORY 9: PUCKSTOPPERS WORTH THE MONEY
26. Jonathan Quick – AGE: 27 – CAP HIT: 5.8 million – TERM – Signed until 2023
Quick has shown a tendency to heat up when it counts – in the playoffs. In two consecutive seasons, he has been a gigantic part of the Kings’ long playoff runs, one leading to Stanley Cup title, the other to a mere Western Final loss to the eventual champion Blackhawks. He is arguably hockey’s best goaltender, and young enough to still have some upside.
25. Cory Schneider – AGE: 27 – CAP HIT: 4 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
Schneider stands to inherit the New Jersey starting goalie mantle from the legendary Martin Brodeur, but has big shoes to fill in East Rutherford. If he reaches his potential, New Jersey might have just solved its goaltender problem for another 10 seasons.
CATEGORY 8: SNEAKY SHREWD DEALS
24. Craig Anderson – AGE: 32 – CAP HIT: 3.2 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
23. Braden Holtby – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 1.85 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
I love paying below market value for top-tier production, or for top-tier potential. Anderson gives you the former, Holtby gives you the latter. Anderson was arguably the league’s best goaltender before getting injured last season, and had many years in the hockey black hole of Florida (wait a minute… yup, other than basketball, that’s pretty much a sports black hole in general). Anyway, Anderson could be earning something closer to 5 or 6 million on his next contract, and plays a position where he can maintain consistency for at least another 5 seasons.
In Holtby’s case, this contract is even sweeter. He will make a third of what the top goaltenders make, and he might outshine many of them for the next two years. For the Capitals, who are tied to Nicklas Backstrom and Ovie for zillions of dollars for the next decade, getting all-star production for reserve pricing is sweet relief.
22. Antti Niemi – AGE: 29 – CAP HIT: 3.8 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
Niemi gives the Sharks a chance to win every night. Goaltenders are hard to rank in comparison to forwards and defenders, but the Sharks have one of hockey’s best, and a consistent all-star, who plays 60-65 games at a high level, and paying him 3.8 million on a short term deal is a great team-friendly contract.
21. Keith Yandle – AGE: 26 – CAP HIT: 5.25 million – TERM: Signed until 2016
This is what a top defender looks like when he plays in anonymity in Phoenix, and he signs his contract at the wrong time in his career. Yandle gives you the “soft” defense of Nicklas Lidstrom, meaning he plays smart positionally and maintains puck possession in his own end. While I wouldn’t dare compare his offensive capabilities to the famous Swede, Yandle has speed and often leads the offensive breakout from his own end. Best of all, for this list, his contract is extremely team-friendly. He is signed from the ages of 26 to 29, prime years, and has no clauses at all, meaning he could be moved whenever Phoenix brass feel it is necessary. He is a plus-player who can play up to 30 minutes a night, and makes 2 million a year less than other comparable players. That’s value!
CATEGORY 7: EXCELLENT YOUNG CENTRES
20. Logan Couture – AGE: 24 – CAP HIT: 2.875 million this season, 6 million afterwards – TERM: Signed until 2019 (Limited NTC)
Couture is currently in the final year of his second contract but has already re-upped for another 5 years at 6 million per year. Has a chance to take hold of Sharks’ leadership role and number one centre once Joe Thornton gives way. Has long been a big playoff contributor, but really gained the attention of the league this spring. Sharks would be wise to try to move Thornton to a Detroit/Chicago/Boston(?) before the trade deadline, and give Couture the captaincy he deserves.
19. Derek Stepan – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 3.075 million – TERM: Signed until 2015
Stepan emerged as a legitimate number one centre last season in the Big Apple. Pairing him with Rick Nash seemed to re-invigorate the big power forward after a slow start, and defensively Stepan was entrusted with more than his fair share of back-checking on other team’s top lines. He is the last player on this list to be signed, and has taken a bridge contract, meaning that he, like Kadri, will be spending two seasons playing for a larger salary in the summer of 2015.
18. Matt Duchene – AGE: 22 – CAP HIT: 3.5 million this year, 6 million afterwards – TERM: Signed until 2019.
Duchene is only 22, but it seems like he’s been around forever. Consider; Duchene’s first career goal came in 2009 against Chris Osgood! (Duchene was 18 at the time). He is a point-per-game number one centre, and even showed some grit by playing most of the 2011-12 season on a weak knee and ankle. The Avs wisely gave him a 2-year bridge contract after his injury-plagued season in 2012, meaning he would have still been a restricted free agent at the end of this year, then re-signed him early to “reward” him for his loyalty. In reality, I think there might be some lingering doubt about whether Duchene is a true number one centre for a Stanley Cup team, in the Crosby/Stamkos/Toews class. The Avs bought low on his age 26 and 27 seasons, prime free-agent time for most star centres, but for Duchene it will be the seasons that he has to show how good he can really be. Best of all (for Avalanche fans) this contract does NOT feature any movement clauses, so either the Avs are contenders by 2018-19, or they will exchange Duchene for younger talent and draft picks, and start the rebuild all over again.
CATEGORY 6: GOALS FILL THE SEATS
17. Phil Kessel – AGE: 25 – CAP HIT: 5.4 million – TERM: Signed until 2014 (Limited NMC)
Trenches member Paul Andreacchi and I got to chatting, over Triscuits and beer, about the variety of stages of response to the Kessel trade.
In 2009, the trade looked like a bit of a robbery by Boston. Kessel needed shoulder surgery and missed the first month of the season. In his first game against the Bruins, he didn’t record a point, and the Leafs lost 7-2. The Leafs had a terrible season, and the first-round pick that Toronto sent to Boston became Tyler Seguin, who looked like a lock to be a future star.
In 2010, Seguin burst onto the scene, having a hot spring and helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup. In 2011-12, Seguin continued to round into form, finishing the year with 67 points. Toronto fans and media ripped former GM Brian Burke for making the move.
Well, all Phil the Thrill did during his time with Toronto was quietly score 30 goals in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. He is only 25 years old, meaning there is still room to grow (haha, short joke, I meant grow as a player) and under Randy Carlyle, he is even developing a two-way game. Seguin, meanwhile, seemed to take a step back in 2012-13, and is apparently a party animal and homophobe. The Bruins have just traded him away to Dallas to be rid of his “immaturity and partying lifestyle.” Four years after “the trade”, Toronto has a perennial all-star and legitimate sniper. Boston has Loui Eriksson and a gang of young players. So, yeah, you could say that perceptions have changed.
16. Alexander Ovechkin – AGE: 27 – CAP HIT: 9.54 million – TERM: Signed until 2021
The Good: Ovechkin is entering his prime, and has already shown the ability to score 90-100 points a season, and stay healthy while doing it. Aside from the most recent year, he is a proven playoff performer. He is a constant threat inside the opposing team’s zone, and he single-handedly dragged the Capitals into the playoffs last season after they looked like roadkill from January to March.
The Bad: Alex the Great also has some major drawbacks; He plays at full-speed all the time, which can be a recipe for disaster. He will long be productive, but I suspect his 50-goal seasons are already a thing of the past. His cap hit is the highest in the league, but his play very often falls short of that lofty goal. Also, Ovechkin does not seem to be able to bring his teammates up with him, the way Eric Staal or Sidney Crosby can.
CATEGORY 5: DUCKS FLY TOGETHER
15. Ryan Getzlaf – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 8.25 million – TERM: Signed until 2021 (NMC)
14. Corey Perry – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 8.625 million – TERM: Signed until 2021 (NMC)
Anaheim’s two superstars are both on superstar deals, which forced them into dealing Bobby Ryan to Ottawa. With Getzlaf and Perry heading your attack, you can expect a winning season and at least a place at the playoffs every season. Puck possession monsters, these two are usually front-runners when it comes to Corsi numbers. You want a shot at winning, you have to pay big for it.
CATEGORY 4: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR (HAPPILY)
13. Corey Crawford – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 2.67 million – TERM: Signed until 2014
Crawford is in the final year of his deal and stands to receive a huge raise from the Blackhawks or another suitor. The Hawks are still a championship calibre team, so he is very unlikely to be moved. By my standards, he is the most valuable goaltender in the league.
12. Alex Pietrangelo – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 6.5 million – TERM: Signed until 2020 (NTC)
The no-trade-clause hurts the value of this contract a bit, but Pietrangelo is still on the verge of becoming one of the league’s very best defenders. He doesn’t produce offensively on the same level as Subban or Karlsson, but he makes up for that with excellent defensive positioning, and he can log heavy minutes on any unit. He is also a workhorse, having missed only 5 games in three seasons. With Pietrangelo locked up, the Blues can hope to be a legitimate playoff threat for the next few seasons.
11. Drew Doughty – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 7 million – TERM: Signed until 2019
During the Kings’ magical playoff run in 2012, Doughty scored 16 points in 20 games. That’s far more than his usual production rate, but it goes to show that Doughty has the full skill set of any two-way defender in the league. The Kings rarely ask him to be an offensive threat, as their philosophy leans toward protecting their own net first, and their roster features offensive stars in Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
10. Eric Staal – AGE: 28 – CAP HIT: 8.25 million – TERM: Signed until 2016 (NTC)
Staal is one of hockey’s most consistent stars: He’s missed one game in three seasons, he’s a lock for 30 goals and 40 assists almost every year, and he’s a killer in the playoffs. His cap hit is the fourth-highest in the league, and he has a no trade clause, but that’s not enough to hurt his value too much. He is under contract through the entirety of his prime years. A player like Staal costs a lot, but his production is so consistent that he is worth it.
9. Evgeni Malkin – AGE: 26 – CAP HIT: 8.7 million – TERM: Signed until 2022 (NMC)
On any other team, he is a number one offensive option, but is sometimes a forgotten man in the Penguins mix. Given a healthy, full season, you can expect 100 points from Malkin. He has also worked hard to shed the “lazy Russian” stereotype, by banging in the corners and playing responsible two-way hockey.
CATEGORY 3: BEST OF THE YOUNG GUNS
8. John Tavares – AGE: 22 – CAP HIT: 5.5 million – TERM: Signed until 2018 (NMC 2016-17 and 2017-18)
Tavares is probably a number one centre on every team in the league, with a handful of exceptions. That in itself holds a ton of value. Add in the fact that he is only 22 years old, and has only missed three regular season games in 4 seasons. He scores consistently against the opposition’s top pairings, and with virtually no offensive firepower around him. Worst-case scenario, he is a point-per-game player for the length of this contract. Best-case? Well, he was already nominated for a Hart Trophy last season, on an awful Islanders team. If the Islanders become even average, Tavares is a lock for a Hart one of these years.
7. Taylor Hall – AGE: 21 – CAP HIT: 6 million – TERM: Signed until 2020
Hall is at the head of the born-in-the-90s forwards (Sorry, Tavares). If last year was a full year (lockout, bad memories, AARRGGHH!!) Hall would have landed somewhere around 90-95 points, not bad for his third full season. Since the Oilers have built a legitimate team around Hall (Eberle, Gagner, et al.) he has a greater chance at being an impact player than JT does. Also, since his contract does not contain any movement clauses, he edges Tavares.
6. Erik Kalsson – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 6.5 million – TERM: Signed until 2019 (NTC in 2017-18 and 2018-19)
The young Swede, Europe’s highest player on the board, will be a Norris short-lister for the next 10-15 years. He has all the tools of a young Bobby Orr; quick feet, defensive discipline, and exceptional vision across the whole ice. Erik the Great scored 78 points in 81 games in 2011-12, then had a point-per-game rate going until a lacerated achilles ended his seas…wait, what’s that? He returned? In ten weeks?! Yeah, so apparently he also has the healing powers of Wolverine. All that for 6.5 million a year? That’s a bargain.
5. PK Subban – AGE: 24 – CAP HIT: 2.875 million(!!!) TERM: Signed until 2014
Last season’s Norris Trophy winner is signed to hockey’s most team-friendly contract. Subban is still a restricted free agent when this contract expires, so it’s almost a guarantee he re-signs, and when he does, he gives Montreal an elite power-play quarterback with a monstrous shot and a steady, if not spectacular, defensive presence. Subban transitions from defense to offense in milliseconds with good outlet passes and can puckhandle into neutral ice or the attacking zone if needed. The Canadiens essentially own one of hockey’s best defensemen this season, for less than half of what that title is worth on the free agent market.
CATEGORY 2: BLACKHAWKS UP
4. Jonathan Toews – AGE: 25 – CAP HIT: 6.3 million – TERM: Signed until 2015 (NMC 2014-15)
3. Patrick Kane – AGE: 24 – CAP HIT: 6.3 million – TERM: Signed until 2015 (NMC 2014-15)
What will the Blackhawks do with these two in two years? Both will be in their primes and both will command between 8 to 9 million per year. The Hawks have already reaped the benefits of teaming these two together (2 Stanley Cup championships in the past 5 seasons), and might be tempted to rebuild their roster with a few lean years. For now, though, Toews and Kane form the most fearsome forward twosome in hockey (yes, more fearsome than Crosby and Malkin, in my opinion), and have plenty of room to develop further.
CATEGORY 1: WORTH EVERY PENNY
2. Steven Stamkos – AGE: 23 – CAP HIT: 7.5 million – TERM: Signed until 2016 (NMC in 2015-16)
Stamkos is a guaranteed 40 goal scorer, who could possibly have several 50 goal seasons under his belt in the near future (his 60 in 2011-12 is still incredible). You can not ever trade away a player like this, but Stamkos may well look to move to greener pastures in the summer of 2016, if the Lightning aren’t able to build a winner around him. If and when he hits the free agent market in 3 years, at age 26, he is going to make every contract signed before his look like a joke.
1. Sidney Crosby – AGE: 26 – CAP HIT: 8.7 million – TERM: Signed until 2025 (NMC)
Crosby will retire as a Penguin. With Sid the Kid, you’re getting the best player in the game. He can win the Art Ross Trophy every year, while making his teammates better (See Neal, James; Kunitz, Chris). He can also fill the seats and make your team a draw for national games. His sphere of influence on the ice is greater than any other player currently in the league, and on a level with Wayne and Mario. He could probably drag half the teams in the league into the playoffs on his own. In short, Crosby is the NHL’s most valuable asset.