It's the best time of year!
Every summer, general managers try to find the best deals possible… especially those who are up against the salary cap, or can’t afford to dish out the big bucks to stars. Over two months into the season, you can already tell which teams got some great deals this off-season (either through trade or free agency). Patrick, Brian and I debate who the best bargain has been thus far…
By Patrick Hoffman
When it comes to the holiday season, everyone is looking for the best deals and bargains where they can get something great for a reasonable price.
The NHL's bargaining season is during the off-season/free-agent season and as such, was done with the team's financial interest at heart. In my eyes, the NHL's best bargain this year belongs to the Atlanta Thrashers and their forward, Andrew Ladd.
Ladd was acquired from Chicago on July 1 in exchange for Ivan Visnevskiy and a second-round pick.
With a salary of $1.65 million and a cap hit of $1.55 million, Ladd has one the lowest salaries among the NHL's top 30 scorers. In his team's first 33 games this season, Ladd has picked up 29 points (10 goals and 19 assists) en route to leading his team to a 17-11-5 record.
The Thrashers are off to one of their best starts in franchise history at sixth in the Eastern Conference, sitting just one point behind the division-leading Washington Capitals.
Not only is Ladd contributing offensively, but he is contributing in the locker room as the team made him captain. As captain, he has helped the Thrashers become one of the teams to be recognized not only in the East, but in the entire NHL as a team that will work hard and do everything they can to earn a victory.
If I were shopping for NHL players this holiday season, Ladd is someone I would definitely put in my shopping cart as a great bargain deal.
By Brian Huddle
Leading a hockey club in scoring at only 25 years old isn’t necessarily a new thing to the NHL. However, after all the turmoil of the summer trying to find a place to play hockey and a pay check to support himself and his family, Clarke MacArthur is leading the Maple Leafs with 24 points.
After being unable to find any sort of rhythm in Buffalo, having been drafted by the organization, he was traded away to Atlanta before he was set to become a restricted free agent. To further the shock on the Alberta native, the Thrashers decided to walk away from his arbitration case, leaving him without work.
When the Leafs came calling, he was pretty much ready to take anything. Signing a $1.1 million contract (well below the awarded $2.4 million), MacArthur was brought in with very little expectations from the fans, even though Burke made it known he would see plenty of time in the Leafs’ top-six.
Considered a fairly responsible two-way player, MacArthur currently sits at a pace to rack up 64 points. He may finish his season as the Leafs leading scorer, and is making less than any of them. While he did come out of the gate quite strong and has tapered off with his production, he’s still putting up points on a regular basis.
Look for MacArthur to realistically finish the season with 20 goals and 50 points. At just over a million on cap, who can complain about this bargain? The only problem the Leafs are looking at is that he will once again be a RFA come July.
By Ryan Porth
Just prior to the 2009/10 season, Manny Malhotra was a shrewd, cheap signing by Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Malhotra chipped in from the third line all season, was great on faceoffs and played sound defense. Kind of sounds like the move that Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier made this summer.
Looking to shore up the forward depth, Gauthier inked Jeff Halpern on Sept. 7 to a one-year, $600,000 deal. The 34-year-old is proving that he still has some game left in the tank. Halpern is currently on his fifth NHL team and has been a serviceable third- or fourth-line center around the league throughout his 11 seasons.
Through 32 games, Halpern has quietly compiled 16 points in 32 games – on pace for his highest total since the 2005-06 campaign with Washington. It’s some of the little things that he’s doing that have really helped Montreal.
Halpern currently ranks 10th in the league in faceoffs with a 57.3 percentage. He’s logging an average ice-time of 2:31 per game while shorthanded, assisting a unit that is tops in the NHL as we speak. Overall, he has a plus-10 rating. Also, half of his six goals have turned out to be game-winners.
All of this while raking in $600,000. Talk about getting bang for your buck!
Olli Jokinen, also a 2010 off-season signee, has 15 points with the Flames and is earning $3 million. It should also be noted that Ilya Kovalchuk has 17 points while making $6 million.
Ladd and MacArthur were nice bargains this past off-season… but I’m going with a player that has flown under the radar in Montreal.
Photos credit: Getty Images
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