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Budget Booms: The five best value players in the NHL right now

As contracts continue to increase, it's always nice when an NHL team can get value out of someone on an inexpensive deal. Here are five of the league's best cost-per-point players so far.

The reunion has been everything San Jose Sharks fans hoped it would be.

Patrick Marleau, back where it all began. The team's most prolific point producer returning home for one last crack before calling it a career. Even at 40, he still had value to the Sharks and fans were ready to welcome him with open arms. It helped that he kicked off the season with a two-goal night against Chicago, making an immediate impact on the struggling franchise.

With 1,082 points in 1,493 games, Marleau returned to the California city as the team's all-time points leader for what should be his swan song with fellow greybeard Joe Thornton. Marleau's return was a popular signing among Sharks fans who just wanted to see the team's all-time leading scorer don teal once more. And, hey, he's still a guy capable of recording around 40 points a season, so signing him to a league-minimum $700,000 was a no-brainer – and with eight points in 13 games, it's hard to be upset with his output so far.

In fact, Marleau ranks seventh in team scoring despite missing four games, beating out Timo Meier (coming off a career-high 66 points last year) and Thornton (51 points in 2019-20), among others. With a cost-per-point of $87,500 early on, Marleau is bringing the Sharks incredible value on a salary base that's more typically attributed to fourth-liners and fringe depth guys.

His contract has brought great value to the Sharks, and here are four other cost-per-point darlings this season, focusing on those who will be a UFA on their next contract:

Brad Hunt, D (Minnesota – 9 points, $700,000 AAV)
We've written about Hunt a few times this season, but that's just because he's been so good. Early on, Hunt found himself leading the Wild in scoring after 10 games with six points, beating his 29-game run with the team last year. Playing on a league-minimum $700,000 deal, Hunt currently has a cost-per-point of $77,778, the lowest of any NHLer this season. When Hunt has been paired with Carson Soucy, the duo has posted a 59.7 expected goals percentage at all strengths, good for fourth among defensive pairs with at least 100 minutes this season. Not bad for a third pairing made up of two guys with limited NHL experience, and it could be exactly what helps Hunt remain in the lineup full-time for the first time in his seven-year NHL career.

Taylor Fedun, D(Dallas – 6 points, $737,500 AAV)
Fedun was one of the biggest surprises for the Stars during the team's rollercoaster start in October, posting six assists and taking a $122,917 cost-per-point into the first weekend of November. Fedun's 5-on-5 Corsi-for rate sits at 52.58, the best among all Stars defensemen, and he's well on his way to blasting past his career-high 11-point output during his seven-year career as a depth defender for Dallas. He's still not much more than a third-pairing guy, but he has dabbled on the second pairing in pinch situations and can handle his role without putting his team in trouble. After years of bouncing between the NHL and AHL, it looks like he has finally cemented himself as a full-time NHLer.

Rocco Grimaldi, LW (Nashville – 8 points, $1 million AAV)
The Predators entered the season needing extra scoring depth and they must be happy with what they've gotten out Grimaldi. He holds a cost-per-point of $125,000 as he helps make Nashville one of the deepest teams in the NHL. It was a slow road to a regular role in the NHL, as Grimaldi couldn't turn a strong NCAA career into a tangible pro effort in Florida or Colorado. With eight points in 13 games, he's not far off of tying his 53-game output with the Preds last season, the best total from his first six seasons. If he can stay reliable in Nashville's middle-six, they'll be golden – just like their uniforms. The pending UFA on a one-year deal needs all the help he can get to make his (financial) dreams come true, but he's looking good early on.

Barclay Goodrow, C (San Jose – 7 points, $925,000 AAV)
The Sharks likely didn't envision Goodrow sitting ahead of Meier or Thornton in scoring at this point in the season, especially after only producing 17 points from the fourth line last season. But with a cost-per-point of $132,143, Goodrow's seven points have made him a valuable depth option for a team struggling for results in the early going. Goodrow has a career average ice time of 11:01 but has earned more responsibilities this year with an average of 14:07, highlighted by his 17:14 against Chicago on Tuesday while playing alongside Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. If he continues to stick on the second line, adding grit to a line filled with skill, Goodrow could prove to be a very strong budget option for the Sharks.

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly, and all advanced statistics via NaturalStatTrick).

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