The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the NHL from going up this season, better known as the "flat" salary cap. It is, however, expected to rise one million dollars a year until 2024-25, when it is expected the players will have finally paid off their debts to the owners.
Due to the delicate nature of the cap, every single dollar counts, and teams must maximize every cent in order to ice the best team possible. Here are five players not on entry-level contracts doing damage this season.
Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh - $43,478
After a career-high 29 points in 74 games for the Buffalo Sabres in 2018-19, Rodrigues struggled to find a role with both Buffalo and the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom he was traded to in 2020.
Rodrigues has taken advantage of the numerous injuries that have plagued the Penguins and turned it into his coming-out party. He has put up 23 points through 30 games, and Pittsburgh has dominated scoring chances while he is on the ice.
The 28-year-old’s contract is the most valuable in the league for anyone not on an ELC, worth $43,478 per point.
Carter Verhaeghe, Florida - $43,478
The Toronto, ON. native continues to be the league’s best bargains since signing with the Panthers in October of 2020.
After breaking out on Aleksander Barkov’s wing with 36 points in 43 games in 2020-21, Verhaeghe signed a three-year $12.5 million dollar extension in the summer. He's still providing excellent value in the final year of his old contract with an AAV of $1 million, recording 23 points heading into 2022.
One of the best in the league at recovering pucks and setting up high-danger chances, Verhaeghe has provided the second-best contract value this season at only $43,478 per point, $126 per minute more than Rodrigues.
Troy Terry, Anaheim - $48,333
The breakout season Ducks fans were waiting for is here, as Terry is leading the team in points and has been a large part of the team’s early success.
Having already set a career-high in goals and points with 18 and 30 respectively, Terry is only earning $1.45 million both this season and next but has set himself up for a healthy raise when the time comes.
A fifth-round-pick in 2015, Terry has shown an ability to score goals and has found great chemistry on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf to help lead the Ducks youth movement.
Michael Bunting, Toronto - $50,000
Of all the new Toronto Maple Leaf signings, Bunting has emerged as Zach Hyman’s replacement on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, bringing energy on the forecheck and getting under the skin of his opponents.
There were some questions about his offensive ability after scoring ten goals in 21 games on an unsustainable 26.3 shooting percentage with the Arizona Coyotes in 2020-21, but Bunting has followed it up nicely with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 30 games.
While the 26-year-old is not the player Hyman is, he has been able to step into a top line role at a fraction of the expense, costing the Leafs only per point.
Chandler Stephenson, Vegas - $83,333
Originally acquired from the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round pick, Stephenson went from a bottom-six forward to the Vegas top line with two all-star players in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
The 27-year-old signed a four-year $11 million dollar contract with Vegas in 2020 worth $2.75 million annually, a pretty good price for a centerman who can play on your top line -- and with 33 points, he sits near the top of the league's leaderboard.
There were some concerns over Stephenson’s ability to produce without his high-powered linemates. But he has proven he can still be an effective play driver with any wingers, as Vegas has outscored their opponents in the 212 even-strength minutes Stephenson has played apart from Stone and Pacioretty.
All salary cap figures courtesy of CapFriendly.