Top 10 Best Contracts of 2019-20
One of the biggest fantasy-related issues for the 2020-21 season is what is going to happen to the NHL's cap.
Many fantasy salary cap leagues are tied to the NHL cap. When the NHL cap moves up, so does the fantasy league's cap. Now there's been some talk of next year's NHL cap staying where it is, with some speculation it may actually go down. All of a sudden, a fantasy general manager may have to trade one of his elite superstars to get under his league's cap.
However, the fun part of cap leagues is finding those players who are extremely cost-efficient. After all, why pay $9 million for a player when you can get the same production for a fraction of the cost. Next year, it will be even more important to find those players.
This past season saw plenty of great cap hits that helped many fantasy general managers win their championships, with 10 of the best recorded below. For this list, we're not including players who are still on entry-level deals. We're also only looking at this season's cap hit to not exclude any free agents.
For those in cap leagues (and even for those who aren't), don't forget to follow Alex MacLean's Capped column that comes out every Thursday.
10. Bryan Rust
The top surprise of the 2019-20 season, Rust's $3.5 million annual cap hit for the next two years is a huge bargain. Pittsburgh has an excellent track record of finding supporting players to play on the top two lines, but Rust may wind up as the best of the bunch. He started this season off strong, and thanks to injuries to top players, was able to move up to a top-six role. He finished with 56 points in 55 games playing just under 20 minutes a game. With the lack of depth in Pittsburgh, he should have no trouble keeping that top-six role next season.
9. Kevin Fiala
In one of my cap leagues last year, I was offered Fiala in trade discussions, but it was a non-starter for me. I was worried about his output when he was dealt to Minnesota, where much-older veterans get much more playing time than younger players. At 23 years old, I figured Fiala would be relegated down the lineup. However, while his ice time (both even strength and power play) didn't change much, Fiala was very productive, finishing with almost a 70-point pace. He also notched 18 power-play points despite spending most of the season on the second unit. He still has one more year at a $3-million cap hit.
8. Ryan Strome
Strome's next contract will be very telling for his future as a fantasy asset. He made $3.2 million this season, and is a free agent whenever this season ends. This year, he had 59 points in 70 games (a 69-point pace), which is either surprising or disappointing, depending on where you stand. On one side, he greatly exceeded preseason expectations and rewarded patient fantasy general managers. On the downside, he spent all season with potential Hart trophy candidate Artemi Panarin (who was on pace for 113 points) and was on the top power-play unit, so some would think Strome should have been even more productive.
For the Flyers, Couturier is easily worth his annual cap hit of $4.33 million (which is signed until the end of 2021-22) because of his defensive play. For fantasy players, it's because of his consistency across the board. Here are Couturier's stats for the last three years, with this year's campaign pro-rated to 82 games.
2017-18: 31 goals, 76 points, 31 PIM, 225 shots, 30 PIM, 74 hits, 14 power-play points
2018-19: 33 goals, 76 points, 34 PIM, 223 shots, 34 PIM, 40 hits, 17 power-play points
2019-20: 26 goals, 70 points, 36 PIM, 220 shots, 36 PIM, 71 PIM, 15 power-play points
Except for the number of hits in 2018-19, you're looking at a steady stream of production.
If Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price have proven anything, it's that NHL teams shouldn't overpay for goaltending. The same holds for fantasy hockey. Why pay $9 million for a goalie when you can pay $4-$5 million and get close to the same production? Well, Vasilevskiy's contract jumps up to $9.5 million next season, which is too high for my liking, even for a 25-year-old who should be getting 40 wins a season. However, at his $3.5 million cap hit this season, he ha tremendous value.
How great is Scheifele's contract? He's one of only five players to average at least one point-per-game in each of the last four seasons (minimum of 50 games each season). The other four are Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Makin, Brad Marchand and Connor McDavid. Marchand makes the same amount as Scheifele ($6.125 million), but Kucherov and Malkin make $9.5 million each, and McDavid is at $12.5 million. Much like Couturier, Scheifele is also consistent, with a points-per-game range of 1 to 1.04 in each of the past four seasons. He's also signed for four more years at a pretty affordable contract.
Although he's a little bit older, Marchand's contract is slightly better than Scheifele because of the extras he brings to the table. Marchand picks up more assists, points, power-play points, shots, PIM, hits, plus/minus, short-handed goals and shorthanded points (for those who count those last two categories). Okay, so maybe Marchand's contract is more than slightly better with all those extras. Marchand is signed for five more seasons, and even at the age of 32, the contract is cheap enough that he wouldn't be an anchor on a team should his production fall off toward the end.
3. Roman Josi
I hoped you enjoyed Josi's cap hit this season, because it more than doubles next year. This year, his cap hit was $4 million, but that jumps to just over $9 million next year. The Norris-trophy frontrunner has produced more each season since 2016-17, going from 49 points to 65 this year (in only 69 games). His shots-per-game also increased, and he's still a beast in blocked shots and power-play points. He's definitely worth $9 million, but $4 million is almost a steal.
MacKinnon's contract is so low for what he produces that there has already been talk about what he might command when his contract expires three summers from now and whether the Avalanche could afford to keep him. The thinking is with a long-term, low-money deal ($6.3 million a year for seven years), he won't be willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the Avs when the contract is done at the end of 2022-23. This year was the third straight season he hit 90 points (Connor McDavid is the only other player than can make that claim), and was on pace for 111 points. He'll also probably be nominated once again for the Hart trophy.
Anytime you can get a 100-point-pace player that will also challenge for the goal-scoring trophy for less than $7 million is almost larceny. Pastrnak is signed for $6.67 million a year for the next three years, and will be due for a new contract when he's 27 years old. I shudder to think about how high that contract might be if he wins another goal-scoring trophy or two before then. This year, he became the first player since Steven Stamkos in 2009-10 to reach at least 40 goals, 95 points, 275 shots and 20 power-play goals in a season. If the year wasn't cancelled, he was on pace to be only the ninth player in league history to finish with a minimum of 55 goals, 110 points, 325 shots and 22 power-play goals.
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