This top 10 list will feature perhaps not the most underrated, but definitely the most underpaid players in the National Hockey League today. We are always quick to look at undeserving NHLers making tones of cash, but today we will change course and take a look at those who deserve even more than what they are currently making. This list will not feature entry-level deals for rookies who get paid a minimum salary. Instead, this list will highlight players who have underrated contracts yet maintain high standards of production. It’s no secret that teams which create successful contracts are the ones with more depth and balance, as opposed to those with one or two superstars eating up large portions of cap space. These are the teams that tend to go all the way and play well into May and June. So without further ado, let’s begin this list of underpaid players.
10. Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks: 5 years/$20 million
This is one of those scary deals that will only get better and better for the Anaheim Ducks. The 23-year-old has found his way in Anaheim and is most certainly a “Bruce Boudreau” type player. Fowler leads his fellow defensemen in ice time on a nightly basis, plays the power play and none the least, can kill penalties. Fowler leads his team’s defense with 29 points and sits in 4th on the roster in points. Let us not forget, he will be joining team USA at the Olympics this year. This defenseman’s potential is currently through the roof and having him make $4 million for the next five years is an absolute steal in comparison to other defensemen in the National Hockey League. This contract will look more and more lopsided as the years pass.
9. Andrew Shaw – Chicago Blackhawks: 2 years/$4 million
Similarly to Cam Fowler, Andrew Shaw is beginning to make his mark in the NHL. His coming out party happened last year where he had a big hand in playing the pest role throughout the Hawks’ Stanley Cup run. This performance earned him a modest two-year, $4 million deal and he has done nothing but exceed expectations. Shaw is among the top five Blackhawks scorers and can provide energy in a checking-line role. In addition, this season we have also seen Shaw play on a line with skilled players such as Patrick Kane, providing a crucial net-front presence. Shaw has been a mainstay this season on the power play, playing the “Tomas Holmstrom” role and he’s also proved valuable on the penalty kill. This versatile forward can do it all; from playing the wing on a checking line to centering a line with Kane, Shaw has thus far been a steal for the Blackhawks at $2 million a season. Look for his value to dramatically increase in two years if his play continues to blossom.
8. Kyle Turris – Ottawa Senators: 5 years/$17.5 million
Getting out of the dessert in Phoenix was the best thing that could have happened to the young center, earning him a brand new contract at a modest $3.5 million a season. Finding a skilled two-way center at that price is no easy task. In the year that team captain Jason Spezza (who makes $7 million a year) has struggled, Turris has taken it upon himself to lead the way. He has developed terrific chemistry with the newly acquired Bobby Ryan and is currently 3rd behind Ryan and Karlsson for the lead in team points. At the young age of 24, Turris is beginning to hit his prime and will only continue to get better in the upcoming five years; this contract is an absolute steal in regards to what Turris has been able to do since being acquired by the Senators.
7. Mason Raymond – Toronto Maple Leafs: 1 year/$1 million
The Leafs, who are often criticized in regards to their contracts, cannot be criticized on the signing of Mason Raymond. Raymond is currently on pace to match his career year where he tallied 25 goals and 53 points. This year he already has 32 points, surpassing his production he had in the last two seasons. Raymond is currently 3rd on the team in points behind Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk; not bad for a player who made the team on a professional tryout. Nobody in the league, aside from the Leafs, was willing to give the speedy winger a chance, and he has flourished since getting his break in Toronto. Raymond’s $1 million deal is an absolute bargain for the production he has tallied so far this season.
6. Niklas Kronwall – Detroit Redwings: 7 years/$33.25 million
The post Nick Lidstrom era in Detroit relied heavily on the potential of Nik Kronwall to become the Red Wings’ mainstay on the back end. With a year full of injuries and youth entering the mix on a nightly basis, Niklas Kronwall has logged the most minutes by far and has managed to be a plus-7 while playing against their opponents’ best players. In addition, he has been contributing offensively with 29 points, which is good for fourth on the Wings overall. At $4.75 million a season, the Red Wings have gotten an absolute deal, a player who can change the game with a bone-crunching hit, while quarterbacking the 1st power play unit and being on the ice in all crucial situations on a nightly basis. Kronwall’s contributions go on and on and his contract certainly doesn’t fit the bill considering his capabilities. This contract is certainly one the Wings are most grateful for.
5. Nick Bonino – Anaheim Ducks: 3 years/$1.9 million
So, Nick Bonino is playing on Anaheim’s top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and is third in goals and points on one of the strongest teams in the NHL…. and oh yeah, he’s making $700,000 a season. Players with contracts like this one will give the Ducks the ability to be great for the next three years with tons of cap room. It will be scary to see what else Bonino can contribute to this team for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. This deal can end up being extremely beneficial for the Ducks if Bonino keeps up his high level of production.
4) Chris Kunitz – Pittsburgh Penguins: 3 years/$11.55 million
What a season for Chris Kunitz. A mainstay on a line with Sidney Crosby, Kunitz has also cashed in on a spot with team Canada where he is projected to play on a top line with Captain Sid. At $3.725 million a season, Kunitz has far surpassed the expectations of his contract; he is currently second on the team in goals and points behind only Crosby. Not to mention he leads the forwards with a whopping plus-22 rating, which is in the top three amongst NHL forwards. With already 24 goals and 50 points, Kunitz is two goals short of smashing his previous career high. The hard-working winger can only continue to surpass expectations this season, with an appearance at the Olympics and a potential long-lasting playoff run in the near future. This is a deal Pens fans are currently cherishing.
3. Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks: 13 years/$72 million
“Underrated” pretty much sums up Duncan Keith’s career. Like the great Nik Lidstrom, Keith has a very quiet way of going about his play on a nightly basis; this is because he doesn’t do much wrong. Already a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Keith seems to rise up higher and get better every season. He is currently second in the league in scoring among defensemen with 46 points (one point behind Erik Karlsson) with a plus-19 rating on the season. To add to these ample statistics, Keith was Team Canada’s most obvious pick on the back end and will certainly log a great amount of minutes in the tournament. Keith is having a Norris Trophy type of season and only looks to improve his performances year after year, making his 13-year contract, which yields $5.5 million per season, a steal and one of the best deals in the National Hockey League. If Keith were to hit free agency he would easily cash in up to $8 million a season making this deal a very precious one for the Chicago organization.
2. John Tavares New York Islanders: 6 years/$33 million
It is simply impossible in our current era to find a franchise player worth $5.5 million a season. John Tavares carries his team on his shoulders on a nightly basis, leading the way in goals, assists and points. Tavares also ranks second behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead in points. To cap it off, Tavares also earned a spot on the National team for the Olympics where he will be heavily relied on to be one of the leaders production wise. Tavares is on pace for his first 100-point season and is set to smash his previous career totals. It looks as though he’s hitting his peak year after year and thus making this contract one of the most undervalued for the next four and a half seasons. Expect a dramatic pay increase in the neighbourhood of $8 million and upwards when his contract runs out.
1. P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadiens: 2 years/$5.75 million
When it comes down to it, no one in the NHL has come close to the value of P.K. Subban in the last two seasons at the bargain-bin rate of $2.875 million per season. P.K. led the Habs into the post season last year, tying his career high numbers in only 42 games. In this span, he managed to collect 11 goals and totalled 38 points. To cap off his tremendous season, P.K. won his first ever Norris trophy and has also recently earned a spot among Canada’s best at the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Subban is enjoying success as well in this present season; he is currently in the top five in points amongst defensemen. He is scheduled to get a massive pay increase at the end of this season, but give P.K. credit for the level of play he executed at just under $3 million a season.