It's a salary cap era in the new NHL. New NHL? Counting by lockouts, this would be at least the third "new" NHL. Of course, as the history books will be written, the largest change was in 2005, when the NHL instituted the salary cap. A limit by which rich teams cannot spend more money on payroll than other teams who do not bring in the same amount of revenue. The cap is supposed to be a way to limit teams, by handcuffing them at a fixed payroll, thus leveling the playing field. No longer can teams like the New York Rangers, of the early 2000's, spend mad money, even though those teams inevitably failed to produce.
So what happens when teams have no cap? It really only happens once every four years, and on a national stage no less. The Olympics allow National teams to handpick their players from all over the planet and make the best team they see possible without restriction to how much money a player makes, in whatever league he plays in.
Sounds like a lot of fun, right? It is. Fans across the world get together, months before the games, to pick their teams and discuss ideas with their friends the same way the general managers of the teams do. The GMs, however, actually have tough decisions to make while fans can argue over who the thirteenth forward will be all night and day if they'd like. The freedom to choose whoever they want must be a luxury to these general managers who are usually in fear of surpassing the dreaded cap. What if there were a cap on the Olympic rosters, however? Who are the players that would make a great value to their team at these winter Olympics in Sochi? What players, when put together would give you gold medal aspirations, all the while not costing the GM a truckload of money, not that they have to pay them anyway.
The All-Value Team will comprise of one player at each starting position. A center who can dish and likely bury a few, two wingers who will play both ends of the rink while putting up numbers, two defenseman who can do it all and a goalie who will just have to stand and look pretty because of what is in front of him. Surely he will have to make one or two key saves in a critical situation.
6 Jaroslav Halak, G, St. Louis Blues, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $3.75 Million
Starting from the crease out seems like a great way to go. Much to the chagrin of every Hab fan around the world, the most cost effective goalie in the Olympic tournament would have to be Jaroslav Halak. as the goalie for the Slovakian national team does not cost the St. Louis blues very much on the cap. At a very low cap hit of $3.75 million, Halak has a .915 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average. Sure he plays behind the rock solid defense of the Blues, who smother you to death and try their very hardest to win games 1-0, but that is not Halak's fault. Ask Montreal Canadiens fans and they will likely tell you that Halak is in fact a great goaltender, who can steal a game. Do not ask them to compare him to Carey Price though! To compare the two, for the sake of this article, Price has a 2.33 goals against and .925 save percentage. Slightly better numbers for the man who may tend Canada's net, however, he costs the Montreal Canadiens almost double what Halak costs the Blues. Therefore, bang for the buck in nets is obvious, Halak is the answer. Competing against the likes of big money goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick and Carey Price, Halak takes the edge from a value aspect. Again, take the team he plays for into consideration, but welcome aboard, Mr. Halak.
5 Olli Määttä, D. Pittsburgh Penguins, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $894,167
So, since Halak cannot do it himself, like he basically did in the 2010 playoffs, the All-Value Team is going to need defense. The stay at home type are attractive for an exercise like this because the flashy defensemen make all the cash on the blue-line most of the time. As valuable as those defensemen are, the ones who can do both are really ones that would be worth your hard earned money. The first of the two defenceman hails from Finland and is very capable of putting up points when he can pinch in. At only 19 years of age, Olli Määttä is also a very impressive +12. Dan Bylsma is certainly not afraid to put him out on the ice, as he is averaging about 20 minutes per game. With 23 points on the season so far, he will not stagger anyone with his offensive numbers, but still has a solid offensive upside. His cap hit however is what really pushed him onto our All-Value Team. The Pittsburgh Penguins only have to pay this young man $894,167 this year. With those numbers, that is value you can take to the bank. Lace up those skates Mr. Maatta, your teammates are already on the ice.
4 P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $2.85 Million
The second defenseman is a little more brash, a little more out there, has a lot more offensive upside and will likely be a key cog in controlling the game from the point. Thanks to a bridge contract, Marc Bergevin is only paying P.K. Subban $2.85 million this season. That opens up the eyes of our All-Value Team to wide proportions. With 39 points this year, he is third in the NHL in points among defensemen, after only Erik Karlsson and Alex Pietrangelo, both of whom make three times as much money. PK Subban is one of those players that every team wants and every team hates to play against. By that logic, if you can have him, you take him.
The price is definitely right for this collection of pure value, so the choice is obvious. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is also the type of player who elevates his game depending on the importance of the game. He cut his teeth with the Canadiens in the midst of a playoff run. He played on the world stage at the World Junior Championships, en route to a gold medal. He does not fear the pressure, and at that price, you can buy a few cool cucumbers but not many can do what PK does on the ice. The downside here is that his plus/minus is only +6, but with Maatta backing him up, our All-Value Team is stacked on the blue-line. No more time to fool around, Mr. Subban, here is your team All-Value Team jersey.
3 Jaromir Jagr, RW, New Jersey Devils, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $2 Million
With those two defensemen, who even needs forwards? OK, the All-Value team does. So what collection of underpaid forwards can push themselves into the top spots on this team?
On the right wing, a veteran hailing from the Czech Republic has won a few Stanley Cups as well as some scoring titles. What more can you ask for? Jaromir Jagr, who is over 40 years of age, is having one heck of a season for the offensively challenged New Jersey Devils. The man is ageless and is currently 26th in league scoring with 49 points. He has more points than many of his younger Olympic counterparts and costs the Devils only $2 million on the cap. That is not a lot of money when you compare him to other right wingers like Marian Hossa, who is having a fairly better year, but is getting paid $5.2 million. Corey Perry, who is also a right winger, is charging the Ducks $8.6 million to have him play for them this season. Yes, he is having a great year, but still only has 11 more points than Jagr. Jaromir Jagr has frozen time and will attempt to take this Olympics by storm and lead the Czech's to a medal. Our All-Value Team would surely save Mr. Jagr's spot on the right wing. He has earned it after all, not only due to his longevity, but due to the fact that even when facing off with men almost half his age, he is not phased, he just flashes those vintage hands, puts the puck in the net, gives a salute and makes fans long for the long haired mullet that ruled the rink almost twenty years ago. Welcome to the team Mr. Jagr, right this way to the locker room.
2 Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $925,000
As Jaromir Jagr will surely get caught up ice on a few long shifts that he tends to take, the All-Value Team will need some speed and youth to cover the other side of the rink. His left winger, would have to be a youthful star who can move up and down the ice with ease, as well as put some points on the board when he gets the puck. The answer to that magic formula comes in the form of the 21 year old, Swedish born Gabriel Landeskog. This youthful left winger is everything you want a hockey player to be. Responsible in his own end, with a very impressive +16 rating while playing top line minutes in a very tough Western Conference, and Landeskog also has 48 points which puts him at 30th in league scoring. Doing that at 21 years old is impressive, but doing that in the Western Conference with a team that is not Anaheim, St Louis, or Chicago is near impossible. We simply cannot debate his numbers, as they are incredible. The kicker about Landeskog is his cap hit, as the Colorado Avalanche are paying this star in the making a measly $925,000. He looks so unassuming but he is the captain of the Avalanche for a reason. This was not an easy roster to crack as Chris Kunitz was in the running for this spot on left wing, because at $3 million dollars, Kunitz and his 55 points are a steal. Still not as much of a steal as Landeskog at less than 1 million. I just saw Mr. Jagr go down the hall, Mr. Landeskog, the dressing room is on your left.
1 Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose Sharks, 2013/2014 Cap Hit: $4 Million
The most important position in hockey? Center? Teams who are strong down the middle usually do well. Big men who can dish it, score and make it tough to play against your team are the guys you want playing center, for any hockey team. Centers are not cheap in the NHL ranks and our All-Value team likes cheap. The center who broke free from the pack and gave the GMs of our All-Value Team no choice was born in Plover, WI in the good old U.S.A. and plays for the San Jose Sharks. Joe Pavelski is one of those guys who is just money in the playoffs, when other guys on his team that play center who were traded from Boston (not naming names) go missing. Though he is not an overbearing presence at only 5'11", Pavelski knows how to get the job done. He already has 29 goals this season and 54 points, which has him sitting at 20th in league scoring. He is a +14, on a very good Sharks team mind you, but it still indicates that he is not a defensive liability. His cap hit for the Sharks is a friendly $4 million. The highest paid player on any team is usually a center, and it's no different for our team. His stats put him in the ranks of Toews and Crosby, while he is paid less than half of what they are making. He has the same +/- numbers as Evgeni Malkin, while even having 10 more goals. His game breaking ability is what makes him really attractive to the team, as well as his puny salary. Don't let the money get to your head on this team Mr. Pavelski, all these men are in line for a raise soon.