As the free agency dust settles, rosters are starting to solidify for the 2018-19 season. It's never too early to look ahead -- but in this case, we're reflecting on past moves of GMs.
We analyzed the rosters of all 31 teams and picked out the best contract on every one. For each decision, we considered age, trajectory, market value and term. We're also not including entry-level contracts for players like Auston Matthews and Mathew Barzal, because those are among the most team-friendly deals in all of professional sports.
Scroll through the list alphabetically, or jump ahead to your team:
Salary cap figures are courtesy of Cap Friendly.
Rickard Rakell, 25, RW
$3.78 million cap hit through 2021-22 season
When we think of the Ducks, we think of their aging core. Sneakily, Rakell has emerged as Anaheim's most dangerous scoring threat. And he's only 25. The Swede's salary at less than $4 million a year is a ridiculous bargain, considering he has put up 30-plus goals in back-to-back seasons (the only Duck to do so in that span).
Antti Raanta, 29, G
$4.25 million cap hit through 2020-21
The Coyotes made several strong moves this offseason, but if they're going to have any chance at a winning record in 2018-19 (and likely beyond), the key is Raanta. Arizona had a strong second half last season, allowing the league's fourth-fewest goals from February on -- which coincided with Raatna's return to form after injury. Next season he carries the 21st-highest cap hit among NHL goalies; Raanta has played far above that mark.
Brad Marchand, 30, LW
$6.125 million cap hit through 2024-25
Yes, he's a tongue-happy agitator, but Marchand is also one of the most skilled forwards in the league. Since debuting in 2010-11, his 226 goals rank third among left wingers, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn. The term here is a win for the Bruins. Honorable mention to Torey Krug, whose $5.25 million is incredibly reasonable, though the 27-year-old D-man has just three more years on the deal.
Rasmus Ristolainen, 23, D
$5.4 million cap hit through 2021-22
The Sabres have asked Ristolainen to shoulder insane responsibility -- he led the team with 26:30 in average ice time last season, more than three minutes more than any other defenseman on the team -- and locked him in at a budget-friendly rate. Ristolainen will continue to man the top pairing until No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is seasoned enough to join him. (That shouldn't take too long).
Sean Monahan, 23, C
$6.38 million cap hit through 2022-23
The Calgary Flames have a young, exciting core, and really, we could have picked either one of their two top-line centerpieces (the other being Johnny Gaudreau) as the reason for why the Flames are set up to win soon. Both players would be due big paydays if they weren't already locked in. Monahan's term is a year longer, and his cap hit is a tad cheaper than Gaudreau's. Plus, it's difficult to get an elite top-line center at this price; perhaps the only comparable is Mark Scheifele in Winnipeg.
Jaccob Slavin, 24, D
$5.3 million cap hit through 2024-25
A shade over $5 million per year for a No. 1 defenseman? That's money well spent. Slavin is just 24, and he led the Canes in ice time last season (22:35) and is trending up. Slavin gets a slight edge over his top-pairing partner Justin Faulk, who comes in at $4.83 million -- but is under contract only through 2019-20.
Duncan Keith, 34, D
$5,538,462 cap hit through 2022-23
No, Keith is not what he once was. But he's closer to peak Keith than a shell of Keith. He has proved pretty durable and isn't regressing at the same pace as the D-man he's often linked with, Brent Seabrook. In fact, Keith is probably still a top-pairing defenseman on at least half of the league's teams. With that cap hit, he remains a good deal.
Nathan MacKinnon, 22, C
$6.3 million cap hit through 2022-23
Narrowly finishing as the runner-up for the Hart Trophy this past season, MacKinnon is trending up. Then again, GM Joe Sakic always knew his No. 1 pick was the real deal (MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy, after all) and locked him up for the long haul when he had the chance. MacKinnon has been in the league for so long that it's easy to forget he's only 22.
Seth Jones, 23, D
$5.4 million cap hit through 2021-22
This might be one of the best bargains in the league. At 23, Jones is already a top-10 defenseman in the league, and he's locked in for the next four seasons at a discount rate. It might be awkward when Columbus' other young elite D-man, Zach Werenski, surpasses Jones in salary (Werenski's entry-level contract expires next summer), but that's just business.
John Klingberg, 25, D
$4.25 million cap hit through 2021-22
Klingberg's stellar first half had the young defenseman leading the Norris Trophy conversation. That graduated Klingberg from one of the best-kept secrets in the league to mainstream status. The Stars were well ahead of the curve here, which has put them in a favorable cap situation -- allowing for a few free-agency mistakes, the big contract to Jamie Benn and impending payday for Tyler Seguin.
Jonathan Bernier, 29, G
$3 million cap hit through 2020-21
It's hard to find gem contracts on this roster, which was saddled by too many bloated deals that it is now trying to unload for future success. That said, Ken Holland has done a good job of correcting past mistakes. We like the contract of Jonathan Bernier a lot, especially if he proves to be a worthy successor to Jimmy Howard.
Oscar Klefbom, 24, D
$4.167 million cap hit through 2022-23
He's just 24 and has already shown flashes of being a true No. 1 defenseman -- something the Oilers haven't had since Sheldon Souray. Klefbom still has some growing to do, but at the very least he projects as a true top-four guy. Good job by Peter Chiarelli in getting term here. With the rising salary cap, having a top-four D-man at this rate four years from now will be a bargain.
Aleksander Barkov, 22, C
$5.9 million cap hit through 2021-22
Did you watch any of Barkov last season? Enough said. At only 22, he has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the game, a title he's been able to complement with slick skill (and we're not just talking about his shootout moves). Barkov's cost control through 2021-22 allows the Panthers to not think twice about adding a medium-sized contract (like Mike Hoffman's) via trade.
Jake Muzzin, 29, D
$4 million cap hit through 2019-20
Muzzin has been a mainstay for the Kings for some time, but his age-28 season was perhaps his best in Los Angeles. That shows this contract -- with an extremely reasonable cap hit -- is aging well. Muzzin is valuable for his play in all situations; he's an important cog as the Kings rev up for their all-in window.
Eric Staal, C, 33
$3.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
This is the rare best-case scenario for a team hunting for a big-name free agent. Staal was underwhelming at the end of his tenure in Carolina and his brief stay in New York. So the Wild got a good deal by inking him to a $3.5 million cap hit. What has Staal done since then? Score 70 goals and 71 assists for 141 points in 164 regular-season games.
Max Pacioretty, 29, LW
$4.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
This one is too easy. From almost the moment Pacioretty signed this contract, it was viewed as one of the best bargains in the league. Pacioretty's relationship with the Habs has soured, and being underpaid for so long has him looking for a trade -- and to be overcompensated on his next contract. The runner-up is Montreal's points leader from 2017-18, Brendan Gallagher, who has a $3.75 million cap hit through 2020-21.
Roman Josi, 28, D
$4 million cap hit through 2019-20
There are plenty of good contracts on the books for Nashville. GM David Poile commits a lot of money, but also navigates value (hello, just over $10 million combined for two top-line wingers in Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson). While Mattias Ekholm could have been an option here because of his term (he'll make less than $4 million for the next four seasons) the edge has to go to the Preds' wildly underpaid captain.
Taylor Hall, 26, LW
$6 million cap hit through 2019-20
The only problem the Devils have with Hall's contract is that it's only for the next two seasons. Otherwise, how can you complain about having a Hart Trophy winner about $2 million under his market value? New Jersey has to do everything in its power to extend Hall when it's time -- but they'll have to pay quite a bit more than $6 million per year.
Robin Lehner, 26, G
$1.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
Think we're joking about this one? Peruse the Islanders' Cap Friendly page for a few minutes. You'll see there's a lot not to like. The best returning forwards, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee, have relatively good deals, but they expire next summer and who knows how they'll fare in a post-John Tavares world. At least Lehner has potential, is cheap, and will not saddle the Islanders with any long-term bad commitments.
Mika Zibanejad, 25, C
$5.35 million through 2021-22
The Rangers are a team in transition. Zibanejad has been suggested as trade bait, considering New York might bring in a haul for their 2017-18 leading scorer. But the center's age (25), potential and contract are so attractive, the Rangers should look at Zibanejad as a player who could bridge them back into the realm of winners.
Erik Karlsson, 28, D
$6.5 million cap hit through 2018-19
The captain isn't on this list only because there aren't any other good contracts in Ottawa (though we will admit, it is slim pickings). Rather, the Senators had a steal with the league's pre-eminent puck-moving defenseman. Two Norris Trophies later, it appears this contract will be Karlsson's last in Ottawa.
Shayne Gostisbehere, 25, D
$4.5 million cap hit through 2022-23
Ron Hextall has done a lot of good work lately, but inking Gostisbehere to this contract last summer might have been one of the GM's finest moves. The 25-year-old defenseman is a building block of the next Flyers core (many of those players are still developing in the minors). With 150 points in his first three seasons, it feels like Gostisbehere is still realizing his potential; even if this is as good as he gets, the cheap cap hit will age well.
Sidney Crosby, 30, C
$8.7 million cap hit through 2024-25
Is it cheating to pick the team's obvious best player? Not when he signed for well under market value to allow his team flexibility to win. Crosby's willingness to take at least $2.5 million below what he deserves allows Pittsburgh to afford Evgeni Malkin as the league's top No. 2 center ($9.5 million cap hit) and other expensive complements such as Phil Kessel ($6.8 million) and Patric Hornqvist ($5.3 million).
Joe Thornton, 39, C
$5 million cap hit through 2018-19
Thornton is happy to take bargains as long as it helps out the team. He was willing to take less if the Sharks could re-sign Patrick Marleau last summer, and would have done the same if they had snagged John Tavares. Nonetheless, if Thornton is healthy to begin the season (San Jose insists he will be) there's no way this isn't a steal for a player who can still deliver the goods as an elite playmaker. By going on a year-by-year basis, the Sharks don't have to be stuck with a contract into Thornton's 40s.
Brayden Schenn, 26, C
$5.125 million cap hit through 2019-20
The Blues have made made so many upgrades this summer, it's easy to forget who propelled them in 2017-18. Schenn had an excellent debut season with St. Louis (28 goals, 42 assists) while playing up on the first line. Whether he stays with Vladimir Tarasenko next season or slides down to the second line, Schenn is well-priced in either slot.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, 23, G
$3.5 million cap hit through 2020-21
In 2017-18, 28 goaltenders were paid more than Vasilevskiy -- who only put together a stellar campaign which concluded with a Vezina nomination. Yes, the cost is a function of his age and relative inexperience, but let's remember he has won at every level and was an elite, prized prospect for the Lightning. It's why GM Steve Yzerman was unapologetic about parting ways with Ben Bishop, whose cap hit is an extra $1.5 million over the duration of Vasilevskiy's deal. Tampa Bay's goalie will need a raise eventually, but for now his contract is extremely palatable and gives his GM flexibility to lock in Ryan McDonagh and Nikita Kucherov this summer -- and still figure out a way to potentially squeeze Erik Karlsson in.
Morgan Rielly, 24, D
$5 million cap hit through 2021-22
On a team bursting with offensive talent and a bit barren on defense, Rielly is not one of the Maple Leafs' short-term -- or long-term -- concerns. He's a steady, young D-man who can profile easily on a No. 1 pairing. That Rielly is locked in, affordably, for the next four seasons will make it easier for GM Kyle Dubas to pay Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews -- or perhaps add some veteran help on the blue line.
Bo Horvat, C, 23
$5.5 million cap hit through 2022-23
He scored a career-high 22 goals last season, despite missing 22 games to injury. Horvat figures to be an important piece in the Canucks' future -- especially as he develops chemistry with skilled winger Brock Boeser. If Horvat continues to develop into a legitimate No. 1 center, this cap hit and term can't be beat.
Jonathan Marchessault, 27, C
$5 million cap hit through 2023-24
Marchessault will always be a fascinating case study as he was the first Golden Knights regular to ink an extension. The plucky forward epitomizes everything Vegas was about in its inaugural season: talented players who just needed a home (and bigger stage). One person not happy about Marchessault's team-friendly $5 million cap hit? Linemate William Karlsson, who is also in the market for a contract extension this summer.
Nicklas Backstrom, 30, C
$6.7 million cap hit through 2019-2020
Backstrom and the Capitals committed to each other long-term in 2010. As the landscape changed around them, this deal looks better and better -- for the Capitals. If Backstrom wasn't on a discount, would the Capitals have been able to afford extensions to Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, T.J. Oshie or John Carlson? Maybe some in that group; probably not all four.
Mark Scheifele, 25, C
$6.125 million cap hit through 2023-24
After a coming-out party during the Jets' 2018 playoff run, it's clear just how valuable Winnipeg's No. 1 center is to their long-term success. As GM Kevin Cheveldayoff spends the summer navigating his plethora of restricted free agents while balancing a potential extension for Patrik Laine, he can rest easy knowing Scheifele is taken care of for another six (!) seasons at tremendous value.