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Bargain players

Cam Ward has a 2.42 GAA and .926 SP to start this season. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Cam Ward has a 2.42 GAA and .926 SP to start this season. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

With Atlanta’s signing of former waiver-wire castoff and current super-bargain center Rich Peverley to a contract extension Tuesday, we got to debating some of the NHL’s other best bargains. That debate has become the basis for this week’s THN.com Top 10.

A few guidelines to keep in mind: These are the NHL’s best bargains right now, based on statistical evidence and our opinion of players’ worth to their teams. The numbers mentioned are salary cap hits according to capgeek.com, not actual salaries for the season. We have also excluded entry level contracts. And there can only be one listed member per team; one-third of the league’s teams are represented.

10. Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville, $725,000
A starting goalie costing less than $1 million, Rinne was a revelation last season, finishing sixth in GAA and 10th in save percentage. He’s off to a tough start this season, but is still one of the league’s better bargains in this, the final year of his contract.

9. Stephane Robidas, D, Dallas, $1.5 million
Another candidate for Canada’s blueline (if a long shot), Robidas is leading the Stars defensemen in every major statistical category other than time on ice. He’s the straw that stirs the Dallas D-corps.

8. Jonas Hiller, G, Anaheim, $1.3 million
Any time your No. 1 goalie costs less than a million-and-a-half bucks, you’re laughing (although any hilarity is tempered by a $6-million backup). Hiller is eighth among goalies who have played at least five games with a .921 save percentage and is 10th in goals-against average for the struggling Ducks.

7. Ian White, D, Toronto, $850,000
The diminutive defender has been the Leafs’ best player so far this season. White is the Rodney Dangerfield of Toronto. Last year he was a healthy scratch for basically the first month of the season before landing a spot in Toronto’s top-four. This year in training camp he was again the forgotten man until his steady play could no longer be ignored. He’s the Leafs’ only plus-defenseman.

6. Matt Moulson, LW, NY Islanders, $575,000
When your leading scorer costs less than $600,000, you’re doing well. Moulson, 25, is a journeyman pro who has scored well in the American League, but has found early chemistry with phenom John Tavares; a summer of training sessions with JT surely didn't hurt.

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5. Alex Goligoski, D, Pittsburgh, $1.833 million
Tied for sixth in the league among defensemen with seven points, Goligoski is also tied for second overall in plus-minus at plus-9. Most pundits were worried the 24-year-old would be a defensive liability, but that’s not the case so far and he’s playing 21-plus minutes per game.

4. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago, $1.475 million
No discussion of the league’s best bargains can exclude Keith, a two-way monster who leads his team in ice time and is a virtual lock for Team Canada in Vancouver. Look for him to be earning something closer to $6 million next season.

3. Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver, $1.75 million
Kesler is team captain material. The versatile winger/center has morphed into an offensive threat and one of the best shutdown forwards in the league. Kesler will play a huge role with Team USA at the Olympics and will be due for a huge raise prior to next season.

2. Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey, $3.125 million
Third in goals scored (45), fifth in points (94) and eighth in plus-minus (plus-30) last season, Parise is at it again in 2009-10. The go-to offensive guy for the U.S. Olympic team is on a point-per-game pace while playing nearly 20 minutes per game for the defensive-minded, Jacques Lemaire-led Devils. 

1. Cam Ward, G, Carolina, $2.6 million
Ward is adding to an already great case to be one of Canada’s three Olympic netminders by keeping the offensively challenged Hurricanes in it during the early going. Ward has started every game for his team and has amassed a 2.42 GAA and .926 save percentage, while turning away the seventh-most shots in the league.

The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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