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NHL's Most "Valuable" Players: Several Dallas Stars Among League's Best

With Michael Ryder riding a nice little hot streak at the moment and nipping at the heels of 30 goals, Dallas Stars fans have been almost unanimous in their praise of the two-year, $3.5 million-per-season contract he signed last summer.

That begs the obvious question - has he produced the most of any player for the money of last year's free agent class?

Thanks to the excellent website Bang4YourPuck, we can now tell you he's not quite the top player of that class. That honor goes to Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins who, before Thursday's games, had 40 points on a $1.5 million cap hit for an average of $37,500 a point.

To see how it breaks down for Michael Ryder and the Stars, how they compare to the rest of the league and a look at why that's a tribute to Joe after the jump.

But Ryder's cost-per-point of $68,627 is among the best of the prolific goal scorers in the Western Conference. Of players with at least 25 goals, only Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes, Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers (who is a special case because he is still on his entry-level contract) and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks have better points-per-dollar ratios.

In fact, only six players in the Eastern Conference meet the criteria of at least 25 goals and a ratio of less than $70,000 per point - Max Pacioretty, Matt Moulson, John Tavares, James Neal, Joffrey Lupul and Evander Kane.

But it doesn't just stop at Ryder. The Stars roster is full of players with a high return on investment ratio, if you will, one of the reasons they've been able to hold their own as a salary floor team.

Here's the full Stars breakdown from Bang4YourPuck, with the numbers from before yesterday's 4-3 shootout win over the Sharks.

Player Salary Goals Assists Points Salary
Ja. Benn $821,700 19 33 52 $15,802
Wandell $775,000 6 9 15 $51,667
Ryder $3,500,000 28 23 51 $68,627
Eriksson $4,250,000 23 38 61 $69,672
Nystrom $1,400,000 16 4 20 $70,000
Goligoski $1,833,300 8 18 26 $70,512
Dvorak $1,500,000 4 17 21 $71,875
Burish $1,150,000 6 10 16 $71,875
Souray $1,650,000 6 14 20 $82,500
Ott $2,950,000 10 23 33 $89,394
Fiddler $1,800,000 7 13 20 $90,000
Ribeiro $5,000,000 16 36 52 $96,154
Vincour $800,000 3 4 7 $114,286
Larsen $850,000 1 6 7 $121,429
Daley $3,300,000 4 19 23 $143,478
Petersen $775,000 2 3 5 $155,000
Dowell $800,000 1 4 5 $160,000
Robidas $3,300,000 5 15 20 $165,000
Morrow $4,100,000 8 14 22 $186,364
Jo. Benn $550,000 0 1 1 $550,000
Garbutt $590,000 1 0 1 $590,000
Fistric $1,000,000 0 1 1 $1,000,000
Pardy $2,000,000 0 1 1 $2,000,000

Now, there are a couple of shortcomings to this methodology, the most notable that it doesn't take into account games played. Players who have limited stints in the NHL like Jordie Benn or are injured for long stretches like Brenden Morrow don't have the same opportunity to pick up points as their healthy or full-time NHL comrades. And because the salaries are so large, the best way to have a really good ratio is to have a small salary rather than a great scoring line.

That said, it is a set of very interesting numbers.

The top of the list is no surprise. Jamie Benn is incredibly cheap at this point in his career because he's on the third year of his entry-level contract. Combine that with the way he produces points, and you get his ridiculous number. In fact, he has the best points-per-dollar ratio in the entire league, a title he's been going back and forth with Frans Nielsen for all season.

And happily for Dallas, all the Stars top forwards, at least those who have been healthy all season, are in the top half of this list, led by the really strong showings from Ryder and Loui Eriksson. Of players who earn between $3 million and $5 million, Ryder and Eriksson are 13th and 15th in the league, respectively, in points per dollar ratio, sandwiching ageless wonder Teemu Selanne.

Even Ribeiro, who is 12th on the Stars list, is 10th in the league among all players who make at least $5 million, ahead of players like Zach Parise, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk.

The return on the dollar is an incredibly important factor for the Stars this year, who put together this season's roster on a budget set by the banks and had to acquire Eric Nystrom just to meet the salary cap floor at one point. The players at the top of the list are a combination of shrewd extensions, like the Eriksson and Ribeiro deals, and free-agent signings like Ryder and Sheldon Souray, as well as some draft picks made good.

For the record, since I know people are curious, Brad Richards currently has a $148,149-per-point ratio. Jeff Woywitka is at $108,333 with seven points this season on a $650,000 cap hit.

Going back to the current team, the biggest credit to the Stars is when you look at the teams around them in the standings.

For comparison, the Stars have 11 players with a ratio of at least $100,000 per point, only one of whom would be considered an integral part of the offense when healthy. The St. Louis Blues have 17 players at $100,000 or more. The Detroit Red Wings have 12, but two of those (Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) are huge parts of the offense. The San Jose Sharks have 14, including Ryane Clowe, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and the Los Angeles Kings have 20, including 11 with ratios of at least $200,000. The cash-strapped Coyotes have 15. Heck, the hapless (though currently very helpful) Columbus Blue Jackets have 21.

The Stars couldn't afford to do that this year, and thanks to some shrewd contract management and players who have performed well above the levels of their current contracts, they've been able to succeed despite the financial hamstringing put on them at the beginning of the season.