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A look at the NHL players bringing the greatest value to their team

Which NHL teams are reaping the benefits of value-signings through the first quarter of the season?

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

In a salary cap era, general managers need to find top talent that will allow their team to challenge for the Stanley Cup while also being mindful of the limited funds they have available to create their rosters.

Some players can satisfy both of those demands, offering productive minutes for just a small portion of the team's budget.  Below are the top ten players this season in terms of salary cost per point, in descending order.

Lee Stempniak

Salary: $850 000 | Scoring line: 4-12—16 | Cost per point: $53 125

Stempniak has bounced around the league recently, playing for four different teams the last two years. He was signed to a professional tryout contract by the New Jersey Devils in the off-season, and impressed Ray Shero enough to get a one-year deal with the team.  Stempniak has responded with 16 points in 21 games, and is on pace for a career year.

Anthony Duclair

Salary: $742 500 | Scoring line: 8-6—14 | Cost per point: $53 071

Duclair is in his second NHL season after seeing action in 18 games with the New York Rangers last season before a deadline trade for Keith Yandle sent him west.  He has already doubled his production through the first quarter of the 2015-16 season.

Max Domi

Salary: $925 000 | Scoring line: 8-10—18 | Cost per point: $51 389

Duclair's linemate, Domi is off to an even better start is his first season in the NHL, tied for the Arizona Coyotes' team lead in points, and sits 46th overall in the league scoring ranks.  Arizona allowed Domi to continue his development with the OHL's London Knights, meaning that Domi is just starting the first of three years of an entry-level contract.  Thanks to the slide rules of ELCs, now that the Coyotes have paid Domi all of his signing bonuses, his contract will be even more economical over the final two seasons of his rookie deal.

Tomas Fleischmann

Salary: $750 000 | Scoring line: 7-8—15 | Cost per point: $50 000

Fleischmann USA TODAY
Photo credit: Jean-Yves Ahern / USA TODAY Sports

Like Stempniak, Fleischmann parlayed a PTO into a one-year contract. Coming off a four-year deal that had an annual price tag of $4.5 million, every team passed on him during the opening months of free agency, until he was invited to join the Montreal Canadiens to show what he could contribute to a team with its eye on a Stanley Cup.

Fleischmann impressed enough to be given a contract, and was willing to take a significant pay cut to join the club.  He found an instant role on an offensively-oriented line, and has become a key part of a Montreal Canadiens team that sits in first place in the NHL.

Boone Jenner

Salary: $775 000 | Scoring line: 11-5—16 | Cost per point: $48 438

Jenner's ELC ends after this season, and the 22-year-old will be looking for a raise before 2016-17 rolls around.  This season, however, he is providing some of the best value in the league for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Johnny Gaudreau

Salary: $925 000 | Scoring line: 5-15—20 | Cost per point: $46 250

Another player in line for a big payday at season's end, Gaudreau leads the Calgary Flames in scoring, with a five-point lead on the second-highest point-getter, and is currently ranked 25th in the scoring race.  One of the few bright spots on his second-to-last-place team, the offensive burden will be carried by Gaudreau's tiny frame this season.

Vincent Trocheck

Salary: $600 000 | Scoring line: 7-6—13 | Cost per point: $46 154

There is a bit of a trend with this list, as Trocheck is another player approaching the transition from inexpensive rookie years to the more lucrative contracts that come once a player has proven he can help a team win at the NHL level. While he won't command as much as the offensively-gifted Gaudreau, his new deal will assuredly require a larger piece of the Florida Panthers organization's pie.

Oscar Lindberg

Salary: $600 000 | Scoring line: 7-7—14 | Cost per point: $42 857

The only player in the top ten who is neither on an entry-level deal nor playing on a one-year contract won through playing the pre-season on a tryout basis, Oscar Lindberg has taken a slow-but-steady journey to becoming an NHL player, staying in his hometown to play with Skellefteå of the SHL for three seasons after he was drafted before coming the North America to develop in the AHL for the previous two seasons.  Now 24, Lindberg appears ready for a full-time spot in hockey's top league, and he gives the Rangers a inexpensive option to fill one of their forward spots for the next two seasons.

Nathan MacKinnon

Salary: $925 000 | Scoring line: 10-13—23 | Cost per point: $40 217

Already with a 60-point season under his belt from his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season, MacKinnon is recovering what was a poor year offensive year last season with the Colorado Avalanche.  A point-per-game scorer this season, and ranking 11th in overall scoring, MacKinnon is also approaching restricted free agency when his contract expires at the end of the season, and you can expect him to receive a contract more in line with his status as one of the NHL's top offensive stars.

Artemi Panarin

Salary: $700 000 | Scoring line: 7-16—23 | Cost per point: $30 435

One spot behind MacKinnon in the Art Ross race, Artemi Panarin was signed to an entry-level contract after playing two great seasons in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg.  The cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks took a low-risk chance on an undrafted player, and are gleaning the benefits of a low-salary two-year contract.

The caution showed by the Blackhawks due to the "Russian factor" may end up biting them on this deal, however, as they included $2.575 million worth of performance bonuses in the deal.  On pace for 85 points, Panarin could very likely reach the majority of those bonuses, turning what initially looks like a great deal for a team with just pennies to work with under the salary cap into a significant expenditure by season's end