5. Adam Pelech - 6 years, $5.75m AAV
Anyone who doesn't watch the Islanders much will probably think this contract is an overpayment. $5.75 million for a player with just 21 points in 61 games? That doesn't sound very good.
But if you regularly watch the team, you know just how good Adam Pelech is. He's the top shutdown guy you can depend on to put in 21-22 minutes per game against the opponents' best players. He kills penalties and is unbelievably good at preventing zone entries. Just for fun, here's a compilation from 2021 of him shutting down rush chances:
Advanced stats support what every Isles fan already knows: Pelech is really, really good. This season, when Pelech was on the ice at 5v5, the Islanders scored 54% of the goals and 53% of the expected goals, even though he started only 26.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone (compared to 35% in the neutral zone and 38.5% in the defensive zone).
His contract is relatively cheap, given how much value he provides. He scored more points per game than fellow shutdown defensemen Esa Lindell and Vladislav Gavrikov, as both make more money ($5.8m/year and $5.875m/year, respectively). Some other more expensive defensemen include Nate Schmidt, Jonas Brodin, and Tyler Myers. He makes just about $500,000/year more than Rasmus Ristolainen.
Of course, I'm cherry-picking a little. There are undoubtedly defensemen around Pelech's salary who are similarly good value, and I don't want to suggest that he's an absolute steal. But for what he brings to the table, Pelech's contract is pretty low. And at only 28 years old, it could be a steal to have him locked up long-term. He'll be 34 when this contract expires, meaning he'll be signed cheaply throughout his prime.