3. Hudson Fasching - 2 years, $775k AAV
Raise your hand if you'd never heard of Hudson Fasching before this season. I certainly hadn't.
During five NHL seasons before this year, Hudson Fasching played a total of 38 NHL games, scoring three points. He was signed to be AHL depth, an afterthought on a list of signings including Dennis Cholowski and Paul LaDue. He played the preseason with the rest of the AHL depth and was, predictably, sent down to Bridgeport before the season started. He didn't play an NHL game until December.
But when he was finally called up due to injury, he forced his way into the lineup permanently. Fans began to notice his tenacious, grinding style, which fit perfectly with eventual linemates Zach Parise and J-G Pageau. The points weren't there, but it didn't matter - he played the right way.
Eventually, though, the points started coming. After the injury to Mat Barzal, Fasching stepped up his game, finishing the year with 13 points, including seven goals, in his final 22 games. He was a huge part of the Isles' playoff push and a major reason they snuck into the playoffs despite Barzal's injury.
Fasching is generally pretty good at everything. He scores some points, he forechecks, he hits hard. He didn't play much on the penalty kill this year, but it's easy to imagine him taking that role in the future, especially as Josh Bailey is no longer with the team, Zach Parise is contemplating retirement, and Cal Clutterbuck is getting older.
I considered putting Fasching higher on this list, I really did. But I think the remaining two are pretty hard to argue with.