2. Ilya Sorokin - 1 year, $4m AAV, then 8 years, $8.25m AAV
It seems insane to put a contract over $8 million in a "best value" list, but Ilya Sorokin is worth it. Goalies are a very strange group - every year, there's a goalie who breaks out and looks like he'll be elite for a while, then fades back into being just mediocre-to-good. Carter Hart. Jacob Markstrom. Philipp Grubauer. Jordan Binnington. You get the picture.
And then there are the goalies that stay good forever and singlehandedly give their teams a chance to win every single night. There aren't many of those - the old guard of Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc., are all either retired or well past their prime. Who's taken their place?
In my opinion, there are only four goalies who belong to this elite class - Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, Linus Ullmark, and, of course, Sorokin. (Jake Oettinger is likely to join this class soon enough, but it's too early to be sure, and Juuse Saros and Connor Hellebuyck's stats never quite seem to match their reputations.)
Over the last three seasons (since Sorokin joined the league), among goalies who have played at least 100 games, Sorokin ranks second in save percentage (.924) and second in GAA (2.33), behind only Ullmark in both categories (and yes, that means he's ahead of Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy, and everyone else you might be thinking of). He has 16 shutouts during this period, leading the league.
Last season, Sorokin finished second in the league with 36.2 goals saved above average (GSAA, a metric used to see how much better or worse a goalie is than average, given the number of shots he faces), behind only Ullmark. In goals saved above expected (GSAx, a measure similar to GSAA but taking into account shot location and quality), he led the league with 51.3.
There's no doubt that $8.25 million is a lot of money. Only three goalies will make more than that next year - Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Vasilevskiy. (Keep in mind, Sorokin will only be making $4m next year - his new contract doesn't kick in until the 2024-25 season.) But - and people might not agree with this, but the stats are unequivocal - Sorokin is better than all three of those, including Vasilevskiy.)
We don't know what the market for elite goalies looks like. Here's a look at the contract status of those who I consider to be the best goalies in the league (we're using Sorokin's new contract to make the point clearer):
Aside from Sorokin and Vasilevskiy, none of the elite goalies are signed long-term. In two years, when the salary cap could be above $90 million, how much will Shesterkin, Ullmark, Oettinger, and Saros get? I'm willing to bet it'll be more than Sorokin, and maybe a lot more. This contract is going to be an absolute steal for a very long time. And yes, Sorokin will be 36 at the end of it, but that's okay. Goalies stay good for longer than skaters do.