The NHL's most valuable comeback players

Eric Staal's bounce-back season is a big reason the Wild are contenders. But is he this season's most valuable comeback player? Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

After he played just a single NHL game in the previous two seasons, Peter Budaj's inspiring comeback season as the Los Angeles Kings' No. 1 goalie at age 34 kept his team in the playoff hunt. He was then dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline and given the opportunity to help the Lightning climb into the playoffs as a backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy.

As unexpected as Budaj's comeback might have been, there are other comeback seasons that might have had even greater impacts on teams' fortunes, especially if the Kings and Lightning both come up short in the playoff hunt.

For the following, a comeback season is defined as any player who established his performance at a certain level, then dropped down below half that point for at least a full season before rebounding all the way back in 2016-17. This does not include players making only partial comebacks or breaking out to new heights. Nor does it include players who slumped only briefly, were knocked out of the lineup primarily because of injuries or were making returns from other leagues, such as Montreal's Alexander Radulov.

In the end, we identified the 10 best comeback seasons and ranked them based on their total impact on their teams' success this season: