I took a look at some of the numbers on player contracts, thanks to the information provided by nhlnumbers.com. And this is the most shocking part:
There is a negative correlation between spending money on forwards and both winning games and winning playoff games.
It's not too strong, so it's probably just noise, but in any case, there is no positive link between shelling out the big bucks for your Danny Brieres and your Jaromir Jagrs (I'm looking at YOU, Avangard Omsk).
Defense still does win championships: there's a correlation of .32 between spending on defensemen and winning playoff games, and while goaltending is mostly random in the playoffs, I think that's mostly due to the underpaid Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood showng up in the finals. With a larger sample size, there is a distinct (.39) link between paying goalies and winning hockey games in the regular season.
However, that might be misleading - I have some surprising numbers to report soon about goaltending.