How Much Do Hockey Players Make?

hockey players salary

Hockey players are some of the toughest, most talented and most skillful athletes on the planet. As a result, they are paid handsomely for their work and the money the league brings in as a result of their play. But how much do these players actually make in terms of salary?

While NHL salaries can vary a ton, the average player makes about $2.5 million a year. There are hundreds of NHL players signed to contracts, and new ones being signed almost daily, so this number can fluctuate a ton as new players are signed and old contracts expire.

It is important to know the salary structure when talking about NHL salaries, to fully understand the numbers and how they work. Many players will sign front-loaded contracts that pay the first few seasons of the deal more than the last few.

For example, Auston Matthews made nearly $16 million in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons after signing a new deal, but in the 2021-22 season, his salary will be just over $10 million. This doesn’t mean he is less valuable now, just that the structure of his deal is different.

So in most cases, if you want to see the overall worth of a player and what they will cost a team, it is wise to look at the average salary throughout their contract. This is often shown as their AAV (average annual value). This is the number that is applied to the salary cap every year.

What Dictates How Much a Player Makes?

So what goes into how much a player is paid? Well, it depends. In most cases, the players who prove themselves to be the best scorers and passers often fetch the highest salary every year. However, there is more to being good than simply scoring and assisting on goals.

Some players are paid for their defensive prowess, for their leadership, for their ability to stop the puck from finding the back of the net, and even those who are physical forces on the ice. Some young players are even paid highly for their future potential.

Of course, in addition to their salary, players will also make money on endorsements. The amounts a player can off the ice can vary. These endorsement and sponsorship numbers don’t always line up with the skills of a player.

So a player might not be as good as another, but his fanbase or popularity might make him more endorsement money due to companies or businesses seeing a larger value in him.

Which NHL Players Have the Highest Salary?

So we know the average NHL salary for a player is, but who gets paid the most? Well, the player with the highest AAV for their current contract is none other than Connor McDavid, the captain of the Edmonton Oilers. 

His current deal is an 8-year $100 million contract, which equals an average of $12.5 million annually. Other players who make among the highest salaries in the league are Artemi Panarin, Auston Matthews, Erik Karlsson, and Leon Draisaitl. They all make over $11 million annually.

As far as who will make the most in 2021-22, the answer is also Connor McDavid. During this season, he will make $15 million. The most a player has ever made in a single season was Joe Sakic in 1997-98 when he made $16.45 million.

What is the Minimum Salary in the NHL?

What about on the other end of the spectrum? Well, in the NHL, the minimum a player can make in 2021-22 is $750,000. The minimum amount a player makes also changes each year, and it will increase to $775,000 in 2022-23 and will continue to see increases over time.

So who makes this amount? In general, it is players on their rookie deals, players who are past their prime or those looking to sign a cheap deal to try and win a Stanley Cup. However, there are also some big names that have signed for the minimum, such as Joe Thornton.

How Do Other Hockey Leagues Pay Their Players?

So far, I have focused on the NHL as it is the largest and most popular hockey league in the world. However, there are dozens of other leagues around the world such as the KHL, SHL, Liiga, NLA, and others.

The amount varies depending on the size and popularity of the league, as well as how much money it brings in. Smaller leagues may only pay players around $10,000 or so, and larger ones might pay up to a few hundred thousand dollars.

The one league in which players can make a couple million a year that isn’t the NHL is the KHL, which is headquartered in Russia.

What is the Salary Cap in the NHL?

In many sports leagues, such as the NHL, how much a team can pay their players is dictated by a salary cap. In the NHL, the salary cap is $81.5 million. As a result, all of the salaries that a team pays its players must come to under that amount.

While the NHL has a hard salary cap like the NFL (where teams can’t spend more than the cap), other leagues have different rules. There is a soft cap in the NBA, where teams can go above it to retain rights to a player on their team.

The MLB has what is called a luxury tax, where a team can go above a certain amount but must pay a steep tax to do so. All of these things aim to do the same thing, which is to try and keep the leagues relatively fair from team to team.

We hope this guide has been able to help you learn how much hockey players in the NHL and other leagues around the world make. Did I miss anything you feel I should have included? If so, leave me a comment and let me know.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey.

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