Professional sports athletes get paid a lot of money. There's no question about that. But did you know, despite having one of the longest and most physically taxing seasons in pro sports, that hockey players are among the lowest paid in terms of professional athletes?
In this article, I will review who the highest-paid NHL player is. However, I'm not going to stop there. I'll speak on the largest NHL contracts, the longest NHL contracts, the top ten salaries, and so much more.
Let's get started.
Table of Contents
Who’s the highest-paid NHL hockey player?
As of the end of the 2022-2023 NHL season, Nathan Mackinnon is the highest-paid player in the NHL, making $16.5M per year.
However, his cap hit, or what is counted towards the NHL salary cap restrictions, is $12.6M. They call this the AAV, or "Annual Average Value". He is the highest-paid player in the National Hockey League on both a salary cap and an actual dollar basis.
This is because Nathan Mackinnon's contract structure pays him a lot of money upfront and slowly gets lower as the contract progresses. For example, he will make $16.5M in years 1,2 and 3 of his new eight-year deal but $12.15M in year four and $9.9M in years 5-8.
The NHL salary cap takes the player's total contract size, in Mackinnons case $100,800,000 and divides it by the years on the contract. So, $100,800,000 divided by eight is $12.6M.
Before Nathan Mackinnon signed his new deal in 2023, Connor McDavid was the highest-paid player in the National Hockey League, making $12M in 2023 with a cap hit of $12.5M.
What are the top 10 salaries in the NHL?
For this section, we will use each player's NHL cap hit instead of their annual salary.
1. Nathan Mackinnon
NHL Salary: $12.6M
Nathan MacKinnon signed an 8-year deal worth $100,800,000 starting in 2023-2024 that will keep him on the Colorado Avalanche until the end of the 2030-2031 NHL season.
The eight-year extension and dollar amount are not all that surprising, as the star centreman led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in the 2022-2023 season.
2. Connor McDavid
NHL Salary: $12.5M
Connor McDavid signed an 8-year deal worth $100,000,000 starting in 2018-2019 that will keep him on the Edmonton Oilers until the end of the 2026-2027 NHL season.
At the time, the deal made Connor McDavid the highest-paid player in the NHL by a longshot. But, because it was signed in 2018, the salary cap has increased, and his contract value has lowered relative to the cap.
Often considered one of the best players to play the game since Lemieux and Gretzky, the Oilers will have to open up their pocketbooks to keep the star winger in Edmonton after the 2026-2027 NHL season, as he will likely reclaim the title of highest-paid player.
3. Artemi Panarin
NHL Salary: $11,642,857
Artemi Panarin signed a 7-year deal worth $81,500,000, starting in 2019-2020 that will keep him on the New York Rangers until the end of the 2026-2027 NHL season.
Artmei Panarin was one of the most significant additions to the Chicago Blackhawks in decades. Panarin came into the league as an undrafted player, signing with the Blackhawks in 2015 after two standout seasons in the KHL. Before his breakout year in the KHL, Panarin had spent the better part of 6 years as an albeit successful but far from a superstar player in the league.
The Blackhawks would go on to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018, and he would end up signing his deal with the New York Rangers in 2019.
4. Auston Matthews
NHL Salary: $11,640,250
Auston Matthews signed a 5-year deal worth $54,500,000, starting in 2019-2020 that will keep him on the Toronto Maple Leafs until the end of the 2023-2024 season.
Auston Matthews was selected first overall by the Leafs in 2016 and quickly became one of the best goal-scorers in the league. He was the first player in Maple Leaf's history to reach 60 goals in the 2021-2022 NHL season. Being the first to score 60 is quite an accomplishment considering the Leafs have been around for over a century.
It is difficult to say whether or not Matthews will remain a Leaf long-term, as his contract expires at the end of the 2023-2024 season.
5. Erik Karlsson
NHL Salary: $11,500,000
Erik Karlsson signed an 8-year deal worth $92,000,000, starting in 2019-2020 that will keep him on the San Jose Sharks until the end of the 2026-2027 season.
Erik Karlsson is not your traditional defenseman. He has many defensive flaws. However, he more than makes up for it with offensive prowess. With two Norris Trophies under his belt and another likely in 2023, he is one of the NHL's premiere puck-moving defensemen.
This eventually got him his massive $92M payday with the San Jose Sharks in 2019. However, injuries have plagued him ever since.
6. David Pastrnak
NHL Salary: $11,250,000
David Pastrnak signed an 8-year deal worth $90,000,000, starting in 2023-2024, that will keep him on the Boston Bruins until the end of the 2030-2031 season.
Although Pastrnak was a first-round pick by the Bruins in 2014, it wasn't until the 2016-2017 season that he truly broke out. After that, he became one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the league.
He has scored at a 30+ goal pace in nearly every season he's played beside his rookie season. The Bruins awarded his scoring talent with a massive deal in the 2023-2024 season.
7. Drew Doughty
NHL Salary: $11,000,000
Drew Doughty signed an 8-year deal worth $88,000,000, starting in 2019-2020, that will keep him on the Los Angeles Kings until the end of the 2026-2027 season. Of note, even though they make the same, we used the contract length to split the tie between Doughty and Tavares.
Although Drew Doughty is getting to the back end of his career, he is still a dominant top-pairing defenseman in the NHL. Drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, he broke into the league immediately. He was instrumental in the King's multiple cups in the early 2010s.
Coming off one of the best seasons in his career in 2018, he inked a mega deal in 2019 worth $11M a year.
8. John Tavares
NHL Salary: $11,000,000
John Tavares signed a 7-year deal worth $77,000,000, starting in 2018-2019, that will keep him on the Toronto Maple Leafs until the end of the 2024-2025 season.
A first-overall draft pick and long-time captain of the New York Islanders, John Tavares was one of the premiere centers in the National Hockey League when he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Islanders fans were shocked when Tavares left, as he went on to post a career year in his first year with the Leads, amassing 47 goals and 41 assists.
9. Mitch Marner
NHL Salary: $10,903,000
Mitchell Marner signed a 6-year deal worth $65,418,000, starting in 2019-2020 that will keep him on the Toronto Maple Leafs until the end of the 2024-2025 season.
Another high first-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marner was selected fourth overall and immediately became one of the best right-wingers in the league. Many pundits were critical of the Leaf's signing of Martner then, stating it was way too much money to pay a winger, no matter how talented.
However, there is zero question, especially considering some other contracts that have been signed since his, that Marner is worth every penny.
10. Jonathan Huberdeau
NHL Salary: $10,500,000
Johnathan Huberdeau signed an 8-year deal worth $84,000,000, starting in 2023-2024, that will keep him on the Calgary Flames until the end of the 2030-2031 season.
In a whirlwind of an offseason for the Calgary Flames in 2022, the team was frantically trying to make something work after losing winger Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk requesting a trade.
The Flames flipped Tkachuk for pending free agent Johnathan Huberdeau and immediately inked him to a massive 8-year deal worth $84M. Hubderdeau went on to post arguably the worst season in his career in his first year in Calgary, and Flames fans are hoping the winger, who set the record for assists by a left-wing in his last year in Florida, can rebound.
The top 25 NHL players by salary
- Nathan Mackinnon - $12.6M
- Connor McDavid - $12.5M
- Artemi Panarin - $11.64M
- Auston Matthews - $11.64M
- Erik Karlsson - $11.5M
- John Tavares - $11M
- Drew Doughty - $11M
- Mitch Marner - $10.9M
- Patrick Kane - $10.5M
- Carey Price - $10.5M
- Jonathan Toews - $10.5M
- Jack Eichel - $10M
- Aleksander Barkov - $10M
- Sergei Bobrovsky - $10M
- Anze Kopitar - $10M
- Tyler Seguin - $9.85M
- Johnny Gaudreau - $9.75M
- Zachary Werenski - $9.58M
- Charles Mcavoy - $9.5M
- Adam Fox - $9.5M
- Alex Ovechkin - $9.5M
- Mark Stone - $9.5M
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - $9.5M
- Brayden Point - $9.5M
- Nikita Kucherov - $9.5M
Who has the largest active contract currently in the NHL?
The largest contract in the NHL currently belongs to Shea Weber, who signed a 14-year deal worth $110,000,000 that started in the 2012-2013 NHL season.
The deal resulted from the Nashville Predators matching an offer made via an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers for the premiere defenseman. Injuries have taken their toll on Weber. Although he is still under contract until the 2025-2026 NHL season, it is doubtful he ever plays again.
Who has the largest NHL contract in history?
The largest contract in NHL history was awarded in 2008 to Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Although the deal is certainly not the largest in salary per year, the 13-year, $124M deal was the largest in total overall money.
Ovechkin re-signed with the Capitals after this deal ended in 2021, so. However, this is not the largest contract in the NHL anymore. It is the largest one awarded in history.
What was the longest NHL contract in history?
Before the NHL got rid of contracts longer than seven years (eight if you're signing an extension), there were many puzzlingly long contracts, with the longest being Ilya Kovalchuk at 17 years.
General Managers used to do this to bring down a player's total cap hit against the salary cap.
Another notably long contract was the 15-year contract given to Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, often talked about as one of the worst contracts in NHL history.
What is the cap for NHL 2023?
The NHL salary cap for the 2023 season is $82.5 million. Assuming the NHL max roster size of 23 players, this is $3,586,956 per player on average.
What is the NHL salary cap for 2024?
The NHL salary cap for 2024 is expected to be in the range of $83.5M. This would mark only a 1.2% increase from levels witnessed in 2023. Assuming a 23-man NHL roster, this is $3,630,434 per player on average.
What is the NHL salary floor?
The NHL salary cap floor for the 2022-2023 season is currently $61M.
Who was the 1st million-dollar hockey player?
The first NHL player to make over $1 million was Bobby Hull, who signed with the Winnipeg Jets in the World Hockey Association in 1972. The deal was ten years long and worth $1.5M. However, $1M was a signing bonus, making him the first professional hockey player to make $1M.
The year prior, Bobby Orr had signed a 5-year deal with the Boston Bruins worth $1M. So although this was the first $1M contract signed by an NHL player, Bobby Hull was the first one to make $1M because of the signing bonus structure. On the other hand, Orr earned $200,000 a year, and it took him five years to hit the $1M threshold.
How much did Gretzky make in his career?
Wayne Gretzky had $48,591,434 in NHL salaries throughout his career. Keep in mind, this doesn't include any endorsements or bonuses he would have been paid, which have no doubt bloated his overall career earnings as an NHL player.
How much did Gretzky make a year?
During Gretzky's NHL career, his salaries varied wildly. In 1981-1982, he signed a six-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers that paid him $417,000 annually. By the end of his career in the late 1990s, he was making around $6,000,000 a year playing for the New York Rangers.