Picture of Auston Matthews. He lead all NHL players in salary earned with $15.9 million in 2022-23.
The top NHL player salary for the 2022-23 NHL season went to Auston Matthews. He earned $15.9M including endorsements.

Ice hockey, known for its intense physicality and thrilling gameplay, has captivated millions of fans worldwide for decades. The National Hockey League (NHL), widely regarded as the premier professional ice hockey league, showcases some of the most talented athletes on the planet. While fans cheer for their favourite teams and players, it’s not uncommon to wonder about the financial rewards of being a professional NHL player.

In this article, we delve into the fascinating realm of NHL player salaries, exploring the significant earnings these athletes command and shedding light on the factors contributing to their financial success. From superstar contracts that make headlines to the lesser-known role players, we will examine the intricacies of NHL player compensation and the elements that shape it.

Understanding the NHL Salary Structure

Before we get to the figures, let’s clear up how NHL player salaries work. There’s a cap, a lower limit, and guaranteed contracts – all key elements in the mix.

  1. Salary Cap: Established in the 2005-2006 season, the salary cap is the maximum amount a team can spend on player salaries for a given season. As of the 2022-2023 season, the cap was set at $81.5 million (no higher) and $61 million (no lower), according to Forbes.
  2. Salary Floor: This is the minimum salary a team must pay its players. It’s set at $60.2 million for the 2022-2023 season.
  3. Guaranteed Contracts: Unlike some sports, NHL contracts are fully guaranteed. This means a player gets paid the total value of the contract, regardless of performance or injuries.

How Much Do NHL Players Earn on Average?

The average salary for an NHL player in the 2022-2023 season was a staggering $3 million. While this might sound like an immense amount of money (and it is), remember that this average includes the superstars who earn tens of millions per year, boosting the average.

However, the minimum salary for NHL players as of the 2022-2023 season was $750,000. It’s also important to note that these figures only account for base salaries and don’t include income from endorsements, which can significantly increase a player’s total earnings.

Gambling and Player Salaries: The Intersection

As we’re talking about earnings, it’s interesting that many NHL fans also try their luck at online betting, hoping to score a financial hat-trick. Similarly, the rise of $1 deposit casinos has provided an easy and affordable gateway into online gambling. As fans try to predict player performances, team successes, and even player salaries, these low-stakes platforms allow for a fun, engaging, and potentially profitable interaction with the sport.

Though gambling and player salaries might seem like separate worlds, they intersect in many ways. Fans’ familiarity with player performances and team strategies can influence their betting decisions. In turn, a player’s market value and salary might impact the odds given by online casinos.

Top Earners in the NHL

While most of us would be over the moon with a ‘mere’ $750,000 per year, let’s take a look at the top earners in the NHL. The table below breaks down the top three earners as of the 2022-2023 season:

PlayerTeamSalary (2022-2023)
Auston MatthewsToronto Maple Leafs$15.9 million
Connor McDavidEdmonton Oilers$14.5 million
Artemi PanarinNew York Rangers$14 million

These three players have the highest base salaries in the NHL, but their total earnings, including endorsements, are even more jaw-dropping.

Earnings Beyond the Ice: Endorsements and More

Remember those endorsements we mentioned earlier? For many players, they form a considerable part of their overall income. Brands dealing in sports equipment, clothing, energy drinks, and more line up to have their products represented by the biggest stars in the NHL.

Some players even branch out into areas unrelated to hockey. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, for example, made waves when he inked a deal with Papa John’s Pizza. Now, that’s a slice of the action!

Incentive Bonuses: The Extra Boost

On top of their base salary, NHL players often have the potential to earn more through incentive bonuses. These bonuses are agreed upon in the player’s contract and are typically tied to performance goals. For instance, a player might receive an extra sum for scoring a certain number of goals in a season, making the All-Star game, or even winning the MVP award.

While these bonuses don’t count towards the salary cap, they can significantly boost a player’s overall earnings. It’s a testament to how NHL contracts are structured – rewarding not only the player’s talent but also their dedication and hard work.

Life After Hockey: Turning Salaries into Sustainable Wealth

While a hockey career can be lucrative, it’s also notoriously short. The average NHL career lasts around 5 years, which means players need to make wise financial decisions to sustain their wealth post-retirement.

Some players invest in businesses, real estate, or financial markets, aiming to grow their earnings further. Others get involved in hockey management, coaching, or broadcasting, where they can leverage their NHL experience for sustained income. The goal is to turn a short, high-earning career into lifelong financial stability.

The Economic Impact: NHL Salaries and Local Economies

NHL player salaries don’t just impact the players and their teams. They also have a ripple effect on local economies.

When an NHL team is based in a city, player salaries contribute to the local economy through taxes and spending. The high income of players often means high taxes, which can be used for public services and infrastructure. Moreover, players and their families in the area contribute to local businesses, from restaurants and shopping to real estate and services.

The Global Perspective: How do NHL Salaries Compare?

From an international perspective, it’s interesting to compare NHL salaries with earnings in other major hockey leagues worldwide.

European leagues, like the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia and the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), are known for producing high-quality players. However, they don’t come close to matching the NHL regarding player salaries. This economic disparity underlines the NHL’s status as the premier hockey league globally.

Final Horn: Understanding the Value

We’ve shot the puck around the rink of NHL player salaries and explored everything from bonus incentives to post-retirement strategies. Remember, just like the goalies trying to save a puck coming at them with the speed of a jet, financial planning for an NHL player isn’t a piece of cake. And while the figures can be as dizzying as a Zamboni driver after double overtime, it’s all part of the thrill of the game we love.

Remember, hockey is more than just a sport — it’s a carnival of skill, strategy, and, yes, quite a bit of cold, hard cash! So the next time you watch your favourite player pull off a slick one-timer, you’ll know there’s more than pucks in their bank! Keep your stick on the ice, folks!


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