The NHL has always had skilled and committed athletes who make a significant impact on the ice and in hockey history. Yet, with rising television contracts, burgeoning fanbases, and commercial endorsements reaching fever pitch, the financial landscape of the league has evolved in ways previously unimagined. In 2023, while fans eagerly await the next big game and wear their jerseys, a few players not only excel in scoring but also in earning high salaries.
As they enchant fans with their dazzling skills and relentless passion, these players also secure contracts that are nothing short of staggering. From endorsements to base salaries, join us as we break down the financial giants of the NHL in 2023…
1. Connor McDavid (Oilers): $12.5 million
Hockey reigns supreme in Canada. No matter if you are a fan of the Canadiens, the Senators, the Maple Leafs, the Jets, the Flames, the Oilers or the Canucks, if you are into sports, then you are interested in hockey and the NHL (source: https://www.safebettingsites.com/ca/).
Whether you enjoy betting on your favourite or even just watching the game for the fights, you’re sure to have heard of Connor McDavid, the highest-earning NHL player, in 2023. Often touted as the generational talent of the NHL, Connor McDavid’s prowess on the ice is simply unmatched.
Following a standout 2016-17 season that bagged him his first Art Ross, Hart, and Ted Lindsay awards, the Edmonton Oilers rightly bet big on their captain, inking an impressive eight-year, $100 million deal.
This investment has proven wise; McDavid has added an impressive haul of accolades since, with three more Art Ross Trophies and a Hart Trophy to his name. With consecutive 100+ point seasons, McDavid continues to be the gold standard in the NHL and is considered by many truly deserving of his huge salary.
2. Artemi Panarin (Rangers): $11.642 million
Panarin’s decision to don the Rangers’ blue during the 2019 free agency shook the league. While whispers suggested he could have fetched a higher price from the Islanders, his allegiance to the Rangers has been fruitful. With an average of 1.34 points per game, the “Breadman” has been baking some magic in the Big Apple.
3. Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs): $11.64 million
A beacon of hope and skill for the Maple Leafs, Matthews has been nothing short of spectacular since his rookie season. Rewarded with a hefty five-year extension in early 2019, his subsequent performance only justified Toronto’s faith in him. Matthews recently joined the elite group, becoming the third player in the salary cap era to net 60 goals in a single season, solidifying his reputation as a premier sniper.
4. Erik Karlsson (Sharks): $11.5 million
The Sharks hoped for a transformative era when they secured Karlsson on a $92 million deal over eight years. Once heralded as one of the top offensive defensemen, his tenure in San Jose has unfortunately been marred by injuries and less-than-stellar performances. With the veteran (32-year-old) defenseman falling short of 40 points in recent years and still half a decade left on his contract, the Sharks face challenging decisions ahead.
5. Drew Doughty (Kings): $11 million
Doughty’s substantial contract with the Kings, following a 60-point career year, was seen as a commitment to a franchise cornerstone. However, injuries, including a right knee issue and wrist surgery, have curtailed his recent seasons. While Doughty remains a vital component of the Kings’ lineup, the duration and terms of his contract pose concerns.
6. John Tavares (Maple Leafs): $11 million
Tavares’ departure from the Islanders to join the Maple Leafs was among the most significant moves in recent NHL free-agency history. Proving his worth, Tavares quickly adapted, posting career numbers in goals and points. Serving as a solid second-line center, his performance has solidified his status among Toronto’s core, and he’s scoring an average of a point a game.
7. Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs): $10.903 million
A testament to Toronto’s commitment to their young core, Marner’s six-year deal came after an impressive 94-point season. Consistently averaging over a point-per-game since the signing, Marner’s offensive brilliance remains a significant asset to the Leafs, reflecting the wisdom behind his contract.
8. Patrick Kane (Blackhawks): $10.5 million
Despite nearing the end of his colossal $84 million contract, Kane’s talent remains undiminished. With whispers of a Blackhawks rebuild, Kane’s future hangs in the balance. However, coming off a 92-point season and his fourth averaging over one point per game, his market value remains significant.
9. Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks): $10.5 million
Despite sharing an identical contract with teammate Kane, Toews has had contrasting fortunes. A health-related hiatus in the 2020-21 season and a modest 37-point return this past season spotlight the challenges ahead. But with just a year left on his hefty contract, new horizons might beckon for the former captain, and he’s dropped significantly in value compared to teammate Kane.
10. Carey Price (Canadiens): $10.5 million
Once the cornerstone of the Montréal Canadiens’ roster, Price’s $84 million deal in 2017 came on the back of his MVP-winning season—a rarity for a goaltender. However, age and injuries have cast shadows on his future in Montréal, with knee surgery sidelining him for most of this season. With four years left on his contract, Price’s next steps remain a hot topic of debate.
Final Thoughts: The Evolution of NHL Salaries and What It Means for the Game
In all professional sports, performance on the field, court, or ice often translates to remuneration off it. The NHL is no exception. As the list above illustrates, the league’s star power has not only attracted a wider audience and elevated the game’s profile, but it has also ushered in an era of staggering contracts, some of which rival the biggest deals in soccer. These top earners, with their electrifying plays and unmatched dedication, are a testament to the evolution of the NHL – not just as a game but as a lucrative business.
However, these enormous contracts also pose questions. How will teams manage their salary caps? What does this mean for emerging talents awaiting their payday? And how do aging stars justify their hefty price tags?
As fans, while we cheer for the goals, saves, and hits, it’s also intriguing to watch how the business side of hockey unfolds, shaping the future of the NHL.