The Highest-Paid Players in The NHL 2023: Top 10 Countdown
Player salary is always a point of discussion regardless of sport. Fans and team personnel alike expect the most expensive players to be among the best at their position, delivering each time they step onto the ice. In the NHL, there is a class of players making above ten million dollars annually, and they’re among the highest-paid across the league. That said, what does the top tier of NHL contracts look like? Who are the highest-paid players in the NHL? This is a breakdown of the top contracts in hockey, the highest-paid players and how they are performing on the ice.
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Price is perhaps the biggest oddity on the list. For the better part of 15 years, he has been one of the best at his position. In the past couple of years, however, Price has battled knee injuries that have largely kept him on the injured list. Price has also had major sponsorship deals with equipment manufacturers Warrior and CCM, as well as major sports apparel manufacturer Under Armor. Price’s future remains in question, however, and retirement could be on the horizon for the decorated Montreal goaltender. Still, Price’s career earnings are well over $100 million, making for a pretty good career.
9️⃣ Mitch Marner, Right Winger, Toronto Maple Leafs – $10.9 million
Marner is a driving force for the Maple Leafs team looking for its first Stanley Cup since 1967. He also happens to be one of the top earners in the league, currently in the fourth year of a 6-year/$65.4 million deal with Toronto. Off the ice, Marner is a big winner as well. He currently has endorsement deals with Intact Insurance, Red Bull, Oakley, Beats by Dre, and Nike, with endorsement totals closing in on $20 million since 2019. He is the second-most visible face of the most popular franchise in Canada and is paid as such.
8️⃣ Drew Doughty, Defenseman, Los Angeles Kings – $11 million
Doughty is one of the oldest on the list at 33 years old. He also still has substantially more time left on his deal to the tune of five years and $51 million out of a deal that totals 8 years/$88 million. Though Doughty’s play on the ice may not be quite where it was when he signed the deal, his earning power is higher than ever. Doughty also currently has endorsements with Excel Gum, Frito Lays, Sonnet Insurance, and Under Armor, padding his earnings substantially.
7️⃣ John Tavares, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs – $11 million
The Maple Leafs have three names on this list, showing their commitment to finally winning a championship. Tavares inked a 7-year/$77 million as a free agent in 2018, heading to Toronto with the goal of winning a championship in front of his hometown. Tavares will have more than $100 million in earnings at the expiration of this deal. He has added to that total with endorsements like Propeller Coffee, Fanatics, Wealthsimple, and Lululemon. His contract is also one of the most scrutinized, especially given his connection to Toronto.
6️⃣ Leon Draisaitl, Center, Edmonton Oilers – $11.33 million
Leon Draisaitl is the first member of the Edmonton Oilers on this list, though he’s not the last. He’s a forward who can play multiple positions and puts up many points. He is one of the best power-play weapons in the entire NHL, perhaps second only to Alex Ovechkin, and has plenty of chemistry with fellow superstar Connor McDavid. Draisaitl has one of the highest salaries in the NHL, making over $11 million each and every season. He also has sponsors off the ice, including the athletic apparel brand PUMA.
5️⃣ Erik Karlsson, Defenseman, San Jose Sharks – $11.5 million
Karlsson is one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen to come into the league in some time. His contract – 8 years/$92 million – is also one of the most heavily criticized deals in the NHL. He will be paid $11.5 million against the cap until he is 37 and was seen as past his prime until a monster season this year. Karlsson has been somewhat quiet off the ice. He has modest career endorsement earnings and isn’t currently listed as an ambassador for any major brands. Still, by the time his current deal is done, he will have earned close to $140 million over his career.
4️⃣ Auston Matthews, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs – $11.64 million
Matthews is the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite being American-born, Matthews has won the Toronto faithful over by being one of the most dynamic players to come along in years. His play earned him a 5-year/$58 million deal as a 22-year-old, making him the third-highest-paid player in the game. While also making $11.6 million against the cap each year, Matthews does well off the ice, too. He collects almost $3 million per year in endorsements from brands like Upper Deck, Bauer, Verizon, CCM Hockey, Apple, and Scotia Bank.
3️⃣ Artemi Panarin, Left Winger, New York Rangers – $11.642 million
Panarin is one of the top-scoring wingers in the league and a star for one of the biggest franchises in the NHL. His 7-year/$81.5 million deal as a free agent in 2019 made him one of the most expensive players in the game as well. Panarin is interesting as far as top stars go. Though he is a top performer in the league, the Russian-born winger isn’t exactly lighting it up with endorsements. Still, he will be close to $100 million in career earnings by the time this deal expires.
2️⃣ Connor McDavid, Center, Edmonton Oilers – $12.5 million
McDavid is the Wayne Gretzky of this generation. He is paid like it, too, thanks to an 8-year/$100 million pact signed in 2018. It will expire when he turns 29, likely setting him up for another nine-figure contract to finish out his career. He is also the face of the league, earning millions more off the ice. He has major endorsement deals with Electronic Arts, Rogers Communications, BioSteel, CCM, Adidas, Canadian Tire, and more. As long as he keeps dominating on the ice, he will dominate off the ice as well.
1️⃣ Nathan Mackinnon, Center, Colorado Avalanche – $12.6 million
Coming in at the top spot is Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan Mackinnon. He just inked this massive deal that will pay him more than $12.5 million every year, more than any other player in the league. Mackinnon is a devastating offensive threat that uses a great combination of size and speed to punish defenders. As the highest-paid player in the NHL, Mackinnon is expected to perform at a certain level. However, after winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche last season, he’s managed to exceed those high standards set for him.
Unlike other sports, like basketball and baseball, the highest-paid NHL players are generally a who’s who of the best in the game. There are some clear disappointments but no clear albatross contracts that have little in the way of value. One of the anomalies that stand out immediately is Montreal goaltender Carey Price. Price has been one of the best goaltenders in the league since his debut in 2007. That said, he has struggled with knee problems in recent years, keeping him and his $10.5 million cap hit on the bench. The rest of the top 10 – the top 25, really – is filled with the premier performers in the league. McDavid has the second-highest cap hit this season, but he is also clearly the best player in the world. The rest of the list largely reads as the best of the best, and their teams are getting what they paid for.
There are typically two criticisms of the highest-paid players in the NHL. The first is the on-ice performance, where they are expected to be at the top of their position every season. The second is their impact on the team and its success or failure.
There has been criticism of two players in the top 10, in particular: Karlsson and Doughty. There is a common theme between both of these players, and it isn’t just their salary. Let’s take a quick look at each of them to see where the criticisms of those players lay.
- Erik Karlsson. The common theme these two share is that they are aging players on rebuilding teams. Karlsson may be the best of the two, one of the premier offensive defensemen of his generation. Still, many thought earning $11.5 million per year until his late-30s would be a tough pill to swallow for Sharks brass and fans alike. However, this season Karlsson has turned things around and performed as one of the best in the league once again.
- Drew Doughty. Doughty has done everything there is to do. He has a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and a pair of Stanley Cup championships to hang his hat on. That said, his performance has dipped in recent years, as happens with many defensemen in their 30s. The young, upstart Kings are a team to watch, but Doughty may not be the key to it as he once was.
There are two measures of player contract value: their salary cap hit and their actual salary for the year. So, despite Nathan Mackinnon having the highest cap hit for 2023 at $12.5 million, Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars is the highest-paid player at $13 million in actual salary.
The maximum that a single player can sign for is 20% of the current salary cap. The current salary cap is $82.5 million, meaning no player can make more than $16.5 million per season.
With the growth in the salary cap, the number keeps rising. Having said that, $10+ million is generally where the highest players land. Defensemen and centers tend to get a premium, making them the highest-paid positions.
Things can get a little complicated for Canadian teams. Every NHL player is paid in US dollars, so there is no real difference for them. Owners may have to make a more substantial investment in Canadian dollars, but that is the only real difference.
Players currently earn a quarter of a year’s benefits for every 20 games credited. Players who have earned 10 full years of benefits make the maximum benefit payable.
Rowan is a sports betting journalist with an established presence in the sports media industry through his thought-invoking coverage and commentary surrounding major leagues like the NBA, NFL, and NCAA. While Rowan specializes in NBA, NFL, and NCAA college sports coverage, he consistently follows and reports on every major sport in North America.