Who are the highest-paid players in the NHL?
The NHL’s minimum wage in 2021-22 is $750,000 and the NHL average salary is $2.69 million. The huge contracts of several NHL superstars are primarily responsible for the NHL’s rising average salary.
Although the NHL features numerous superstars, the highest-paid players still don’t make nearly as much as the stars of other major sports leagues. For example, the average salary in the NBA is $8.32 million.
In this article, we’ll examine the 10 highest-paid NHL players (based on AAV) in 2022 and analyze whether or not they’re providing enough value for their contracts.
Here are the 10 highest-paid NHL players:
10. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens ($10.5M)
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is the 10th-highest-paid NHL player in 2022 and the highest-paid NHL goalie. The 34-year-old veteran netminder currently has a cap hit of $10.5 million. Price was a former fifth-round draft pick of Montreal back in 2005. During his 15-season NHL career, Price has established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. In 712 career NHL stars, Price owns a 361-261-79 record with a .917 save percentage and 2.51 GAA.
Price signed an eight-year, $84 million contract with the Canadiens in July of 2017. The BC native was only a couple of years removed from winning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie. At the time, Price appeared every-bit deserving of the contract. Unfortunately, the Montreal goalie has had his play on the ice impacted by off-ice issues. Price has battled substance abuse issues and entered the NHL Player’s Assistance Program in October 2021.
Price has only played in 30 NHL games over the past two seasons while he deals with his substance abuse. He made his return to the NHL in April 2022 and was welcomed back into the league by Washington Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin. Price needs to be playing games consistently to be worthy of his contract. Now that the goaltender has gotten treatment, the Habs are counting on Price returning to form before his contract expires in 2025-26.
9. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks ($10.5M)
Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Kane is the ninth-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. Kane makes an average of $10.5 million annually during his current eight-year contract. The 33-year-old was a former first overall draft pick of Chicago in 2007 and is considered one of the most skilled forwards in the NHL. During the 2021-22 season, Kane appeared in 78 games where he recorded 26 goals and 92 points. While most NHL players see their production decline with age, Kane just had his third-best season statistically in his 15th NHL season.
Kane’s contract provides some of the best value among the highest-paid NHL players. Since signing the eight-year deal worth $84 million in July 2014, Kane has been close to a point-per-game player in every season. In 1,107 career NHL games, Kane has recorded 1,180 points. The Blackhawks’ star played an instrumental role in the team’s Stanley Cup runs in 2011,2012 & 2015, which helped him earn his high-paying contract.
Chicago is now going through a rebuilding phase and Kane will be a UFA at the end of the 2022-23 season. It’ll be interesting to see if Kane chooses to leave Chicago when his deal expires or if he elects to stay through the rebuild. Kane only made $6.3M annually during his previous contract, so it’s unlikely he’d take a huge discount to remain in Chicago. The Blackhawks’ star has a reported net worth of $28 million.
8. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks ($10.5M)
Patrick Kane’s teammate in Chicago, Jonathan Toews, is the eighth-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. Toews is the captain of the Blackhawks and carries a cap hit of $10.5 million. While Kane is earning the money of his contract, Toews has struggled to provide value that matches his price tag. The 34-year-old center has battled health issues and missed the entire 2020-21 season due to chronic immune response syndrome. Toews returned to the NHL in 2021-22 where he recorded 12 goals and 37 points in 71 games.
During the prime years of his career, Toews was considered one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. The Winnipeg native became the second-youngest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as a 22-year-old in the 2010 NHL Playoffs. When Chicago won the Stanley Cup again in 2013, Toews won the Selke Trophy that year as the NHL’s best defensive forward. Although Toews has never produced more than 35 goals or 81 points in a season, he’s provided great value with his two-way game and leadership qualities.
Considering his production throughout his career, Toews earned the money on his high-paying contract. He signed an identical eight-year deal to Kane in July of 2014 worth $84 million. Although Toews’ production has dipped, he still has the tools to be of value for Chicago. In 1,014 career NHL games, Toews has produced 357 goals and 852 points. Toews’ ability to bounce back after a difficult 2021-22 season will go a long way in determining his salary on his next contract.
7. Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs ($10.9M)
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is the seventh-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. Marner has an AAV of $10.9 million, which almost places him among the top-five of highest-paid NHL players. The 25-year-old is one of the NHL’s most exciting young players and is earning the money of his contract. During the 2021-22 NHL season, Marner finished among the NHL scoring leaders with 35 goals and 97 points in 72 games. He was selected fourth overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Marner showed enough in his first four NHL seasons to earn a big contract at a young age. After his rookie deal expired at the end of 2018-19, Marner signed a six-year deal worth $65.4 million in September 2019. It’s hard to argue the money of Marner’s current contract considering he’s produced 455 points in 427 NHL games. While Marner’s regular-season production has been excellent, the playoffs are a bit of a different story.
Marner has only managed seven goals and 33 points in 39 career postseason games, which has drawn criticism. In fact, since Toronto drafted Marner and fellow superstar Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs have never won a playoff round. Marner isn’t the primary reason the Leafs haven’t enjoyed playoff success, but he hasn’t been able to elevate his game when it matters most. Marner’s contract will continue to be scrutinized until the Leafs win the playoffs.
6. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings ($11M)
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is the sixth-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. With an AAV of $11 million, Doughty is also the second-highest-paid NHL defenseman. The 32-year-old was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Doughty is one of the best all-around defensemen of his era and played a huge role in LA’s two Stanley Cup runs in 2012 and 2014. During his 14-season NHL career, Doughty has recorded 132 goals and 567 points in 1,014 games.
Drew Doughty signed an eight-year, $88 million contract with the Kings on Jul. 1, 2018. Although the contract made him the second-highest-paid NHL defenseman, he’s no longer considered one of the NHL’s premier blueliners. Doughty’s production has dipped the past few seasons as he’s battled injury issues. The veteran d-man missed 36 games in 2021-22 due to a wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Prior to the injury, Doughty recorded seven goals and 24 assists in 39 games.
Doughty is still a solid top-pairing defenseman, but his best years are likely behind him. During his prime years, Doughty was averaging 50-60 points per season while contending for the Norris Trophy. His best year statistically came in 2017-18 when he recorded 60 points (10 goals) and a plus-23 rating. The following year Doughty still managed 45 points, but his plus-minus dropped to -34. Doughty’s drop-off in defensive play is the main reason he’s considered to be an overpaid NHL player. The Kings paid Doughty based on his prior elite production, and he hasn’t been able to live up to the contract.
5. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs ($11M)
Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares is the fifth-highest paid NHL player in 2022. Tavares signed with the Leafs as a UFA in July of 2018. The deal sent shockwaves through the hockey world due to the numbers on the contract. Tavares signed a seven-year deal worth a staggering $77 million. His $11M cap hit makes him the third-highest-paid NHL center in 2022.
Tavares was a former first overall draft pick of the New York Islanders. The Isles took Tavares with their first overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tavares enjoyed great individual success with the Islanders but was never able to achieve his goal of winning the Stanley Cup. After nine seasons on Long Island, Tavares chose to sign with his hometown Maple Leafs to try and win hockey’s ultimate prize. The Ontario native only made $5.5M annually during his previous contract with New York, so his Toronto contract almost doubled his salary.
Tavares scored 37 goals and 88 points in his final year with the Islanders, so it was clear he would get a pay bump as a free agent. It’s hard to argue, though, that he’s been worth his new contract with the Maple Leafs. Since arriving in Toronto, Tavares has recorded 119 goals and 274 points in 280 games. Tavares is still an elite NHL center, but he’s also been outproduced by 23 other NHL players during his time in Toronto. At a whopping $11 million a year, Tavares needs to provide just a little bit more to justify his huge price tag.
4. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks ($11.5M)
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson is the fourth-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. Karlsson makes $11.5 million annually, which makes him the NHL’s highest-paid defenseman. Out of all the players on the list of the highest-paid NHL players, Karlsson may be the most overpaid. The 32-year-old Swedish rearguard was once considered the NHL’s best defenseman, so it isn’t hard to see how we got to this point. Karlsson was drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2008 and has done some incredible things during his 13-season NHL career.
Karlsson was a gamechanger to the defense position, recording around 80 points in three different seasons during his prime. The Swede put up numbers that were unheard of from a defenseman since the legendary Paul Coffey in the 80s. Karlsson captured the Norris Trophy twice as he dazzled with his offensive flair. In 838 career NHL games, Karlsson has recorded 153 goals, 507 assists, and 660 points. He was traded to San Jose in 2017 and signed an eight-year, $92M contract with the Sharks in June of 2019.
Like a few other players on this list, Karlsson’s career has been tarnished by injury. The San Jose defenseman hasn’t played more than 56 games in a season since 2017 due to various injuries. Even when he has been in the lineup, Karlsson hasn’t produced anywhere close to his previous elite levels. For example in 2021-22, Karlsson registered 10 goals, 35 points, and a minus-14 rating in 50 games. Karlsson is still a great defenseman, but his contract was based on him being one of the best. While injuries are out of his control, Karlsson is failing to live up to his huge contract.
3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs ($11.6M)
Toronto Maple Leafs’ center Auston Matthews is the third-highest-paid NHL player in 2022. The 24-year-old carries a cap hit of $11.6 million, making him the second-highest-paid NHL center and the highest-paid NHL player under the age of 25. Matthews is one of if the not the greatest goalscorer in the NHL. The American forward was the only NHL player to reach the 60-goal mark during the 2021-22 season. During his first six seasons in the NHL, Matthews has recorded 259 goals and 457 points in 407 games.
Matthews was selected first overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Draft. It didn’t take long for the Leafs to make their future franchise superstar one of the NHL’s highest-paid players. After Matthews’ rookie contract expired at the end of the 2018-19 season, Toronto signed him to a five-year deal worth $58.2 million in February of 2019. Despite still being under the age of 25, Matthews already has a reported net worth of $63 million.
Matthews’ elite goal-scoring makes him worthy of being one of the highest-paid players in the NHL. As noted with Marner, however, the Leafs have yet to win a playoff round since 2001. Matthews arguably provides the best value of the three high-paid Leafs players, but the lack of playoff success is notable. Even though Matthews deserves his contract, the money the Leafs have tied up in Matthews, Marner, and Tavares has made it hard for them to build a championship-caliber roster. Matthews will be a UFA at the end of the 2023-24 season, so he could choose to take his talents elsewhere if Toronto can’t get over the playoff hump.
2. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers ($11.6M)
New York Rangers’ superstar Artemi Panarin is the second-highest paid NHL player in 2022. Panarin makes 11.642 million annually, which is a few hundred thousand more than Auston Matthews. Panarin is somewhat of a unique player on this list considering he didn’t begin his NHL career until age 24. The ‘Breadman” spent several years playing in the KHL before coming over to the NHL in 2015. The cross-country move worked out, as Panarin is now one of the NHL’s most skilled forwards.
Panarin was never drafted and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent in April of 2019. The Russian star has done nothing but produce at an elite level since coming over from his home country. During seven seasons in the NHL, Panarin has recorded 187 goals, 382 assists, and 569 points in 508 games. His first NHL contract carried an AAV of $3.5 million, while his second contract paid him $6 million annually. It wasn’t until Panarin signed with one of the NHL’s most esteemed franchises that he really cashed in on his talent. The Rangers won the bidding war for Panarin when the Russian became a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Panarin signed a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the Rangers on July 1, 2019. Although he’s clearly one’s of the NHL’s elite forwards, he isn’t necessarily deserving of being the second-highest-paid player. Since Panarin signed the huge contract in Broadway, Panarin ranks fifth in NHL scoring with 249 points in 186 games. It’s important to note, though, that at the time of the signing the Rangers were gravely in need of an offensive star. New York may have overpaid to land Panarin in free agency, but it’s hard to complain too much about Panarin’s contract given his production thus far.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers ($12.5M)
Edmonton Oilers’ center Connor McDavid is the highest-paid NHL player in 2022. McDavid has an average salary of $12.5 million, which is almost a million dollars more than the second-highest paid NHL player. McDavid is every bit deserving of being the highest-paid NHL player. The 25-year-old superstar is widely considered to be the best hockey player in the world and has produced insane numbers. During seven seasons in the NHL, McDavid has recorded 239 goals, 458 assists, and 697 points in 487 career games.
McDavid was drafted first overall by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. NHL scouts at the time labeled McDavid a once-in-a-generation talent, which led to an insane amount of hype prior to the NHL Draft. Once the Oilers won the draft lottery and selected McDavid first overall, they wasted no time making McDavid the highest-paid NHL player. After McDavid’s rookie contract expired at the end of 2017-18, the Oilers signed him to an eight-year deal worth a whopping $100 million.
It’s hard to argue that McDavid hasn’t earned every dollar of his expensive contract. In 2021, he became the second-ever unanimous winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP. The only other player to win the Hart Trophy unanimously is the great Wayne Gretzky. The only real knock on McDavid is that he hasn’t been able to take his team far into the playoffs. The Canadian superstar changed that narrative in 2022 when he produced at a ridiculous rate to help Edmonton reach the Western Conference Final.
While McDavid has earned the title of highest-paid NHL player, the real argument might be whether or not he’s actually underpaid. The highest-paid NBA player in 2022, Steph Curry, makes a whopping $45.7 million annually. That’s $33 million more than the NHL’s highest-paid player, McDavid. McDavid’s contract makes sense in the realm of the NHL’s salary cap, but given the contracts of other star athletes, there’s an argument that McDavid is actually underpaid for his skill level.