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Top-Paid NHL Players

Posted by AJ Lee on

Let’s get one thing straight: Connor McDavid is the highest-paid player in the NHL.

Sort of.

Certainly, the Edmonton center’s contract extension, signed in July for eight years and $100 million, gives him far and away the highest average annual salary — $12.5 million per — over the life of a deal when it kicks in next season. But then, Alexander Ovechkin (13 years, $124 million), Shea Weber (14 years, $110 million) and Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million) all have deals worth more in total dollars.

For now, none of them can touch the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, whose matching eight-year, $84 million deals call for them to be paid $13.8 million each this season, with an average salary over the lives of their deals of $10.5 million — both league highs.

Comparing Apples, Oranges and Caps

That average salary matters because it’s the “cap hit” that is applied to a team’s salary cap, which is why stat-heavy websites such as GearGeek.com rank the highest-paid players by that number rather than their salary for any given season. Players no doubt look at it differently, as many big contracts are front-loaded — for example, Toews is earning $7.8 million in base salary with a $6 million signing bonus this season, and in the final year of his deal (2022-23 season), those numbers drop to $2.9 and $4 million, respectively.

For our purposes, we’re considering who’s making the most money this season — minus endorsements, because that’s a whole ’nother kettle of fish. A kettle where, apparently, only Pittsburgh’s Crosby ($4.8 million in endorsements) and Washington’s Ovechkin ($4.5 million — partly because he’s the face of Papa John’s 100-plus Russian franchises) are allowed to swim. Neither of these all-time greats make the following list of the NHL’s five highest-paid players.

T1. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks

2017-18 salary: $13.8 million

Cap hit: $10.5 million

The first American-born player to lead the league in scoring and win the Hart Trophy (in 2015-16) also sells a ton of jerseys. He and Toews are the highest-paid players in the league for the second straight season.

T1. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks

2017-18 salary: $13.8 million

Cap hit: $10.5 million

The man who captained the Hawks to three Stanley Cups in six seasons won’t suffer too much next season, when his salary dips all the way to $12 million.

T3. Anze Kopitar, Kings

2017-18 salary: $13 million

Cap hit: $10 million

The two-way center led Los Angeles to two Stanley Cups in three seasons and was rewarded with an eight-year, $80 million deal in January 2016.

T3. Jamie Benn, Stars

2017-18 salary: $13 million

Cap hit: $9.5 million

The two-time NHL All-Star and the NHL’s leading scorer in 2014-15 has the third-highest cap hit among wingers, behind Kane and Ovechkin.

5. Shea Weber, Canadiens

2017-18 salary: $12 million

Cap hit: $7.86 million

Deals like this prompted stricter collective bargaining rules about front-loading contracts. In the last year of his deal (2023-24 season), a 38-year-old Weber will have a base salary of $1 million.

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