Younger Stars Are Making The Most Of Hockey’s Laborious Actuality

October 5, 2022

The ten prime earners are set to make $118 million mixed this season, reflecting a wave of massive new contracts but additionally the stagnation of pay within the sport.

The NHL low season featured a gentle stream of profitable contracts for the league’s younger stars, most prominently the eight-year, $100.8 million extension that 27-year-old heart Nathan MacKinnon signed with the Colorado Avalanche two weeks in the past. However MacKinnon’s deal doesn’t kick in till subsequent season, and the flood of cash pouring in to different up-and-comers—9 further new contracts value not less than $60 million since mid-July, on prime of 9 such offers final yr—wasn’t sufficient to sink the NHL’s reigning highest-paid participant, Connor McDavid.

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For the second straight season and for the fourth time within the final 5 years, McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ 25-year-old captain, is hockey’s prime earner, set to make $15.3 million earlier than taxes and brokers’ charges. That features $10.8 million in wage and signing bonus in addition to an estimated $4.5 million off the ice from endorsements, memorabilia and different enterprise endeavors.

Mixed, the NHL’s ten highest-paid gamers stand to make $117.7 million this season. That’s basically flat from final yr’s $117.2 million, however it’s a 26% drop from the $159.5 million of the 2019-20 record, the final season to start earlier than the pandemic and the high-water mark since Forbes launched its NHL rating factoring in off-ice earnings in 2012-13.

In reality, the full for the highest ten has barely budged from 2013-14’s $116.3 million. In the meantime, throughout the identical stretch, the NFL’s ten highest-paid gamers have seen their earnings leap 46%, to $489.1 million, and MLB’s 50%, to $377 million. (Forbes hasn’t but revealed its 2022-23 earnings record for the NBA, however that league’s prime ten doubled their pay from 2013-14 to 2021-22, to $713.8 million.)

NHL gamers merely can’t appeal to sponsorships the way in which different star athletes do. Past McDavid and a handful of others just like the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin (an estimated $5 million off the ice), the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews ($3.8 million) and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby ($3.5 million), hockey gamers wrestle to crack seven—and even six—figures in endorsements. In reality, of the ten highest earners’ $117.7 million in pay for this season, solely $14.7 million is coming off the ice—and 7 of the ten will publish simply $1.4 million mixed.

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Salaries lag behind the opposite main North American leagues, too. That’s largely a operate of league income, with commissioner Gary Bettman saying in June that the NHL had recorded $5.2 billion over the course of the season, lower than a 3rd of the $17.2 billion the NFL posted final yr, in line with Forbes estimates. However it’s additionally a results of the NHL’s salary-cap system, created in 2005 and tweaked within the subsequent years. For instance, Joe Sakic, then a star for the Avalanche, ranked because the world’s ninth-highest-paid athlete on Forbes’ 1997 record throughout all sports activities, with $17.8 million in wage. That will simply beat the league-high $13 million the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin is scheduled to make on the ice this season regardless that league income on the time was roughly a fifth of what it’s now.

Making issues worse, NHL gamers are nonetheless feeling the consequences of the pandemic due to an escrow system that ensures the league’s gamers and crew house owners equally divide income.

In any given season, a portion of gamers’ paychecks is diverted into an escrow account till the NHL can end tabulating its earnings; the cash is then returned to the gamers or surrendered to the house owners relying on precisely how a lot income the league collected in all. The issue is that the gamers racked up a mountain of debt to the house owners when Covid-19 saved arenas empty and hammered league income. Final season, gamers had 17.2% of their salaries held in escrow, all of which ended up within the house owners’ pockets. This season, the escrow determine is about at a extra manageable 10%, however gamers can as soon as once more anticipate to not see a dime again. The wage and bonus figures included in Forbes’ earnings record mirror that 10% deduction, dropping Seguin, for example, to $11.7 million in on-ice earnings.

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Gamers have some purpose for optimism. The NHL’s wage cap is up this season for the primary time in three years—a $1 million enhance, to $82.5 million—and hockey insiders say the league expects a big cap leap in 2024-25, which might push up salaries. That projection additionally suggests rising income that might wipe out the gamers’ debt to house owners by the tip of subsequent season, giving gamers a shot at recouping a few of their escrow cash sooner or later.

Gallery: The NHL’s Highest-Paid Gamers 2022

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After which there’s the NHL’s wave of younger expertise, coming alongside to supplant Ovechkin and Crosby (who falls off the earnings rating this season due to his modest $2.7 million on the ice). A leaguewide pattern has groups promising rising stars enormous sums unfold over seven or eight years, even earlier than the gamers hit their primes. MacKinnon, for instance, is about to common $12.6 million over the subsequent eight seasons—a document for the NHL’s salary-cap period—and his $16.5 million in 2023-24 wage and bonus may even push him up the full earnings rating previous McDavid, who’s scheduled to make $11 million on the ice subsequent yr.

“A participant can turn into an unrestricted free agent at 27, so groups need to purchase out years of their unrestricted free company at what they really feel will likely be cap-friendly offers sooner or later, when the cap goes up,” says Win Hockey Company’s Matt Keator, who represented New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox as he signed a seven-year, $66.5 million extension final yr. “It’s a win-win.”


#1. $15.3 mil

Connor McDavid

AGE: 25 | TEAM: Edmonton Oilers | ON-ICE: $10.8 mil • OFF-ICE: $4.5 mil

The 25-year-old Edmonton Oilers heart completed first within the NHL in factors final season, with 123, however missed out on profitable a 3rd Hart Trophy as league MVP when the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews claimed his first. Matthews equally edged him for the earnings record’s prime spot in 2020-21, however McDavid leads the way in which this yr due to the NHL’s second-best off-ice determine and third-best on-ice, along with his $12 million in wage and bonus decreased to $10.8 million by the escrow adjustment. In March, McDavid added BetMGM to a secure of sponsors that embrace gear maker CCM, automotive dealership community Go Auto and collectibles firm Higher Deck.

#2. $14 mil

Alex Ovechkin

AGE: 37 | TEAM: Washington Capitals | ON-ICE: $9 mil • OFF-ICE: $5 mil

Ovechkin was a notable omission from final yr’s earnings record, with the five-year, $47.5 million contract he signed that summer time committing simply $5 million in wage and bonus for 2021-22. This yr, although, that determine jumps to $10 million (decreased to $9 million by the escrow adjustment), and the 37-year-old Washington Capitals winger tacks on a league-best endorsement portfolio that features Coca-Cola, Hublot and Nike. He ought to draw much more curiosity from manufacturers as he chases the all-time targets document, with 780 coming into this season, 114 behind Wayne Gretzky.

#3. $11.9 mil

Tyler Seguin

AGE: 30 | TEAM: Dallas Stars | ON-ICE: $11.7 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.2 mil

No participant will make extra on the ice this season than Seguin, who’s scheduled to gather $13 million in wage and bonus (earlier than escrow) within the fourth yr of an eight-year, $78.8 million contract with the Dallas Stars. The 30-year-old heart, coming off a down season in his return from a hip damage, has endorsement offers with manufacturers together with Adidas and perfume home Michel Germain, in addition to fairness stakes in sports activities drink maker BioSteel and the Chew Membership, which sells canine treats and bones.

#4. $11.7 mil

Artemi Panarin

AGE: 30 | TEAM: New York Rangers | ON-ICE: $11.3 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.4 mil

Panarin posted a career-high 96 factors final season, giving him 249 in 186 video games since he signed a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the New York Rangers in 2019. The left wing, who turns 31 this month, counts CCM, EA Sports activities and Higher Deck as companions.

#5T. $11 mil

Sergei Bobrovsky

AGE: 34 | TEAM: Florida Panthers | ON-ICE: $10.8 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.2 mil

Bobrovsky helped the Florida Panthers declare final season’s Presidents’ Trophy for ending with the NHL’s finest regular-season document. A two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy because the league’s prime goalie, most lately in 2016-17, the 34-year-old is within the fourth yr of a seven-year, $70 million contract.

#5T. $11 mil

Auston Matthews

AGE: 25 | TEAM: Toronto Maple Leafs | ON-ICE: $7.2 mil • OFF-ICE: $3.8 mil

Matthews is coming off a 60-goal season that earned him a historic Hart Trophy, as solely the second U.S.-born participant ever to win MVP and the primary Maple Leaf to assert the respect since 1955. The ​​25-year-old heart ranked no decrease than No. 2 on the earnings record during the last three seasons, and he might quickly leap again into that territory: He’s set to hit free company in 2024. Matthews, who’s flashy on the ice and trendy off it, is without doubt one of the few NHL personalities who’ve captured the eye of entrepreneurs, placing ten partnerships, together with current offers with hat retailer Lids and Edge Principle Labs, which makes a cold-plunge tub. In February, he grew to become the primary energetic NHL participant to signal with a betting firm, including Bet99 as a sponsor.

#7T. $10.9 mil

Aleksander Barkov

AGE: 27 | TEAM: Florida Panthers | ON-ICE: $10.8 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.1 mil

Skating alongside Sergei Bobrovsky because the captain of the Panthers, Barkov signed an eight-year, $80 million contract extension final October and is scheduled to make $11 million in signing bonus and simply $1 million in wage this season. That uneven construction doesn’t assist the 27-year-old heart keep away from an escrow discount however does give him safety in opposition to a potential lockout sooner or later. It additionally carries tax advantages since salaries are taxed wherever gamers journey however signing bonuses are taxed solely of their residence state—and Florida doesn’t have a state earnings tax. Barkov’s sponsors embrace Higher Deck and Puhdistamo, a complement model from his native Finland.

#7T. $10.9 mil

Erik Karlsson

AGE: 32 | TEAM: San Jose Sharks | ON-ICE: $10.8 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.1 mil

Karlsson is in the fourth yr of an eight-year, $92 million deal that made him the highest-paid defenseman in league historical past (as measured by the common annual worth of his contract). Since becoming a member of the Sharks in a 2018 commerce, the 32-year-old hasn’t at all times lived as much as his status as a two-time Norris Trophy winner as finest defenseman, however he will likely be an important piece for San Jose this season after fellow blueliner Brent Burns was dealt away in July.

#7T. $10.9 mil

Darnell Nurse

AGE: 27 | TEAM: Edmonton Oilers | ON-ICE: $10.8 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.1 mil

Nurse comes from an athletic household: His sister Kia performs for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, his cousin Sarah is about to turn into the primary feminine hockey participant to seem on the duvet of EA Sports activities’ NHL online game, and his uncle is former NFL star Donovan McNabb. The 27-year-old defenseman signed an eight-year, $74 million extension with the Oilers in August 2021 and has endorsement offers with Fanatics, gear producer Warrior and the Chopped Leaf, a Canadian fast-casual restaurant chain.

#10. $10.2 mil

Andrei Vasilevskiy

AGE: 28 | TEAM: Tampa Bay Lightning | ON-ICE: $9.9 mil • OFF-ICE: $0.3 mil

Vasilevskiy missed this record final season however reappears within the third yr of an eight-year, $76 million contract. The 28-year-old goaltender, who has made three straight appearances within the Stanley Cup finals with the Tampa Bay Lightning and gained the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy, is partnered with manufacturers together with gear producer Bauer and Higher Deck.


The Forbes rating of the NHL’s highest-paid gamers displays on-ice earnings for the 2022-23 season, together with base salaries and bonuses. These figures have been decreased by 10% from the quantity laid out in gamers’ contracts, with the belief that gamers is not going to recuperate the cash diverted from their paychecks into escrow this season. Incentives which can be based mostly on 2022-23 particular person or crew efficiency are usually not included. Compensation deferred from the 2021-22 season can also be omitted.

The off-ice earnings estimates are decided by means of conversations with trade insiders and mirror annual money from endorsements, licensing, appearances and memorabilia, in addition to companies operated by the gamers. Forbes doesn’t embrace funding earnings corresponding to curiosity funds or dividends however does account for payouts from fairness stakes athletes have offered.

Forbes doesn’t deduct for taxes or brokers’ charges.


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