The unbelievable average salary of an NHL player exposed (Salary Cap and Contract Lenght)



Like most major sports leagues in the United States, the NHL has introduced team salary limits. However, that doesn’t mean players in the NHL are stuck with low wages.

The average salary for NHL Players is somewhere around $3 million a year; however, most players will not receive this amount. but They get a fairly amount of cash.

I will go through everything that you really need to know about salaries, contracts & Salary Cap in the NHL.

What Is The Average Salary For An NHL Player?

In the NHL, the average salary for an NHL player is roughly $3-million. This is money paid for the most average players. Quality players, i.e., the ones that will be holding the team together, will be earning a lot more than this each year, although I will talk more about that in a short while.

Most of the players that you see regularly playing on the ice will be earning somewhere between $1.5-million and $3-million per year. There may also be a few performance bonuses on top of that, but since performance bonuses will be factored into the salary cap for an NHL team, likely, this has already been factored into the average earnings for a player.

It is important to remember that this is only an average. There will be players in the league earning a lot more than this, and there will be players earning a lot less than that. 

Remember, due to salary cap rules in the NHL, the minimum a player can be paid each year is $700,000. This money tends to go to the newer players to the league, i.e., the ones that are probably going to hit the ‘big time’ later on but who may not get a lot of game time at the moment. It is more of a way to get a player signed up to a team, hoping that they will be a regular part of the playing roster in the future.

Who is the highest-paid NHL player?

For the 2019/2020 season, Connor McDavid is the highest-paid player in the NHL. His salary is $12.5-million, with a few extra millions for product endorsements and bonuses on top of that.

To demonstrate just how ‘meaningless’ the average salary is when discussing salaries, I want to talk about Mitch Mamer. Now, Mitch Mamer plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you skip ahead to the next section, you will notice that their average salary is one of the lowest in the NHL. However, Mitch Mamer is one of the highest-paid players in the NHL, with a salary of $10.89-million. This goes to show that many of the other players for the Toronto Maple Leafs are being paid tiny amounts in comparison to Mitch.

The highest-paid players will be paid based upon what they bring to the team. Obviously, if they perform well on the ice and can turn the tide of the game, they will be paid a lot more. However, teams will also be thinking about merchandise here. If a player can potentially shift a lot of merchandise for them, then they will see a salary increase. 

Which NHL team has the highest average player salaries?

In the 2019/2020 season, Minnesota Wild had the highest average salaries in the NHL. They paid an average of $3.32-million to their players. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins were not that far behind with $3.28-million per year as an average salary for their players.

Canadian teams seemed to pay the lowest average salaries to their players. However, this didn’t really surprise me. As popular as the NHL is in Canada, the teams tend to have far fewer fans than teams in the United States. That and the fact that revenues are in Canadian Dollars instead, which puts these teams at a disadvantage when it comes to salary caps.

The lowest average salaried teams are:

  • Vancouver Canuks: $2.02-million
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: $1.54-million

What is the average contract length for an NHL player?

The NHL has some of the highest average contract lengths out of all major sports leagues. 

At the time of writing, the maximum contract length for a player is 7-years, and a lot of players have contracts that last this long. If a player is re-signing to the same team, then the maximum contract they can sign is 8-years.

This contracted length is why we often see a lot of ‘one team’ players. The average length of a career in the NHL is 5-years. So, the contract length provides a couple of years of leeway while the player initially beds into the team.

What Is The Salary Cap For The NHL?

In the 2019/2020 season, the salary cap for a team playing in the NHL was $81.5-million. While the salary cap tends to go up each year, many people seem to believe that the salary cap will stay the same for the next season, and maybe for a few seasons after that. This is due to recent events that have caused attendance at NHL games to plummet.

The salary cap is determined by the amount of money the NHL makes. This will be 50% of the league’s revenues divided by the number of teams in the NHL. For the most part, the salary cap is a ‘hard cap’, although small exceptions can be made for youth players, paying limited bonuses, and for injured players.

Why Is There a Salary Cap In The NHL?

There is a salary cap in NHL to ensures that the richer teams don’t dominate the league by snapping up all of the best players on fantastic contracts.

The salary cap (mostly) works It has helped to keep the NHL competitive However, there are still teams in the league that is making less money than other teams.

A few teams do not have enough cash coming in to allow them to reach the salary cap, and this means that they cannot be competitive. Thankfully, as salary cap rules are becoming more refined, this is likely to be less of an issue in the future.

If a team is close to its salary cap, then it will need to either release players or try to encourage players on the current roster to reduce their salary. However, I have not noticed the latter happening all that much. After all, if a player is on a contract, why would they lower their salary willingly?

Is There a Limit to What an NHL Player Can Earn From Endorsements?

There is no Limit to What an NHL Player can earn. In fact, some players will make more from product endorsements than they would with their normal salary.

The one rule here is that the money must be coming directly from the company that they are endorsing. If the money is being passed through the team, then the salary cap will apply.


While NHL players are hardly the highest-played sports stars in the United States, they still have a sizeable average wage of $3-million per year. This is a figure that is likely to change as time goes on. This is due to the increasing salary caps being offered to teams in the league.

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