What’s Going On With NHL Salaries? | Tony X

Bovada welcomes back Tony X, @soIoucity, who gives his thoughts opinions on the NHL’s current salaries.NHL Salaries - Tony X

This summer, we’ve seen some of the biggest contracts in sports history be signed in the NBA and NFL, with the MLB also not very far behind them.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics just signed a 5-year 303 million dollar deal which averages out to around 60 million per season, which would equate to 73 percent of the entire NHL salary cap. The NBA is a different breed when it comes to getting paid. They have the least amount of total players on the roster of the four major sports and their cap sits at 134 mil per year, along with multiple other roster exceptions to add veterans etc., so they can fill out the roster and luxury tax limits that I won’t bore you with.

I would love to see an NHL roster with about 10 players total and those on the team having 40+ min time on ice each game if a player was making that high of a percentage of the cap. MLB doesn’t even have a hard salary cap but will get a luxury tax if and or when they exceed 230 mil. The NFL is a monster with a cap space of 224 million and the last three quarterback contracts have been north of 50 million per.


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The NHL is a totally different story altogether. Currently, the cap is sitting at 82.5 mil per year and it will actually bump up to 83.5 million next season. Per “CapFriendly”, it could possibly be as high as 92 million by the 25-26 season. Things are trending up for the NHL with the new ESPN/TNT deals after little to no movement of the cap since 2019. Covid was the reason for a flat cap the last few years, along with the debt accrued from the escrow that the NHL wants the players to repay.

Top 5 Salaries

Let’s take a look at the Top 5 salaries in each league and see what the averages are per year.


The NFL is all quarterbacks which isn’t a shock:

Justin Herbert: $52m

Lamar Jackson: $52m

Jalen Hurts: $51m

Russell Wilson: $48m

Kyler Murray: $46m

The average top 5 of the NFL is $50million but the thing is all these are very recent contracts and 3 of them were signed this off-season.


The top five, highest-paid NBA players are as follows:

Damian Lillard: $60.8m

Jaylen Brown: $60.7m

Devin Booker: $58.6m

Karl Anthony Towns: $58.6m

Nikola Jokic: $55.2m

The NBA comes in at an average top 5 salary of $59million. Which is no surprise when you consider the low amount of roster spots combined with their salary cap.


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MLB will need an asterisk as of right now because the best player at any particular sport, Ohtani, will be a free agent after this MLB season. In case you’ve been living under a rock, he’s a two-way player who arguably is top 3 in both being a pitcher and hitter. When Ohtani hits the open market, he will be by far the highest paid player in MLB history and the highest contract ever in any sport. The top 5 players as of right now is as follows:

Max Scherzer: $43.3m

Justin Verlander: $43.3m

Aaron Judge: $40m

Jacob DeGrom: $37m

Gerrit Cole: $36m

Four of the five are starting pitchers with Aaron Judge, who broke the AL HR record last year, being the only hitter as of right now. The average comes out to $40million for the top 5 but will for sure jump up after Ohtani signs his new deal.


Last but not least comes the sport we cry, cheer and yell about– the NHL. The top five players contracts Average Annual Value per year are as follows:

Nathan MacKinnon: $12.6m

Connor McDavid: $12.5m

Artemi Panarin: $11.6m

Auston Matthews: $11.6m

Erik Karlsson: $11.5m

As you can already see the drop off is pretty shocking. I can argue that Connor McDavid is the best player at his sport in the world, besides possibly Ohtani, and he’s making about 1/3 of what top 5 players in other leagues are making. The average top 5 for NHL players is $12million dollars.

Lots goes into these numbers. NHL viewership is about 32 million per year while NBA sits at almost double with 63 million. Once again, the NFL is its own beast sitting at 141 million viewers yearly and that’s with teams playing 17 games per year during the regular season.

How can we then help the NHL thrive, maybe watch that random Arizona Coyotes vs LA Kings game on a boring Tuesday night– you actually could be helping your favorite team get a little bit more cap space!