What is the average NHL salary for a player? 2023-24

Everyone loves to know NHL player salaries. We judge so much of their performance by it – is the player worth the contract or not?

However, to have an accurate assessment we need to know what the average players salary actually is. This gives us a better understanding if a player is being over or underpaid relative to their performance.

What is the average NHL salary for a player? The average salary for a player in the NHL has been on a steady increase over the years and has now climbed to $3.69 million USD per year for the 2023-24 NHL season.

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Above: Patrik Nemeth, who earns the average NHL salary

Let’s take a closer look at the salaries of the players and what the average looks like.

Average salaries for NHL players

I took 731 of our favourite players on the active roster from each NHL team in 2023-24 and looked at the average salary for the players based on both their Average Annual Value or AAV and their actual money paid out.

The players chosen are on the actual NHL roster as opposed to the minor league AHL roster. 

You can take a closer look at AAV and the importance of it here, but for our discussion here it is sufficient to point out that AAV is the number that counts towards the NHL salary cap. In any given year a player can make more or less than the AAV, but over the course of the contract the AAV is what they will average out to per year.

So the average salary for a player in the NHL during the 2023-24 season is:

  • $3.69 million USD based on the AAV from the signed contract 
  • $3.98 million USD based on actual money paid out.


So who (or what type of player) is making the average salary?

Here is a list of some of the players that are making the average $3.69 million per season:

  • Bowen Byran
  • Petr Mrazek
  • Boone Jenner
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Filip Gustavsson
  • Matt Grzelcyk
  • Ryan Suter
  • Barclay Goodrow
  • Ilya Samsonov 
  • Brandon Tanev 

So what did we learn from the list of names of the guys making $3.69ish million/year? Well, they are average NHL players.

These are guys who are on your third/fourth line, your second/third pair defensemen, or your middle of the road goalie. They are either veterans who are getting a decent contract as a UFA or a younger guy (Bowen Byram) playing on a bridge contract.

There are not going to be any all-stars here. All-stars are either on cheap entry-level contracts or big money long-term deals.

So what you get with an average NHL salary is an average NHL players!

Now, let’s compare the average NHL salary to the highest and lowest to give us a better idea of the range we are working with.


Average versus highest salary in the NHL

As we did with average salary we can look at it in two ways. What is the highest salary based on aav or take home? There are different winners in each of the categories.

The highest salary in the NHL based on aav belongs Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche at $12.6 million dollars. MacKinnon surpassed Connor McDavid this year who has a registered cap hit of $12.5 million USD. Once Connor McDavid gets a new contract in three years he will once again be the highest. 

As for take home salary MacKinnon is also the highest with a take home salary of $16.5 million USD.

Getting more actual money early in a contract is a good negotiating tactic because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. The players can take the money and invest it and generate more income off of those investments. The rich get richer!

An interesting note is that the maximum salary a player could get is 20% of the current National Hockey League Salary Cap, which would be $16.7 million. 


Average vs lowest minimum salary

The league minimum is easier to figure out than the average or the highest. The lowest salary is set by the collective bargaining agreement (cba) between the nhlpa and the league and a player cannot be paid less than the minimum.

The lowest salary in the league is $750,000/year. This is probably the most common salary number in the NHL as it covers about 60 players. About 20% of the league makes $800,000 or less.


What is the Median Salary?

When looking at salaries a helpful number to look at is the median salary. The Median salary is what the middle player between the highest and lowest is making.

According to my calculations the middle players making the Median salary of $3.0 million are  Anthony DuClair, Matt Duchesne, and Ryan Lindgren. 

The Median number being lower than the average means that there is a higher proportion of money concentrated at the top and not as spread out evenly as it probably could be. So, the stars are being paid and the 4th liners are earning less than they could be.


So what does the average salary tell us compared to the highest, lowest and median?

The average salary is $2.9 million higher than the lowest salary, but 12.8 lower than the highest. As well, the average salary is 0.79 million higher than the median.

This all points to the fact that most of the money that is divided up between the players in salaries goes to the superstar hockey players with exceptional skills. A disproportionate amount of money lies at the top-end of the salary scale.

You have heard of the 80/20 rule? 80% of the money gets taken by 20%. Well, that is how it plays out in the NHL. The top 20% of players make the majority of the money.


How does the NHL average compare to other sport leagues?

Well, of the four major sports leagues in the U.S./Canada the NHL has the second lowest average salary.

The NFL has the lowest average but brings in the most money as a league. Why is this? The NFL has the biggest player rosters in the league with over 40 players per team – so, the pie is divided into a lot more pieces even though the pie is bigger.

The NBA has the smallest player rosters, so the money does not need to be divided up between as many players and thus the average can be higher.


Well, of the four major sports leagues in the U.S./Canada the NHL has the second lowest average salary. 

LeagueLowAverage
NHL$700,000$3.69 million
NBA$582,000$7.0 million
NFL$495,000$2.1 million
MLB$550,000$4.36 million

The NFL has the lowest average but brings in the most money as a league. Why is this? The NFL has the biggest player rosters in the league with over 40 players per team – so, the pie is divided into a lot more pieces even though the pie is bigger.

The NBA has the smallest player rosters, so the money does not need to be divided up between as many players and thus the average can be higher. 


How does this compare to other
hockey leagues?

KHL125,000 to 3 million USD for imports
SHL55,000 to 255,000 USD
NLA80,000 to 450,000 USD
Liiga44,000 to 185,000 USD
Czech44,000 to 185,000 USD
DEL 150,000 to 175,000 USD
Source

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