What is the average salary for a NHL player?

Everyone loves to know a player’s salary. We judge so much of their performance buy it. Is the player worth the contract or not? 

However, to have an accurate assessment we need to know what the average player’s 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 NHL salary for a player has been on a steady increase over the years and has now climbed to about $3 million USD per year. Salaries in the NHL range from a low of $700,000 to a high of $12.5 million/year.

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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. 

I took 731 of our favourite players in the NHL and looked at the average salary for the players based on both their AAV and their actual money paid out. 

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 it is the number that counts towards the 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 2019-20 season is:

  • $2.98 million USD based on aav
  • $3.12 million USD based on actual money paid out. 

Given these two numbers I think it is fair to say that an NHL player gets paid on average $3 million USD. What’s an extra 0.1 when you are making millions?!!!


So who is (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 million per season:

  • Antoine Roussel, Dallas
  • Leo Komarov, NYI
  • Jonathan Bernier, Detroit
  • Jay Beagle, Vancouver
  • Patrik Nemeth, Det
  • Valeri Filppula, Det
  • Conor Sheary, Pit
  • Andreas Athanasiou, Edmonton
  • Neal Pionk, Winnipeg
  • Kevin Fiala 

So what did we learn from the list of names of the guys making $3 million/year? Well, they are average NHL players. 

These are guys who are on your third/fourth line or your second/third pair defensemen. They are either veterans who are getting a decent contract as a UFA or a younger guy playing on a bridge contract (what’s 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 the average NHL salary are 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. 


What is the 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 belonged to its best player, Connor McDavid. McDavid registers a cap hit of $12.5 million USD and he had a take home pay of $15 million dollars.  

As for take home salary McDavid was beat by Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs who had a take home salary of $16 million USD, but had a lower cap hit of $10.89 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!


What is the lowest salary?


The lowest salary is easier to figure out than the average or the highest. The lowest salary is set by the agreement between the players and the league and a player cannot be paid less than the minimum.

The lowest salary in the league is $700,000/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 player is Dale Weise of the Montreal Canadians and he is making $2.35 million.  

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 when compared to the highest, lowest and median?


The average salary is $2.3 million higher than the lowest salary, but 9.5 lower than the highest. As well, the average salary is 0.65 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 all-star and superstar players. 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. 

LeagueLowAverage HighTop Earning Player
NHL$700,000$3.0 million$12.5 millionConnor McDavid
NBA$582,000$7.0 million$37.44 millionLebron James
NFL$495,000$2.1 million$35 millionRussell Wilson
MLB$550,000$4.36 million$37.7 millionMike Trout

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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