What is the lowest salary in the NHL? (and who is making it)

In hockey and most other professional sports the contracts that make the headlines are the largest and most expensive ones. But these are team sports and there are a lot of players that don’t get the press. How much do the players at the bottom-end get paid?

What is the lowest salary in the NHL? In 2020-21 the lowest salary as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement for a player is $700,000 USD. Approximately 14% of the players in the NHL make the league minimum, which will be raised to $750,000 in 2021-22 in the last year of the current collective bargaining agreement. 

The current bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players started out in 2012 is set to expire after the 2021-22. Throughout this time the league has mapped out what the lowest salary for a player in the NHL can be in each given year. 

The minimum has been raised with an expectation that the salary cap will rise but has not been pegged at a certain percentage of the salary cap. 

The NHL and NHLPA have added a four-year extension unto the existing agreement. The extension will see an increase in the league minimum salary for the final two years (here is a look at the average NHL salary).

Here is a list of those 10 years laid out in the current bargaining agreement and the 4 additional years of the cba extension for the minimum salary in a Standard Players Contract

YearMinimum Salary
2025-26$800,000 USD
2024-25$775,000 USD
2023-24$750,000 USD
2022-23$750,000 USD
2021-22$750,000 USD
2020-21$700,000 USD
2019-20$700,000 USD
2018-19$650,000 USD
2017-18$650,000 USD
2016-17$575,000 USD
2015-16$575,000 USD
2014-15$550,000 USD
2013-14$550,000 USD
2012-13$525,000 USD

Who makes the league minimum?

So who makes the minimum salary in the league? Well, I have got a chart at the bottom of the article of all the current players in the NHL who make the minimum salary. Keep in this mind that the players on this chart are very fluid and may be there one day, but gone the next.

That’s the life of a player when you are at the bottom of the pay scale in the NHL.

As you scan through the players names you will notice that there are not many household names. The types of players that fit into the lowest salary players are either on their rookie contracts or journeyman players or veterans on their last contract.  

Some of the players on rookie contracts who make the minimum include Carter Hart (who is a fantastic young goaltender), Samuel Girard (great young defensemen) and Frederik Gauthier.

Some of the veteran players who are at then end of their career and are now making the minimum include Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jason Spezza. They may have been able to make more money on a different team, but will often take less money (they have already made a lot) to play in a situation they like where they have a chance at the Stanley Cup.

However, most of the players are either players that are too good for the minors but not quite good enough to be a regular in the NHL (we call these players ‘tweeners’). This list includes press box sitters such as Tobias Reider, Curtis Lazar, and Daniel Carr. Unless you follow the teams they are on you probably do not know who they are.

Embed from Getty Images

An interesting subset of this list are veteran players who used to make a lot, and I mean a lot of money, but took a minimum contract because they wanted to keep on playing.

They can still help the team out, but they usually will take less money to be on a good team because they want to get another shot at winning a Stanley Cup.  This list of players includes Patrick Marleau and Jason Spezza.  

How many players in the NHL make the league minimum? 

Again, the list of players in the NHL who make the minimum will always be very fluid but give or take there is about 9% of players in the NHL.  There are about 98 players who make the league minimum out of the 700 players total. 

This surprised me a little bit, as I didn’t expect that high of a percentage to only be making the league minimum. This has even been exaggerated due to the COVID pandemic. The league’s salary cap stayed flat so teams did not have as much money to spend on players.

This resulted in an extra 30 players being paid the minimum – the year before there were about 68 players making the minimum.

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What is the discrepancy between league minimum and maximum?

As in most other professions the few people at the top make most of the money and this is no different in NHL players salaries. 

The maximum salary a player can earn is 20% of the team salary cap, which in the current year would be 16.3 million dollars. So the range of salaries in the NHL this year could be as high as 16.3 million and as low as 700K. 

No player is making $16.3 million dollars this year, but the highest is not far off as John Tavares and Austin Matthews are both making $15.9 million. This is a little deceiving because the actual average of their contracts, or aav (annual average value), over the lifetime of them is about $11 million. However, the NHL allows teams to pay players different salary sums in different years.  

Another way to look at it is the top three paid players this year – Tavares, Matthews and Connor McDavid – make as much combined ($45 million) as the bottom 65 players in the NHL. 

NHL league minimum versus other sports

How does the NHL compare to the NFL, MLB and NBA for league minimums? 

  • NBA – the NBA lowest salary is based on years of experience, but of all these at 0 years experience a player would get a minimum salary of $898,320
  • NFL – the minimum annual salary for a rookie active roster player with a one-year contract is $480,000
  • MLB – In 2019 the minimum salary for a baseball player in the major leagues was $555,000

List of players who make the league minimum

Yannick WebberNSH
2. Brett RitchieCGY
3. Dmytro TimashovNYI
4. Kevin ConnautonFLA
5. Craig AndersonWSH
6. Devin ShoreEDM
7. Andy GreeneNYI
8. Frédérik GauthierARI
9. Fredrik ClaessonSJS
10. Michael Del ZottoCBJ
11. Riley SheahanBUF
12. Alexander VolkovTBL
13. Drake CaggiulaARI
14. Jalen ChatfieldVAN
15. Micheal HaleyOTT
16. Mason MarchmentFLA
17. Kurtis GabrielSJS
18. Ryan MacInnisCBJ
19. Max McCormickCAR
20. Nikita NesterovCGY
21. Gustav ForslingFLA
22. Louis BelpedioMIN
23. Dominik SimonCGY
24. Drew ShoreCAR
25. Zach SenyshynBOS
26. Joakim NordströmCGY
27. Steven FogartyBUF
28. Austin PoganskiSTL
29. Joe ThorntonTOR
30. Sheldon RempalCAR
31. Greg McKeggBOS
32. Glenn GawdinCGY
33. Kasimir KaskisuoNSH
34. Matt NietoSJS
35. Patrick MarleauSJS
36. Clark BishopOTT
37. Phillip Di GiuseppeNYR
38. Scott WedgewoodNJD
39. Daniel CarrWSH
40. Ross ColtonTBL
41. Travis BoydTOR
42. Jayson MegnaCOL
43. Troy GrosenickLAK
44. Mark AltLAK
45. Tomas JurcoVGK
46. Frédérick GaudreauPIT
47. Brandon DavidsonBUF
48. Andreas BorgmanTBL
49. Jonny BrodzinskiNYR
50. Zac RinaldoCGY
51. Matthew PecaOTT
52. Matt IrwinBUF
53. Josh CurriePIT
54. Dakota MermisMIN
55. Tobias RiederBUF
56. Mark JankowskiPIT
57. Evan RodriguesPIT
58. Buddy RobinsonCGY
59. Kyle RauMIN
60. Matt BartkowskiMIN
61. Noah JuulsenFLA
62. Jonas JohanssonBUF
63. Gemel SmithTBL
64. Nicolas MelocheSJS
65. Matt LuffLAK
66. Jason SpezzaTOR
67. Michael McCarronNSH
68. Jacob De La RoseSTL
69. Patrick RussellEDM
70. Artyom ZagidulinCGY
71. Oscar DanskVGK
72. Ben HarpurNSH
73. Michael ChaputARI
74. Marc MichaelisVAN
75. Eric ComrieWPG
76. Michael Dal ColleNYI
77. Matt RoyLAK
78. Michael AmadioLAK
79. Dylan GambrellSJS
80. Brogan RaffertyVAN
81. Daniel RenoufCOL
82. Matt TennysonNJD
83. Andrew AgozzinoANA
84. Philippe MailletWSH
85. Nathan WalkerSTL
86. Nate ProsserPHI
87. Patrick BrownVGK
88. Luke JohnsonMIN
89. Michael SgarbossaWSH
90. Kevin CzuczmanPIT
91. Brad HuntMIN
92. Marcus HögbergOTT
93. Jarred TinordiBOS
94. Chad RuhwedelPIT
95. Gerald MayhewMIN
96. Anton BlidhBOS
97. Joel HanleyDAL
98. Samuel MorinPHI

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