Average NHL salary

Average NHL Salary

In the high-stakes arena of professional ice hockey, this article dives into the intricate world of NHL salaries, dissecting the factors that shape the average player earnings and exploring the broader implications for both individuals and the league as a whole.

What is the average NHL Salary?

The average NHL salary is $2.18M in 2023. However, 74% of players earn less than the average. This data is based on the 1,267 contracts from the 2023~2024 season.

Average NHL Salary - Distribution Chart

Average NHL Salary

The average NHL salary is $2.18M in 2023. But the majority of players earn less than $2.18M.

76% of NHL players earn less than $2.18M, with 65% earning less than $1M in salary.

The distribution of salaries almost follows the 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto Principle. But in the NHL it is closer to “70/30.” The top 30% of NHL players earn 72% of the total league salary.

Also, interestingly, the top ~15% of players earn over half of all the salary in the league.

A majority of players earn less than $1M a year.

Average NHL Salary - Pie Chart

The Most Common NHL Salary

The reason why the distribution of salaries is so skewed is because the majority of NHL players are on low-paying, entry-level contracts.

The most popular salary in 2023, was the 2023 Entry Level contract ($775,000).

The table below shows the top 5 most popular NHL salaries in 2023.

Percentage of NHLSalary
Most Common NHL Contracts – 2023

Interestingly, the 5 most popular contracts in the NHL span the exact amount that any rookie is allowed to get paid in the NHL.

Rookies in the NHL – players under 25 – are only allowed to sign contracts between $775,000 and $950,000 in 2023, and the top five most common contracts in the NHL happen to fall in that range.

Another name for these contracts afforded to rookies is the “Entry Level Contract.”

21% of the league is on the 2023 Entry Level Contract (ELC), which has a base salary of $775,000. The entry-level contract (ELC) also represents the minimum amount that any player can be paid in the NHL.

The reason why the ELC is the most popular contract in the NHL is because any rookie under 25 must sign the ELC, they have no other option.

In other words, if you are a rookie under 25 you cannot make less than $775,000 or more than $950,000.

And when you consider that, in conjunction with the fact the majority of NHL players are under the age of 25, it makes sense why the $775k ~ $950k is the most popular salary in the NHL.

NHL Age Distribution

What’s The Lowest Paid NHL Player?

The lowest-paid NHL player gets paid $775,000 in 2023. This is also known as the minimum entry-level contract in the NHL.

The minimum salary for an NHL entry-level contract (ELC) is outlined in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (NHL CBA). The minimum salary gradually increases over time, likely to account for league growth and inflation.

The entry-level contract also has a maximum threshold, currently at $950k.

See the graph below that illustrates how the minimum NHL salary has grown over time.

NHL Minimum Salary Chart - Entry Level Contract

The current minimum salary ($775,000) is set to remain constant until the 2026 season when new minimum salaries will likely to be set for the foreseeable future.

How Much Is A Rookie Contract In The NHL?

A rookie contract pays $775,000 in the NHL, at minimum. At most, a rookie contract can pay $950,000.

Any rookie who is under 25 and wants to play in the NHL must sign a rookie contract.

The rookie contract is also known as the entry-level contract and represents the minimum amount that any player can be paid in the NHL.

The length of the contract depends on the age of the player. 18~21 year-olds sign for three years, 22~23 year-olds sign for two years, and 24 year-olds sign for one year.

Average NHL Salary By Age

The chart above shows a big jump in average NHL salaries after age 21 which can likely attributed to the mass expiration of rookie contracts, those that initially belonged to 18-year-old draft picks.

There is also another big jump that occurs after age 24. This jump is likely due to the fact that “24” is the last year in which a player is considered a rookie in the NHL. Therefore, at age 25 players can actually negotiate for a contract instead of blindly accepting the standard rookie deal.

Russians Get Paid The Most

In terms of nationality, among the larger hockey countries, Russian players get paid the most. The average Russian NHL player makes $2.7M.

On average, Russian players get paid $400,000 more dollars than the second highest-paid nationality, the United States.

Average NHL Salary By Country

The higher salaries may have something to do with the fact that Russia is home to the second best hockey league in the world, the KHL.

The KHL offers both competitive hockey and salaries to rising Russian stars.

Many Russian players in fact, turn down NHL contracts in order to finish their careers back home, or never leave Russia to begin with. This puts them in a favorable negotiating position back in America, simply because they have options.

Prolific NHL scorer Alexander Radulov was famously stolen from the Nashville Predators by a KHL hockey club early in his career, just as his NHL rookie contract was expiring.

Radulov warned Nashville that the KHL team was offering him a better deal, but they did not listen. As a result, Nashville missed out on the prime years of a serious scoring talent.





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