Highest-Paid NHL Players 2021-22: Connor McDavid Leads A Top Ten Still Being Stung By The Pandemic

7 min read
Already paid much less than the stars of the NFL, the NBA and even MLB, the top hockey players have seen their annual earnings fall 27% since 2019.
A uston Matthews may be the NHL's best sniper, leading the league in goals last season, but this year's biggest score belongs to Connor McDavid.

The Edmonton Oilers' 24-year-old captain reclaims the top spot on Forbes' list of the NHL's highest-paid players with $16.4 million for the 2021-22 season. That includes a league-high salary and bonus package of $12.4 million plus another $4 million in annual off-ice income from endorsements, appearances, memorabilia and licensing deals. McDavid had been No. 1 in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 but was edged last season by Matthews. This time around, however, the Toronto Maple Leafs' 24-year-old goal-scoring machine has to settle for the runner-up spot with $12.2 million.

Combined, the NHL's ten highest-paid players are set to collect $117 million, a pittance compared with the top-ten totals in the NBA ($714 million), the NFL ($418 million) and even Major League Baseball ($357 million). Hockey's relatively meager revenue—projected to surpass $5 billion this season, a third of what the NFL made in its last pre-pandemic season, in 2019—depresses salaries, and marketing opportunities off the ice are scarce.

Even by the NHL's standards, however, the $117 million earnings total is low, down 6% from last year and well below the 2019-20 season's record of $159 million. In fact, the total is the worst showing since the 2013-14 season's top ten pulled in $116 million, in part because of the financial havoc wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the league's collective bargaining agreement with its players' union, the NHL uses an escrow system to ensure a 50-50 split in revenue between owners and players. A portion of players' paychecks is held in an account until the league can finish tabulating its income at the end of the season; that money is then returned to the players or handed over to the owners depending on how much revenue the league collected over the course of the season. Last year, players had 20% of their salaries…
Brett Knight
Read full article