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The Incredible Rise of NHL Player Salaries

The last few years there has been a plethora of NHL players signing huge contracts, be it as a free agent or a contract extension. Each season these big contracts are occurring much more frequently. The dramatic increase in NHL player salaries has also occurred in a relatively short period of time and under a hard salary cap. There has been an incredible rise of NHL player salaries in recent times.

The Analysis

Using data from, an analysis of NHL player salaries between 2011-12 to 2016-17 was completed.

The annual average values (cap hit) per contract was compared from this coming season (2016-17 cap hits) to five years ago (2011-12 cap hits). For the purposes of this analysis, the total amount of players in the NHL used as a measurement was 600.

The Numbers

For the last few years, NHL fans might have been wondering how significantly player salaries have risen. The bottom line is there has been a cosmic shift going on regarding hockey players’ salaries. Let’s compare player salaries today to five years ago:

– Players making at least $4 million a year has increased 65.2%

– Players making between $4 to $5 million has increased 50%

– Players making between $5 to $6 million has increased 110%

– Players making between $6 to $7 million has increased 30%

– Players making between $7 to $8 million has increased slightly over 50%

– Players making at least $8 million a year has increased 350%

– Players who will make at least $4 million a year next season is at 37.9%

– Players who made at least $4 million a year five years ago was at 23%

What is even more compelling is the trend upwards has been gaining tremendous momentum over the last two to three years. At this point, it does not appear that salaries will move backward.

The Salary Cap is Crawling

The other part of this equation is while NHL player salaries are sky-rocketing, the salary cap has been moving at a snail’s pace. The salary cap ceiling for the 2014-15 season was at $69.4 million. A year later for the 2015-16 season, the cap ceiling only increased 2.3% to $71.0 million. For the upcoming 2016-17 season the cap ceiling is set at $73.0 million. This is only a 2.8% increase compared to last year.

It is important to note the last two years the cap has only gone up due to the NHLPA escrow vote.

In essence, the NHL salary cap has received a cost of living increase the last couple of years, while players’ salaries have grown by leaps and bounds. Not only is the cap not keeping up with the rise of player salaries, but if this was a marathon race it would be called off at the quarter point.

Final Thoughts to Consider

There seems to be no reason to believe the upward trend of NHL player salaries will not continue. While at least for now the elite player salaries range is falling between $8.5-$10.5 million, the amount of players joining the $4-$6 million dollar club is increasing at a rapid pace.

How much will player salaries increase five years from now? How much will player salaries increase due to the addition of the Las Vegas expansion franchise? If the league expands again in the coming years, how much of an affect will that have on player salaries? Finally, at what point does the salary cap ceiling hit its breaking point and can no longer sustain these current salary increases?


Main photo:

DALLAS, TX – MARCH 12:  Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars shoots the puck against the St. Louis Blues in the first period at American Airlines Center on March 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


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