For those keeping a close eye on the offseason, you may have noticed that the biggest contract has been signed in the NHL to date.
And the player to hold that honor is Nathan MacKinnon, who just came off a championship season.
MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche were recently crowned the Stanley Cup Champions in June 2022.
In the last year of his current contract, MacKinnon was eligible for an extension.
And the extension was to the tune of $12.6 million USD per season for the next 8 years. Or $100.8 million USD in total.
Since the NHL allows for slight variation in year-to-year pay, the bulk of the contract is front loaded.
For both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons, MacKinnon will be earning a whopping $16.5 million USD in base salary + signing bonus.
But that is at the very top of the spectrum. Most NHLers don’t even come close to that amount, let alone the league average of around the $2.5-3 million mark.
For a detailed breakdown of the average NHL wage, make sure to check out my blog post on What is the Average NHL Salary?
As a note, the top payed player for the current season (2022-23) happens to be Tyler Seguin at $13.0 million.
So, let’s get straight to answering your question…
What is the NHL Minimum Salary?
The minimum salary for NHL players is set at $750,000 USD for the 2022-23 season. This is the minimum a player can make having signed a one-way contract with any of the 32 NHL teams. The minimum salary was established by the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement which extends to the 2025-26 season.
As of season opener, there are 81 players signed to the league minimum contract.
Unlike the NBA, the NHL doesn’t have a pay scale based on tenure. That is, a 15-year veteran can be offered the same contract as a rookie - $750,000 USD.
The minimum salary is not tied to the any change in the overall team cap limit. But the upper cap limit is expected to grow year over year.
The most notable players on a minimum contract are Sam Gagner (WPG), Zach Parise (NYI), Zach Bogosian (TBL) and Marc Staal (FLA).
These players have been in the league for quite some time.
Except for Parise, none of these players would ever be considered elite level.
But their longevity in the league speaks volumes.
As for Parise, he notched a 94-point season with the New Jersey Devils and served as their captain.
Later, he signed a 13-year, $98 million USD contract with the Minnesota Wild as well.
Unfortunately, the Wild never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals during his time on the team.
In any case, should any of these players have a good year, those min level contracts may have been well worth it.
Minimum Salary By Year
The last collective bargaining agreement was signed in Jul 2013 and was extended in July 2020.
The extension included a minimum salary guarantee until the 2025-26 season.
Minimum Salary (USD)
As illustrated below, each couple of years there is a slight increase made to the guaranteed player minimum.
If NHL profits continue to grow, expect to see new all-time highs set both to the lower, upper and average player salaries.
My guess is that we’ll see $1.0 million USD base by 2030.
Can Players get paid less than minimum?
There are circumstances in which a player can get paid less than the minimum wage.
This applies to both players under two-way contracts or players signed during the season.
During their tenure in the NHL, they are paid a prorated amount no less than the minimum wage.
However, because they likely won’t spend the full 82-game season at the NHL level, they will earn a proportionate amount only.
Another situation in which a player gets paid less than minimum is if they are fined by the league and have to forfeit a portion of their salary.
In essence, players can never sign for less than the minimum wage, but they may never earn the full amount.
Finally, players sent back to their minor affiliate team (two-way contract), will resume the salary signed at the minor level.
And even the best minor league contracts are a fraction of the NHL minimum salary.
Surprisingly, the NHL minimum salary is comparable to that of other major sports leagues such as the NFL and MLB.
The minimum NBA salary is set at more than $1.0 million USD but can only be offered to players with 0 years of NBA experience. When it comes to veteran players, their minimum allowable salary can balloon to $2.9 million USD. (source)
In the end, NHL players can be certain they are being fairly compensated at the bottom end of the spectrum.
Rookies that sign entry level contracts can work their tail off to earn that pay upgrade.
Meanwhile, the minimum salary is all a veteran needs to prove his value and play in the best hockey league on earth.
For some, a chance to win the Stanley Cup is more important than getting an exceptional paycheck.
But let’s be real. Who wouldn’t want to earn Nathan MacKinnon money ($16.5 million USD)?
We’d live comfortably for the rest of our lives just on that single-year salary alone.