Were These NHL Players Worth Their Contracts?
There is a major disparity in pay when you compare the NHL to the other three major North American professional sports leagues because hockey players aren't making close to the bank their fellow pros get in the NBA, MLB and NFL. It's not even close.
While NHL players can still become rich beyond their wildest dreams playing the sport they love, the highest-paid player in NHL history doesn't crack the top 80 highest-paid NBA players of all time, top 50 highest-paid MLB players of all time or the top 25 highest-paid NFL players of all time.
These are the highest-paid NHL players of all time through the end of the 2022-2023 season — were they worth the mega-contracts they received?
20. Brad Richards — $105.3 Million
Born: May 2, 1980 (Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, Canada)
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (2000-04, 2004-08), Dallas Stars (2008-11), New York Rangers (2011-14), Chicago Blackhawks (2014-15), Detroit Red Wings (2015-16)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2004, 2015), Conn Smythe Trophy (2004), Byng Trophy (2004), NHL All-Star (2011) NHL All-Rookie Team (2001), NHL YoungStars Game (2002)
Bottom line: It's pretty amazing to see Brad Richards on this list, as he went from a third-round pick to winning the Stanley Cup championship with two different teams, including a Conn Smythe Trophy with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 and ultimately surpassing $100 million in career earnings.
Richards, who won his second title with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, was picked by the Lightning in the same draft that the team selected Vincent Lecavalier No. 1 overall. But it was Richards who set the NHL record with seven game-winning goals in the 2004 NHL Playoffs.
19. Roberto Luongo — $106.4 Million
Born: April 4, 1979 (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Career: New York Islanders (1999-00), Florida Panthers (2000-06, 2014-19), Vancouver Canucks (2006-14)
Career highlights: Six-time NHL All-Star (2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2016), NHL YoungStars Game (2002)
Bottom line: Roberto Luongo finished his 19-year NHL career No. 2 in games played for a goaltender and No. 4 in wins but never won a Stanley Cup or a Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie. Don't feel too bad for him, though. He still managed to bank over $100 million in career earnings.
It's a testament to Luongo's skill and the skill of his agent that he's still on this list almost a decade after he played his last game.
18. Nicklas Backstrom — $107.5 Million
Born: Nov. 23, 1987 (Valbo, Sweden)
Career: Washington Capitals (2007-present)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2018), NHL All-Star (2016), NHL All-Rookie Team (2008), NHL YoungStars Game (2008)
Bottom line: According to his father, Nicklas Backstrom put on a pair of skates for the first time at 2 years old and refused to take them off when he went to bed, which his parents were fine with because "it was the only thing that made him happy."
Backstrom was a hockey prodigy in his native Sweden and would go on to become one of the greatest playmakers in NHL history, passing 50 assists for six consecutive seasons beginning in 2012-13, including the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup-winning season in 2018.
17. Jonathan Toews — $109 Million
Born: April 29, 1988 (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Career: Chicago Blackhawks (2007-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Stanley Cup champion (2010, 2013, 2015), Conn Smythe Trophy (2010), six-time NHL All-Star (2009, 2011, 2012 2015-17)
Bottom line: Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews — "Captain Serious" — is the youngest player to ever make it to the Triple Gold Club, which means winning an Olympic gold medal, Stanley Cup title and World Championship.
Toews, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, was named to the list of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players in 2017 and has won three Stanley Cup titles with the Chicago Blackhawks.
16. Drew Doughty — $110.9 Million
Born: Dec. 8, 1989 (London, Ontario, Canada)
Career: Los Angeles Kings (2008-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014), five-time NHL All-Star (2015-19), Norris Trophy (2016), NHL All-Rookie Team (2009)
Bottom line: Drew Doughty was selected No. 3 overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008 and made his NHL debut that same year at 18 years old; he also made the NHL All-Rookie Team. Doughty would go on to help lead the Kings to a pair of Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2016.
And it's not over. Doughty still has some major coin headed his way — his contract with the Kings runs through the 2026-27 season, and when it ends, he will have made $154.2 million in career earnings.
15. Zach Parise — $111 Million
Born: July 28, 1984 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Position: Left wing
Career: New Jersey Devils (2005-12), Minnesota Wild (2012-21), New York Islanders (2021-present)
Career highlights: NHL Youngstars Game (2007), NHL YoungStars Game MVP (2007), All-NHL Team (2009)
Bottom line: Zach Parise is a second-generation NHL player — his father, Jean-Paul Parise, played 16 seasons in the NHL and was a two-time All-Star.
Zach had his best years with the New Jersey Devils and cashed in big as an unrestricted free agent in 2012, signing a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.
14. Erik Karlsson — $111.4 Million
Born: May 31, 1990 (Landsbro, Sweden)
Career: Ottawa Senators (2009-18), San Jose Sharks (2018-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Norris Trophy winner (2012, 2015), eight-time NHL All-Star (2011, 2012, 2016-19, 2023), three-time All-NHL Team (2012, 2015-17), NHL 2010s All-Decade Team
Bottom line: The only thing missing from Erik Karlsson's resume at this point is a Stanley Cup — he's a six-time All-Star and has won the Norris Trophy twice as the NHL's top defenseman.
Karlsson owns almost all of the Senators' records for a defenseman from his nine seasons with the club, including a single-season record 78 points in 2012 when he won his first Norris Trophy.
13. Joe Thornton — $111.5 Million
Born: July 2, 1979 (St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada)
Career: Boston Bruins (1997-2004, 2005), San Jose Sharks (2005-2020), Toronto Maple Leafs (2020-21), Florida Panthers (2021-22)
Career highlights: Six-time NHL All-Star (2002-04, 2007-09), Hart Trophy (2006), Art Ross Trophy (2006), four-time All-NHL Team (2003, 2006, 2008, 2016)
Bottom line: Joe Thornton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, was beloved in Boston, and his trade is generally considered one of the low moments in the franchise's history. Thornton is the only player to switch teams mid-season and win the NHL Most Valuable Player award, which he did in 2005-06 when he was traded from the Bruins to the San Jose Sharks.
Few players in NHL history have had the passing ability of Thornton, who won his first Stanley Cup 19 years after he made his NHL debut in 1997.
12. Chris Pronger — $113.9 Million
Born: Oct. 10, 1974 (Dryden, Ontario, Canada)
Career: Hartford Whalers (1993-95), St. Louis Blues (1995-2004), Edmonton Oilers (2005-06), Anaheim Ducks (2006-09), Philadelphia Flyers (2009-12)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2007), Norris Trophy (2000), Hart Trophy (2000), NHL All-Star (1999-2002, 2004, 2008), NHL All-Rookie Team (1994), four-time All-NHL Team (1998, 2000, 2004, 2007)
Bottom line: Chris Pronger is one of just two defenders, alongside Bobby Orr in 1972, to win the Hart Trophy and the Norris Trophy in the same season. For all of his accolades, Pronger won just one Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks and is widely considered one of the dirtiest players in NHL history.
How dirty of a player was Pronger? He once laid out pop star Justin Bieber with a crushing check into the boards during a charity game, and close-up pictures revealed Pronger did it with a huge smile on his face.
11. Patrick Kane — $115.6 Million
Born: Nov. 19, 1988 (Buffalo, New York)
Position: Right wing
Career: Chicago Blackhawks (2007-23), New York Rangers (2023-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Stanley Cup champion (2010, 2013, 2015), Hart Trophy (2016), nine-time NHL All-Star (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015-20), Calder Trophy (2008), NHL All-Rookie Team (2008), Conn Smythe Trophy (2013), three-time All-NHL Team (2010, 2016, 2017)
Bottom line: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Patrick Kane is arguably the greatest American-born NHL player of all time and the first American-born player to win NHL Most Valuable Player honors, which he did in 2016.
Kane is also a three-time Stanley Cup champion and nine-time NHL All-Star. Kane played with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2007 to 2023 before he was traded to the New York Rangers.
10. Carey Price — $116 Million
Born: Aug. 16, 1987 (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
Career: Montreal Canadiens (2007-22)
Career highlights: Seven-time NHL All-Star (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017-19), NHL All-Rookie Team (2008), NHL YoungStars Game (2009), Olympic gold medalist (2014), Jennings Trophy (2015), Vezina Trophy (2015), Hart Trophy (2015), All-NHL Team (2015)
Bottom line: The Montreal Canadiens selected Carey Price at No. 5 overall in 2005, and he spent his entire career with the franchise, including leading the Habs to their first Stanley Cup Final in 28 years in 2021.
Price had one of the greatest seasons for a goaltender in NHL history in 2015 when he swept the Vezina and Hart trophies and won the Lindsay (regular season outstanding player) and Jennings (fewest goals scored) trophies as well. He was the first player in NHL history to win all four awards in a single season.
9. Steven Stamkos — $116.6 Million
Born: Feb. 7, 1990 (Markham, Ontario, Canada)
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2020 2021), seven-time NHL All-Star (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2022), NHL YoungStars Game (2009)
Bottom line: The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ball out of the park by picking Toronto native Steven Stamkos No. 1 overall in 2008. Stamkos became a star for the Lightning almost immediately — no matter how much former head coach Barry Melrose tried to hold him back early on.
Stamkos has led the NHL in goals twice, is a six-time All-Star and put the final feather in his cap when he helped lead Tampa Bay to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, coming up just short in 2022 by losing in the finals.
8. Ryan Suter — $117.6 Million
Born: Jan. 21, 1985 (Madison, Wisconsin)
Career: Nashville Predators (2005-12), Minnesota Wild (2012-21), Dallas Stars (2021-present)
Career highlights: Three-time NHL All-Star (2012, 2015, 2017), All-NHL Team (2013)
Bottom line: Ryan Suter's career earnings will continue to spike — he's signed through the end of the 2028-29 season, when he will top $130 million in career earnings.
It's fair to say he might be the most overpaid player in NHL history and not even one of the Top 25 American-born NHL players of all time. Suter has never won a Stanley Cup and never won a Norris Trophy. While there's still time, it doesn't seem like it will happen.
Fun fact: Suter's father, Bob Suter, was a member of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics — the "Miracle on Ice" squad.
RELATED: Where Are They Now: 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
7. Vincent Lecavalier — $128 Million
Born: April 21, 1980 (L'ille-Blizard, Quebec, Canada)
Position: Right wing
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (1998-2004, 2005-13), Philadelphia Flyers (2013-15), Los Angeles Kings (2015-16)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2004), King Clancy Trophy (2008), four-time NHL All-Star (2003, 2007-09)
Bottom line: The Tampa Bay Lightning owners boasted that Vincent Lecavalier would be "the Michael Jordan of hockey," and they didn't do him any favors after they drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998.
Lecavalier had an outstanding career but had to work through some bumps in the road early on. He became the youngest captain in NHL history in 1999 but then had the captaincy stripped two years later by head coach John Tortorella.
Lecavalier proved to be incredibly resilient — he won back the captain position and led the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2004.
6. Anze Kopitar — $129.2 Million
Born: Aug. 24, 1987 (Jesenice, Slovenia, SFR Yugoslovia)
Career: Los Angeles Kings (2006-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014), five-time NHL All-Star (2008, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2020), Byng Trophy (2016), NHL YoungStars Game (2007)
Bottom line: Selected No. 11 overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2005 NHL Draft, Anze Kopitar became the first Slovenian player in NHL history in 2006. He has delivered on his promise throughout his career, making five All-Star games and leading the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014.
Kopitar's current contract will place him at close to $137 million in career earnings when it runs out after the 2023-24 season. If he wants, that could probably become close to $150 million in career earnings before he retires.
5. Shea Weber — $130.8 Million
Born: Aug. 14, 1986 (Sicamous, British Columbia, Canada)
Career: Nashville Predators (2005-16), Montreal Canadiens (2016-21)
Career highlights: Seven-time NHL All-Star (2009, 2011, 2012 2015-17, 2020), four-time All-NHL Team (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), NHL YoungStars Game (2007)
Bottom line: Few players in NHL history have been able to blast a hockey puck as hard as 6-foot-4, 230-pound Shea Weber, who made a mint playing most of his career with the Nashville Predators after being selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft.
Weber played in the Stanley Cup Finals just once, in 2021 with the Montreal Canadiens, and left hockey before the 2021-22 season because of long-term injuries and despite having five years left on his contract.
4. Jaromir Jagr — $135.3 Million
Born: Feb. 15, 1972 (Kladno, Czechoslovakia)
Position: Right wing
Career: Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-2001), Washington Capitals (2001-04), New York Rangers (2004, 2005-08), Philadelphia Flyers (2011-12), Dallas Stars (2012-13), Boston Bruins (2013), New Jersey Devils (2013-15), Florida Panthers (2015-17), Calgary Flames (2017-18)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (1991, 1992), NHL All-Rookie Team (1991), Hart Trophy winner (1999), 13-time NHL All-Star (1992-94, 1996-2004, 2016), five-time Art Ross Trophy winner (1995, 1998-2001)
Bottom line: Jaromir Jagr was the youngest player in the NHL when he broke in just past his 18th birthday in 1991, and he became the oldest player in the league when he played his final season at 45 years old in 2018.
Jagr played a staggering 25 seasons for nine teams and is No. 2 on the NHL's career points list behind Wayne Gretzky, although Jagr only won two Stanley Cup championships — both coming in the first two seasons of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He's also the only player in NHL history to participate in the Stanley Cup as a teenager (in 1991) and in his 40s (in 2013).
3. Evgeni Malkin — $141.2 Million
Born: July 13, 1986 (Magnitogorsk, Russia, Soviet Union)
Career: Pittsburgh Penguins (2006-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017), seven-time NHL All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015-17), Calder Trophy (2007), NHL YoungStars Game (2007), All-NHL Team (2008, 2009, 2012), two-time Ross Trophy winner (2009, 2012), Conn Smythe Trophy (2009), Hart Trophy (2012)
Bottom line: Evgeni Malkin was taken No. 2 overall in the 2004 NHL Draft as the Pittsburgh Penguins took back-to-back Hall of Famers in 2004 and 2005 by selecting Sidney Crosby No. 1 overall the next year.
Malkin proved to be the perfect sidekick to Crosby over the next few decades, winning three Stanley Cup championships and becoming a seven-time All-Star, but Malkin was great in his own right, winning NHL MVP honors in 2012. By the time Malkin and Crosby finish their careers, they will have banked over $300 million in earnings from the Penguins.
2. Alex Ovechkin — $150.7 Million
Born: Sept. 17, 1985 (Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union)
Position: Left wing
Career: Washington Capitals (2005-present)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2018), 14-time NHL All-Star (2007-09, 2011, 2012, 2015-23), three-time Hart Trophy (2008, 2009, 2013), Conn Smythe Trophy (2018), Calder Trophy (2006)
Bottom line: Few players in NHL history have been as revered by their contemporaries as Alexander Ovechkin, a three-time NHL Most Valuable Player.
Ovechkin was projected as the No. 1 overall pick by the time he was 15 years old — his birthday was just two days past the date that would have made him eligible for the 2003 draft. The Florida Panthers attempted to take him in the ninth round, contending that leap years actually made him eligible. That's how good Ovechkin was at a young age.
Ovechkin has played his entire career with the Washington Capitals and won his first Stanley Cup championship in 2018.
1. Sidney Crosby — $152.8 Million
Born: Aug. 7, 1987 (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Career: Pittsburgh Penguins (2005-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017), two-time Hart Trophy winner (2007, 2014), nine-time NHL All-Star (2007-09, 2011, 2015, 2017-19, 2023), two-time Ross Trophy winner (2007, 2014), NHL All-Rookie Team (2006), two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2016, 2017), NHL All-Star MVP (2019)
Bottom line: Sidney Crosby was famous for his hockey talent at a very young age, doing his first televised interview in his native Nova Scotia when he was just 7 years old. By the time Crosby was 16, he was already being touted as a future top pick in the NHL Draft. This came to fruition when the Pittsburgh Penguins took him No. 1 overall in 2005 when teams were entered into a lottery based on playoff appearances and past draft lottery results because of the 2004-05 lockout — also known as "The Sidney Crosby Lottery."
Crosby became the youngest player to lead a North American sports league in scoring and was the youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup in 2009. Crosby would go on to win the Stanley Cup two more times, in 2016 and 2017, and is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time.