The Sochi Winter Olympics this year may be causing more controversy through certain social issues plaguing Russia – namely the country’s ban on pro-gay propaganda – than it is uniting people from all over the world, but one thing it does do is create some pretty entertaining hockey games. Since NHLers have been allowed to compete in the Winter Games since 1998, ice hockey at the games has been among the most hotly-anticipated events – at least, by Canadian fans. With that, this list will be counting down the top 10 highest-paid players on this year’s Canadian roster to be duking it out in Sochi among the rest of the world’s best.
Some of these players are making among the biggest salaries in the league – spoiler alert: the #1 player is not who you think – and are easily among the league’s elite. Some have won Stanley Cups and all of them are defending gold medalists from Canada’s run in the 2010 Olympics at home in Vancouver. With that, these players are hoping to make history repeat itself in Sochi by the time the games are over.
Whether or not they’ll be able to do it is anyone’s guess – host nation Russia, Sweden and the United States are other potential gold medal threats – but with a roster like the one they’ve got, Canada has certainly established a reputation as one of the teams to beat, even after losing Steven Stamkos to injury.
Regardless, these players have earned the right not only to represent their country on the world’s biggest stage for international hockey, but also to their individual paychecks. Since Canada’s team is extremely difficult to get onto with such immense depth at every position, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Here are the 10 men playing for Canada in Sochi who have been getting paid the most handsomely this season.
10. Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks ($6.5 million in 2013-14)
Tied with Canadian assistant captain Jonathan Toews for the 10th spot but edging Toews out thanks to his more lucrative contract, Ryan Getzlaf is expected to be a big-time player once again for Mike Babcock and his Canadian team. Getzlaf won gold for Canada in 2010 in Vancouver, and the Ducks captain will hope to have a repeat performance in Sochi. With a great deal of international experience and a reputation of being one of the best two-way centres in the NHL, Getzlaf has earned his paycheck of $6.5 million this year, with big raises coming as early as next season.
9. Jay Bouwmeester – St. Louis Blues ($6.6 million in 2013-14)
Although one of the more striking elements of his stats over his NHL career is that he hasn’t missed a game since 2004, Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a player with enough offensive firepower and puck-moving ability to merit inclusion in a Canadian roster that’s tough as nails to break into. Bouwmeester is making $6.6 million this year with his contract running through 2018, and while it’s hard to know how often he’ll be playing for Canada at the Olympics, his ability to log huge minutes and not get injured in the process is something other defenseman on the roster can envy.
8. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings ($6.7 million in 2013-14)
With an Olympic gold medal, a second team All-Star Award, and the Stanley Cup to his name, Drew Doughty has certainly accomplished quite a bit for someone who’s still relatively young at 24 years old. The Kings defenseman is making $6.7 million this season on a contract that will see him in L.A. through 2019, and Doughty will be counted on as one of the most important players on Canada’s squad, having become one of the best defensemen in Vancouver in 2010 after being one of the last players picked for that team. With his wealth of international experience for someone his age, expectations will be high.
7. Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks ($6.7 million in 2013-14)
Roberto Luongo’s reputation has seen its shares of ups and downs over the years. He’s won a gold medal for Canada at his home rink in Vancouver and he’s been to the All-Star Game four times, but he’s also been chastised for failing to meet expectations for the Canucks during the 2011 Cup Final that led to riots in Vancouver, and found himself smack dab in the centre of well-publicized trade rumours that never materialized. Even with the Sochi Olympics in mind, it’s unknown whether Babcock will start Luongo or sit him in favour of Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. That said, Luongo’s accomplishments over the years have led him to a paycheck of $6.7 million this season, and it’s one he has earned despite everything.
6. Patrick Marleau – San Jose Sharks ($6.9 million in 2013-14)
With a career that has been associated almost synonymously with the Sharks, Patrick Marleau will hope to put his wealth of experience both on an NHL and international level to good use in Sochi. Marleau is under contract through 2017 with a salary of $6.9 million this season, and has a gold medal with Canada already to his name following his participation in Vancouver in 2010. Having played over 1,000 games now, the three-time all-star is hoping to add another gold medal to his tally this year, and a Stanley Cup for the Sharks despite their consistently lacklustre playoff performances year in and year out.
5. Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks ($7 million in 2013-14)
A $7 million paycheck this season for someone who was picked at the tail end of the first round of the 2003 NHL draft is certainly quite an accomplishment in itself, but winning a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy and a Rocket Richard Trophy is even better. On top of that, Corey Perry has also won a gold medal with Canada in 2010 in Vancouver, and will hope to add another one in Sochi this year. Although his point totals have dropped a bit in recent years with the Ducks, Perry will certainly be looking to put that aside and contribute in a massive way for Canada’s run at this year’s Winter Games.
4. Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks ($7.66 million in 2013-14)
Not that many players on this year’s Olympic roster for Canada can say they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice. But Duncan Keith is one of the exceptions, and his playing style and reputation that he’s built with the Blackhawks has most certainly merited his place on this year’s Canadian team. He’s been an all-star twice, and has one gold medal already under his belt with Canada in 2010. His salary this year in Chicago comes up to about $7.66 million on a contract running through 2022, and the two-way defenseman will be hoping to continue his good luck with winning trophies and medals this season.
3. Rick Nash – New York Rangers ($7.8 million in 2013-14)
After playing for a Blue Jackets team that largely failed to get off the ground despite his elite-level playing ability, Rick Nash now plays with the New York Rangers and has a $7.8 million contract this year to boot. Nash will also be counted on to provide offensive firepower for Mike Babcock’s team in Sochi following his role in 2010 on the Canadian team at the Vancouver games. A five-time All-Star and one-time Rocket Richard Trophy co-winner (he was tied with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk for the trophy), Nash will be trying to make up some ground offensively considering his so far sub-par season with the Rangers.
2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins ($12 million in 2013-14)
What more is there to say about the best player in the game right now? He’s won a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy, and is a two-time NHL First All-Star Team player, and four-time All-Star – even though he’s only played one All-Star Game due to injuries in the other three. And who could forget that golden goal he scored in overtime in 2010 to win the gold medal for Canada? The Penguins captain will also be captaining Canada in Sochi, and the weight of his country’s expectations lie largely on his shoulders. For Crosby, who’s making $12 million this year in Pittsburgh, he’s got to prove that he can play well for Canada through an entire tournament and not just deliver for one game when it really matters.
1. Shea Weber – Nashville Predators ($14 million in 2013-14)
You thought the number one player was gonna be Crosby, eh? Well, not quite. After the Nashville Predators matched the Flyer’s $110 million, 14-year offer sheet – the richest in the league’s history – in 2012 for Shea Weber, it made the Preds defenseman the highest-paid player in the NHL. But it’s hardly surprising that a player like Weber would be so coveted: he’s the Predators’ captain, he’s a consistent Norris Trophy candidate, he’s been an All-Star three times, and he’s won an Olympic gold medal for Canada. As one of the Canadian team’s alternate captains in Sochi, Weber will be expected to help lead the blueline in Canada’s quest for a second straight gold medal.