On the 25-man Team USA roster, only a handful earned less than $3.5 million in 2014. In fact, if we were to list not only the salaries, but also the net worths of these players, they’d easily surpass almost all other current Winter Olympic athletes. Team USA only selects the best of the best, so it’s hardly a surprise that these guys are also top earners.
Other Olympic players like James van Riemsdyk, Max Pacioretty and Ryan Callaghan narrowly missed making our list. Dustin Brown, in fact, just signed an 8-year contract starting next season with the LA Kings that will see him making $47 million, including $7.25 million in his first two years. He too didn’t make the cut, though. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 highest-paid team USA hockey players heading to the Sochi Olympics in 2014. See who’s tops and who didn’t make the grade.
8 & 9. Ryan Kesler and Paul Martin - $5 million
Alternate captain Ryan Kesler is in the middle of his six-year, $30 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. He’s played his entire 10-year career with Vancouver; however, come February in Sochi, he’ll be suiting up with his brothers south of the border. This is nothing new for the Michigan native who participated in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when the boys in red, white and blue secured Silver on the podium.
What might Kesler be doing had he not been selected to play with Team USA? You might just find him in uniform at Save-on-Foods and Tim Hortons. That's right, Kesler did a small stint at both stores during the 2012 lockout-shortened NHL season to cheer up fans.
His fellow Team USA teammate, Paul Martin, also earns $5 million in 2014 as part of his five-year, $25 million contract. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman is about to put in some valuable ice time; he recently returned from a 23-game absence due to a broken tibia. Although he made Team USA in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010, he didn’t get to play in either (one of which was due to injury). He’ll want to rack up as much practice as possible before suiting up for the Olympics to ensure he gets his time on the ice this year.
7 Phil Kessel - $5.4 million
Phil the Thrill will be wearing white and blue for the Maple Leafs for many years to come. Just this October, he secured the biggest deal in Leafs history: an eight-year, $64 million contract extension. It was the seventh-largest salary cap hit in the NHL. Even though Toronto’s been home to the longest Stanley Cup drought in the league, Kessel’s scoring prowess just may be what they need. They are already gaining some traction, recently going on a hot streak, and if they keep that up, Kessel may just be able to translate that into goals in the big Olympic arenas of Sochi.
6 Jimmy Howard - $5.5 million
The Detroit Red Wings goaltender is improving heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics. Jimmy Howard has returned to form of late, which just may be the push he needs to compete for the starting spot against veteran Ryan Miller and heir-apparent Jonathan Quick. The Red Wings are paying him $31.75 million over the next six years.
5 Ryan Miller – $6.25 million
Team USA’s starting goalie from the 2010 Vancouver games returns to duty with veteran Ryan Miller. This season has been a trying campaign as he and the Sabres have struggled to a last-place position in the Eastern Conference. While this hasn’t been completely Miller’s fault, it does potentially open up the spot for Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick to seize the No. 1 spot in Sochi. As he reaches the end of his $31.25 million deal, the Olympics could possibly be the stage Miller needs to showcase himself for his next big contract, whether that’s in Buffalo or elsewhere.
4 Patrick Kane - $6.3 million
The NHL’s Player of the Month in November and December, Patrick Kane hopes to translate some of that stellar play overseas on the international ice surface. Although Kane acknowledges that he needs to improve his consistency to keep up with the best players in the league, he did recently end a 10-game scoreless drought. Which Kane will we see in Russia?
The 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is tied for tops in salary with Jonathan Toews on the Chicago Blackhawks.
3 Paul Stastny - $6.6 million
Like Ryan Miller, Paul Stastny will don the red, white and blue in Sochi. And like Miller, Stastny’s been subject to tons of trade rumours. The top center for the Colorado Avalance has piqued the interest of the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and maybe even the Winnipeg Jets. Stastney’s in the last year of his $33 million contract and will need a strong finish to the season to ensure his next big payday.
2 Jonathan Quick - $7 million
The 2011-2012 NHL season was a good one for LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup – and he was in turn rewarded in a big way by the Kings' front office. He inked a 10-year extension worth $58 million. And while the goaltender will see himself pocketing $7 million a year from now until 2020, the bigger question is whether Quick will be starting in goal in Sochi. With Miller currently struggling and Howard battling with inconsistencies and injuries, there's a belief that this is Quick's job to lose.
1 & 1. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise - $12 million ($10 million signing bonus and $2 million salary)
Ryan Suter and Zach Parise top our list thanks to some clever maneuvering by the Minnesota Wild. Both forwards who will suit up for Team USA were offered the same 13-year, $98 million deal; however, when you get down to the specifics, the numbers tell a different story. The Wild frontloaded the contracts, meaning that in their final three years, these forwards will each earn just $5 million total. That’s considerably lower than the $9 million they are each expected to earn per year starting in 2015 until 2020.
This year, both Olympic players will pocket a $2 million base salary in the NHL, with a $10 million signing bonus, the same amount they banked in 2012. The frontloaded contracts take advantage of an obvious loophole in the NHL's CBA to reduce the cap hit. These contracts will allow the Wild to get the most out of Parise and Suter in their prime, while protecting their wallets as the pair grow older and their skills inevitably begin to decline.