Despite the NHL's implementation of the salary cap in 2005, players' salaries continue to increase. While the salary cap dipped down to $64.3 million following the NHL's most recent lockout, players are still getting richer. With the NHL scoring a $5.2 billion deal with Rogers for broadcasting rights in Canada, league revenues will rise, which means so will players' salaries.
With more teams able to pay more money, the free agency market will continue to be an attractive avenue to explore for players with expiring contracts. Every summer, teams overpay free agents and more often than not, the players are unable to live up to the ridiculous contracts they sign. The more astute teams lock up their young stars well before they hit the free agent market. As a result, more players are able to stick with one team, and while their overall salary might be higher if they tested free agency, they get the trade-off of being in a familiar environment, and having long-term security with their contracts.
That being said, it's rarer and rarer that a player in any sport remains with the same team for their entire career. As crazy as it is to imagine players like Crosby or Ovechkin in another uniform, anything can happen in sports. Who would've thought we'd see Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform? Or Lebron James heading south to Miami? Any player in any sport can don different uniforms throughout their career. That's the nature of the business. However, these 10 have built themselves a fortune in one city. Perhaps it is a little easier in hockey due to guaranteed contracts, and with league revenues jumping every year, teams will have no trouble locking down their top stars if they wish to do so.
Here are the current top 10 highest-paid NHLers who have donned the same jersey their entire career thus far.
Note: Players are ranked based only on their NHL salaries for this season, not including additional income from endorsement deals.
10 Mikko Koivu - Minnesota Wild - $7.3 Million
Mikko Koivu is not the highest-paid player on his team, as the Minnesota Wild made the biggest splash in 2012 free agency, landing Minnesota natives Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who are earning nearly double Koivu's salary for the 2013-14 season. And don't forget Dany Heatley, whom the Wild acquired in a trade a couple of seasons ago.
Koivu's salary this season comes in at $7.3 million. He signed his current deal in 2011, worth $47.3 million over seven years. His annual cap hit is $6.8 million and his salary will fall to $5.4 million next season. By this time next year Koivu will no longer be on this list, but for now he is the surprise of the top 10. Koivu is not a world-class player, but he is a very good forward that many teams would love to have. He netted a career-high 71 points in 2009-10. One can argue he's overpaid, but that doesn't mean he isn't helpful to the Wild.
9 Anze Kopitar - Los Angeles Kings - $7.5 Million
Anze Kopitar has every gift a hockey player could ask for. Ideal size for a centreman, great hands, and he gets to play in a warm climate. While Los Angeles is not a major hockey town, the Kings' Stanley Cup win in 2012 and their run at the conference final this past season has rejuvenated the L.A. market's interest in the game of hockey.
He was drafted 11th overall by the Kings in the 2005 draft, behind players like Crosby, Bobby Ryan and Carey Price. Kopitar signed a seven-year, $47.6 million contract in 2009. He averages a $6.8 million cap hit, but his salary this season comes in at $7.5 million. His endorsements aren't the highest, likely due to the fact that the sport he plays is the fourth most popular in the L.A. market, and that he hails from Slovenia, which may not make him as marketable as say, North Americans Jonathan Quick or Drew Doughty. His production on the ice is what puts him on this list. Kopitar enjoyed a career season in 2009-10, with 81 points, including 34 goals and tallied 8 goals and 12 assists in the Kings playoff run in 2012.
8 Duncan Keith - Chicago Blackhawks - $7.7 Million
The only player on this list with multiple Stanley Cups, Duncan Keith has been the rock of the Chicago Blackhawks' back end. He has never missed more than 10 games in a season and has a Norris Trophy under his belt (2010). His salary this season comes in at $7.7 million, however as a defenceman, his endorsements don't quite match up with the next on this list, Henrik Zetterberg.
Keith cashed in after his Norris season - which also happened to be the year the Hawks ended a 49-year cup drought - in which he was a major factor in the playoffs. He signed a 13-year deal worth $72 million. Keith's stats have somewhat regressed since signing his contract, having not topped 50 points since 2010, although that does include last year's shortened season. Team success is what counts most though, as Keith is part of Chicago's core, which General Manager Stan Bowman has done a masterful job at keeping intact.
Keith is the highest-paid player on the most successful franchise of the past five years, but that will likely change soon, as both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's contracts expire after next season. They will justifiably both be given a hefty raise. By this time in two years, Keith will likely be the third-highest paid player on his team, and both Toews and Kane will likely be on this list. He is already behind them in endorsements.
7 Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit Red Wings - $7.5 Million
A man who was once picked 210th overall in the NHL Entry Draft is now one of the league's highest-paid players. What a crazy world. Henrik Zetterberg has been a godsend for the Detroit Red Wings, as the franchise needed to replace several veterans following their success before the 2004 lockout. Zetterberg's salary for the 2013-14 season comes in at $7.5 million as part of a 12-year, $73 million deal that will pay him into 2020-21. His cap hit comes at a bargain for a player of his caliber at $6.1 million. His endorsements include Mylec Hockey and Easton.
Zetterberg was called upon to replace Nicklas Lidstrom as Red Wings captain following the future hall of famer's retirement. He is a main reason for the Wings' constant success. Zetterberg is part of Detroit's historic streak off 22 straight playoff seasons, and he never disappoints.
6 Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins - $7.5 Million
Does Evgeni Malkin being at no. 6 on this list seem a little low to you? Don't worry, at this time next year, he'll jump a few spots. Malkin is currently playing under his old contract which yields a pay of $7.5 million for this season. When his new deal kicks in next year, he'll be bumped up to $9.5 million a year, to add to his $400,000 in endorsements. It's ridiculous to think a world-class player like Malkin isn't the highest-paid player on his own team, but that's what happens when you're Sidney Crosby's teammate.
Malkin actually has an accolade that Crosby doesn't; a Conn Smythe Trophy, which he won in the Penguins cup run in 2009. He may also get a chance to stick it to his teammate in Sochi if Russia happens to collide with Canada. Malkin will carry a higher cap hit than Crosby next year. Due to Sid the Kid's tough luck with injuries the past couple of seasons, Malkin has carried the Penguins for long stretches, which is why the Penguins aren't letting either of them get away.
5 Eric Staal - Carolina Hurricanes - $9.25 Million
Playing in a relatively small NHL market like Raleigh prevents Eric Staal from being a little higher on this list. The Carolina Hurricanes pay their captain $9.25 million this season, as per his seven-year deal which brings an annual cap hit of $8.25 million. His endorsement deals bump his earnings by another quarter million for a total of $9.5 million this year. That includes his deals with Bauer and General Mills.
Staal has managed to be an elite player in the NHL both when the Hurricanes were in Stanley Cup-winning form back in 2006, and in their more recent lean years. They've made the playoffs only twice in Staal's career, winning it all in '06 and reaching the conference final in 2009. While the franchise has been inconsistent, their one constant has been Eric Staal.
4 Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning - $8 Million
Score a lot of goals and you will be paid handsomely. Steven Stamkos has had no trouble lighting the lamp from the moment he stepped into the NHL. In just his sixth year, Stamkos already has won two Maurice Richard trophies for the most goals in a season, including a career-high 60 in 2011-12.
Stamkos cashed in as a restricted free agent in 2011, and now earns $8 million a season, though his salary will dip to $5.5 million in 2015-16, when he will likely sign an even bigger contract. Stamkos's endorsements net him another $1.7 million, which includes a deal with Nike. He is the Lightning's highest-paid player, following the team buying out Vincent Lecavalier in the offseason. He is currently out with a broken tibia, but will most certainly continue to produce once he is healthy. Despite having already missed weeks with his injury, he is still in the top 10 in goals scored this season.
3 Alexander Ovechkin - Washington Capitals - $9.5 Million
The richest non-Canadian in the game comes in at number three on this list. Alex Ovechkin was drafted by the Washington Capitals first overall in 2004 and the franchise has never had a more buzzed market. Arguably the most exciting player in the game, Ovechkin already has won three Hart Trophies and likely has more to come.
Ovie signed his current deal in 2008, which was a 13-year extension worth $124 million. The contract averages $9.5 million a year. His cap hit is currently at $9 million, but will jump to $10 million next season and his endorsement deals will bring his total income for this season to $12.5 million. Ovechkin's numbers dipped in 2011 and 2012, as the Capitals went through multiple coaching changes, but the hiring of Adam Oates saw Ovechkin go on a tear last year, en route to his third Hart Trophy. His current sponsorships include Bauer and Kraft Canada. That list will likely increase as the Olympics in his home country approach.
2 Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins - $12 Million
The Pittsburgh Penguins do not make Sidney Crosby the league's highest-paid player alone, as his income from the Pens comes in at $12 million for the 2013-14 season, despite his cap hit being at $7.5 million. However, being the face of the NHL, Crosby will net $4.5 million in endorsement deals, bringing his total salary to $16.5 million this season. He currently has deals with Reebok, Bell, Tim Hortons, Gatorade and Frameworth.
The Penguins managed to lock up Crosby prior to the new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the current CBA, Crosby would only be able to sign for 8 years with Pittsburgh, but in anticipation of term limits coming, the Penguins signed Crosby to a 12-year, $1o4 million extension. Crosby has been and will most likely remain a Penguin for his entire career.
With the Sochi Olympics coming in February, Crosby will once again have a chance to market himself as a national hero in Canada. Having scored the golden goal at the 2010 Vancouver games, Crosby can cash in on more endorsement deals with a strong showing in Russia. The face of the NHL will be compensated handsomely for a long time.
1 Shea Weber - Nashville Predators - $14 Million
Shea Weber has been with the Nashville Predators his entire career. He is a player to build a franchise around and that's what Nashville has done. However, Weber wouldn't have made this list if the Predators hadn't matched the contract the Philadelphia Flyers drew up for him last year. Due to him being a restricted free agent in the 2012 NHL offseason, Weber had the freedom to negotiate and sign an offer sheet with any team, with Nashville having the chance to match it. The Philadelphia Flyers came along with an offer that no sane person would ignore. Weber signed a 14-year, $110 million deal with Philly. The Predators had already lost Ryan Suter in free agency to Minnesota, so they matched the Flyers' offer and made Weber the highest paid defenceman in the NHL.
Weber will earn $14 million this season from the Predators, as his contract is front-loaded. Being in a small market like Nashville, he will only rake in $100,000 in endorsement deals, preventing him from being the highest-paid player in hockey. He undoubtedly would have been, had the Predators not matched Philly's offer a year ago. His contract and his elite play makes the former Norris Trophy winner about as untouchable as they come.
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