This list will feature 15 players who have managed to live a pretty good life during their NHL careers. Although we might not always think so, some players from the past have also cashed in quite nicely. For example, Joe Sakic sits in the top 5 all time, making $96.379 million during his time as an NHL player. Also, a pair of Hall of Fame bound defenseman sit 2nd and 3rd on the all time list; Nick Lidstrom ranks in at number 3, making a little over $100 million, and Chris Pronger sits in number 2 on the all time list, cashing in a cool $112.8 million. The number 1 career earner will be featured in this list. It should be noted that this list is subject to change in years to come, as Sidney Crosby will eventually be the highest career earner once his contract reaches its expiration. A pair of Russians, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, will also eventually climb up this list, reaching 4th for Ovie and 5th for Gino. Shea Weber is a bit of a surprise, as he is set to be the second highest career earner of all time after his contract reaches its expiration.
But for now, let us take a look at who currently tops the list amongst active players in the NHL, for the highest career earnings.
15 Patrick Marleau: $68,795,000
At the age of 35, San Jose’s former 2nd pick overall is still going strong. Since making his debut for the Sharks during the 97-98 season, Patrick Marleau has played 17 seasons with the team that drafted him. Throughout his career, Marleau has been a model of consistency for the team, putting up at least 40 points in 14 out of 15 complete seasons; the only season he failed to hit the 40 point mark was during his rookie season, where he managed to put up 32 points in 74 games, still quite impressive. Marleau has cashed in nicely over his career. In 2010, he signed his highest paying contract of his career, worth $27.6 million in exchange for a 4 year term ($6.9 per). Marleau is currently in his first year of his new 3 year deal worth $20 million ($6.6 per). His contract is set to expire when he turns 38. It remains to be seen if Marleau will increase his career earnings after his contract is up, or if the long time Shark will call it a career.
14 Martin St. Louis: $69,813,000
The undrafted winger has come a long way since making a little more than $250K in his first season in the league. Martin St. Louis saw his pay increase dramatically after his breakout season, during the 03-04 campaign. St. Louis put up career numbers at the time, scoring 38 goals and 94 points. St. Louis saw his salary go up from $1.5 million to an elite $6.5 million after the lock-out season. Marty then agreed to the richest contract in his NHL career, signing a 6 year deal worth $31.5 million ($5.25 per). At the age of 39, Marty is still playing at a high standard, and is currently in the final year of his deal worth $5.625 million. It will be interesting to see if St. Louis will continue to cash in on his already impressive career earnings, or if the dynamic little winger will finally call it a career.
13 Patrik Elias: $69,849,498
Patrik Elias enjoyed his most productive season during the 00-01 season, when Patrick put up 40 goals along with 96 points. Due to his great play, Elias was rewarded with a pay increase in the 02-03 season, and Elias saw his contract go from $750K per season to $4.47 million. Elias agreed to his most valuable contract heading into the 06-07 season, when the long time Devil signed a 7 year deal worth 42 million. At the age of 38, Elias is currently in his 17th season as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Patrick has 2 years left on a deal worth $16.5 million, for 3 years. With Patrick’s numbers starting to decrease, expect the long time Devil to call it a career after his contract is up.
12 Sidney Crosby: $70,050,000
As you might expect, Sidney Crosby is the youngest player making this top 15 list, despite being only 27 years old. When you’re regarded as being the best player in the world, it’s no secret that you’ll eventually be a very rich man. Crosby cashed in immediately after his 3 year level entry deal, and Sid agreed to his first major contract before the 08-09 season, signing for $43.5 million for a 5 year term, an average of $8.7 million/year. Just a season ago, Crosby extended his stay in Pittsburgh, signing a ridiculous 104.4 million dollar extension. When Crosby’s contract expires in the 2024-2025 season, he will be the NHL’s highest career earner of all time.
11 Sergei Gonchar: $70,450,000
Nice and steady describes Sergei Gonchar’s earnings throughout his 19 year career. Despite bouncing around a couple of teams throughout his career, Gonchar’s salary demands have stayed the same, no matter where he goes. Since the post-lockout era in the NHL, the 40 year old player has made an average of $5 million every single season. Sergei is currently in his final year of his 2-year, 10 million dollar deal, now with the Montreal Canadians. This may be Gonchar’s final season as an NHL player, but kudos to Gonchar for cashing in quite nicely and consistently throughout his rather fruitful career.
10 Marian Gaborik: $71,379,000
Still reasonably young at the age of 32, Marian Gaborik is another surprise entry on this list. Marian’s managed to cash-in quite nicely, despite an injury riddled career. The Rangers made the former 3rd pick overall a very rich man, signing the Czech native to a 5 year, $37.5 million dollar deal. Gaborik didn't disappoint in his first season as a Ranger, putting up a career high 86 points. Gaborik was later traded to the Blue Jackets and then finally found a permanent home in Los Angeles. Gaborik had a tremendous post season run with the team, leading the Kings to signing Gaborik to a 7-year contract extension worth $34.125 million ($4.875 million/year). Marian’s deal is set to expire when he turns 38, so this may be his final contract as an NHL player.
9 Roberto Luongo: $72,390,500
8 Zdeno Chara: $77,481,500
Despite being drafted in the 3rd round, the 6’9 defender managed to have a tremendous career captaining his current team, the Boston Bruins. Zdeno Chara became a very rich man during the off season before the 06-07 season, as the highly coveted free agent left Ottawa and signed a huge deal with the Bruins worth $37.5 million for a 5 year term ($7.5 mil per). Chara did not disappoint in his time with the Bruins, changing the team’s dynamic and identity. The tall defenseman was later resigned to another huge extension worth $45.5 million for a 7 year term ($6.9 mil per). Chara’s contract is set to expire during the 2017-2018 season, and he will be 41 when it comes to a close. Therefore, this may be Chara’s final NHL contract.
7 Marian Hossa: $81,450,000
At the age of 35, what a true model of consistency this player has been, spanning throughout his entire career run. Playing in 14 full seasons in the NHL, with the exception of his rookie year, Hossa has managed to score at least 24 goals (or more) every season, along with a minimum of 51 points (or more) every year. Even more remarkable, Hossa has been a minus player only once during his entire career. After bouncing around a couple of teams, the Hawks made sure that Hossa wasn't going anywhere this time, locking him down to a massive 12-year deal worth $63.3 million. Marian’s contract will expire in the 2020-2021 season, and it is expected that it will be his final contract of his tremendous NHL career.
6 Martin Brodeur: $82,666,505
Still going strong as a member of the St. Louis Blues, Marty is ranked as the top career earner, amongst goaltenders, of all time. The Devils made Brodeur a very rich man his entire career, most notably in the 06-07 season, where Brodeur signed his most lucrative contract worth $31.2 million for 6 years ($5.2 mil per). Brodeur closed out his run with the Devils, making $9 million in exchange for a 2-year deal, quite impressive for a goaltender who signed that deal at the age of 40. Marty is currently under contract with the Blues in what may be his final season. The Hall of Fame bound goaltender wasn't looking for money on this deal, just an opportunity to win one final cup. Marty is making $700,000 with the Blues this season.
5 Joe Thornton: $83,175,000
No surprise here to see Boston’s former 1st overall pick make this list. The 35 year San Jose Shark player has made a minimum of $6.6million every season since following the lockout. Since the lockout, Joe Thornton has been keen on signing 3-year deals. Thornton signed four big money deals throughout his career, once with Boston and the other three times with his current team, the San Jose Sharks. The breakdown of Joe’s four deals are almost identical, signing a 3-year deal worth $20 million from 05 to 08, then another 3 year from 08-11 (worth $21.6 million), following that up with another 3-year deal worth $21 million, and finally signing a deal which started this season worth $20.25 million. Thornton’s contract is set to expire when he hits the tender age of 38. The question remains if Joe has another 3-year deal left in him.
4 Jarome Iginla: $83,825,000
During his prime days as a Calgary Flame, Jarome Iginla was not only a great sniper, but also a tremendous leader. After a breakout season during the 01-02 campaign (scoring 52 goals), Jarome was awarded (after the lockout) a lucrative deal worth $21 million for 3 years ($7 mil per). Iginla was later extended another 5 years at the same rate of $7 million per season. Despite his older age today, at 37, Iginla is still making some big bucks. Jarome signed with the Av’s this past off season, and the veteran did not come cheap, giving him a contract worth $16 million for 3 years ($5.33 mil per). This is expected to be Iginla’s final contract of his career, set to expire when he hits the big 4-0.
3 Brad Richards: 85,781,556
You can thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers for Brad Richards being ranked so high on this list. Richards broke out early in his career with the Lightning. In 2004, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, leading Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup victory. The next season, Richards would impress once again, putting up a career high 91 points. This prompted the Lightning to sign Richards to a massive extension worth $39 million for 5 years ($7.8 mil per). Upon singing this big extension, Richards would end up getting traded in only the second year of his new contract to the Dallas Stars. After completing 2 good seasons with Dallas, the Rangers stepped up and gave the free agent a ridiculous 9 year, $60 million dollar deal. Richards, as you probably already know, did not live up to expectations and was bought out before year 4 of his 9 year deal. As you might also expect, Richards wasn't too picky when it came to money, signing a one year deal worth $2 million with the Blackhawks this season.
2 Vincent Lecavalier: $98,073,808
When Steve Yzerman took over as General Manager in 2010, he stressed the importance of building youth in Tampa Bay. Steve looked to build the franchise around Steven Stamkos, as opposed to the old guard which consisted of St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Steve was not thrilled when looking at the captains contract worth a ridiculous $85 million for 11 years ($7.7 per). After the 12-13 season, Yzerman decided it was time to move on and the team bought out the remainder of Lecavalier’s huge contract. Surprising many, Lecavalier would opt for another big money deal, as opposed to going to a contender for less money. Vince signed a $22.5 million dollar deal for a 5 year term. With things going pretty bad right now for the Flyers, and Lecavalier being a frequent healthy scratch, expect the former Lightning captain to be either traded or bought out, once again.
1 Jaromir Jagr: $121,303,666
Not only does Jaromir Jagr lead amongst active players, but he is also the highest current career earner of all time. Jagr signed his most lucrative deal with the Washington Capitals, being inked to a 7-year deal worth $55.44 million. Jagr made $11 million during the 02-03 season and the 03-04 season. After the lockout, Jagr’s salary was reduced to $8.36 million per year for the remainder of his deal. Had Jagr never left in 2010 for the KHL, his numbers could have been even higher. At the age of 42, Jagr claims he still has more to give. Look for Jagr’s career earning numbers to possibly increase with a new deal next season. What a player, and what a career for Jaromir Jagr.