There are usually outliers among the top-paid players in every sport where the contract doesn’t match the production. Brooklyn Nets’ small forward Joe Johnson has the second highest salary in the NBA this season at $24.9 million. Only three MLB players made more this season than first baseman Ryan Howard, who was paid $25 million by the Philadelphia Phillies. The total value of the contract for Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler is higher than any other NFL player at $126.7 million.
But NHL general managers have chosen wisely recently when rewarding the richest deals to elite players. There are half a dozen NHL players with eight-figure salaries during the 2015-2016 season and each ranks among the top players at their position.
When tracking the highest-paid players, Forbes considers salaries, as well as off-ice income from endorsements, licensing, memorabilia and appearances. We looked at 2015-16 NHL salaries and estimates for endorsements based on conversations with industry insiders.
The top-earning NHL player is Sidney Crosby at $16.5 million, including $4.5 million off the ic
e. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ center remains the NHL’s most marketable player with endorsement deals with Gatorade , Rogers Communications , CCM, Tim Horton’s, Upper Deck, Verizon and Frameworth for memorabilia. Sid the Kid signed a deal in October with Adidas worth more than $1 million annually. The two-time MVP was previously aligned with Reebok since entering the NHL as the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2005.
Crosby, 28, is under contract with the Pens for nine more years after this season and owed $68.4 million. His salary drops next season from $12 million to $10.9 million.Chicago Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews ranks No. 2 at $16 million. The three-time Stanley Cup champion kicked off a new $84 million contract this season worth $13.8 million in its first year. He has a rich endorsement portfolio with the likes of Bauer,Canadian Tire , Chevrolet , Frameworth, Hallmark, Upper Deck and Electronic Arts EA -1.28% where he graces the cover of EA NHL 16.
Patrick Kane checks in at No. 3 with earnings of $14.7 million, including $900,000 off the ice. Kane signed an identical eight-year contract to his teammate, Toews, in July 2014. The 2007 No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft had the NHL’s top-selling jersey last year.
Electronic Arts pulled Kane this summer from the cover of EA NHL 16 before the game’s release after a sexual assault investigation involving the winger. Kane has not been charged with any crime. He still has deals with Bauer, Gatorade, Chevrolet, Upper Deck and Frameworth.
Shea Weber has the top salary in the NHL this year thanks to a front-loaded $110 million contract the Nashville Predators’ defenseman signed in 2012. The deal pays $14 million annually the first four seasons before it starts declining with the 2016-17 season. Weber does little off the ice in small market Nashville and ranks fourth overall at
Three-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin rounds out the top five at $13 million. He banks an estimated $3 million off the ice from endorsement partners like Bauer, Nike NKE -1.27%,Coca-Cola KO +0.26% and Fanatics. Ovechkin lost a valuable sponsorship agreement withGillette when the deal expired at the end of 2014, but it allowed Ovi to return to his pre-Gillette days where he often put the razor away for blocks of time.
The league’s best-paid players are also among the most popular. The six players with the best-selling jerseys last year rank among the top seven salaries this season.
The NHL’s top 10 earners will bank $124 million this year with only $13 million of the total from endorsements. NHL players are restricted to a maximum salary of 20% of the salary cap. The max salary has soared in recent years thank
s to rising revenue, which determines the cap, but a declining Canadian dollar is impacting the cap, which rose only 3.5% this year. The players above already have their contracts, but NHL future free agents could be constrained in a salary cap environment with minimal growth. For the fourth straight year, no NHL players qualified for Forbes’ annual list of the world’s 100highest-paid athletes where the cutoff was $18.8 million. Athletes from 10 other sports made the top 100.