NHL player salaries have seen fantastic fluctuations over the past two decades owing to aggressive player negotiations, reckless owner spending, and the introduction of the NHL salary cap in 2005.
The chart below shows the highest paid players in the NHL in terms of annual salary since 1989-1990 and the team responsible for payment.
|1995-1996||$6,540,000||Gretzky (LAK, STL)|
|2000-2001||$10,000,000||Forsberg (COL), Kariya (ANA)|
|2003-2004||$11,000,000||Forsberg (COL), Jagr (WAS)|
|2007-2008||$10,000,000||Briere (PHI), Gomez (NYR), Vanek (BUF)|
|2010-2011||$10,000,000||Lecavalier (TBL), Luongo (VAN)|
|2011-2012||$12,000,000||B. Richards (NYR)|
Six times during this span Jagr led all players in pay (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) with Gretzky (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996) and Weber tied for second place with four such salary titles (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). Only five times since 1990 has a goaltender (Luongo 2011) or a defenseman (Weber 2013-2016) led the league in pay.
In terms of accomplishments, three times during this span the NHL salary king has captured the Art Ross finishing with the most regular season points (Gretzky 1991, Lemieux 1997, Jagr 2000) yet only once has one hoisted the Stanley Cup (Forsberg 2001) in his highest paid year.
As for MVP honors, hockey writers and GMs have never recognized a top earner for regular season (Hart, Norris, Vezina) or playoff (Conn Smythe) performance during this period, though the players twice picked Jagr (2000, 2006) as such (Lindsay) during his six season pay day heyday.
Of course, since the salary cap was introduced in 2005, the key figure in terms of a player's cost to a team is his cap hit figure as opposed to his annual salary. A list of the top player salary and cap hit figures by position for the 2016-17 NHL season can be found here.
* See also NHL Highest Player Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also NHL Minimum Wage & Maximum Wage By Year.
* See also Rethinking NHL Player Salary Structure.