Top 10 NHL career salary earners: Jagr leads the way

Jason Kay
Jaromir Jagr

In comedy, timing is everything. In real estate, it’s location, location, location.

And for the NHL’s all-time career earnings leaderboard, it’s both.

When former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow spearheaded the initiative that brought about player salary disclosure in 1990, he set in motion a pay hike trend that made the world’s best hockey players amazingly wealthy.

At the same time, free agency rules and owners with increasingly deep pockets helped fuel the inflationary spending.

The factors combined is why Wade Redden, who announced his retirement the other day after 14 NHL seasons, was able to leave the game 20th in all-time career earnings at just under $70 million according to data compiled by Capgeek.com. An elite defenseman for the first two-thirds of his career before joining the New York Rangers as a free agent in 2008, Redden made on average just more than $68,000 for each of his 1,023 regular season games.

So where do some of the greatest players from our era rank? Wayne Gretzky is 109th at $42.6 million, Mario Lemieux is (fittingly) 66th at $52.5 million and Patrick Roy is 45th at $59.2 million. It’s important to remember the numbers are calculated from 1990 onwards, meaning significant portions of Gretzky’s and Lemieux’s careers are not included. Of course, their average pays during the 1980s ($2 million per or less) were small potatoes by today’s standards.

Here are the top 10. It’s interesting to note that three of the players – Paul Kariya, Vincent Lecavalier and Keith Tkachuk – are long shots to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

1. Jaromir Jagr: $117.8 million
Salary per regular season game: $82,033*
Stanley Cups: 2
Major Awards: 9 (Art Ross, 5; Ted Lindsay, 3; Hart, 1)
Hall of Fame: Shoo-in

2. Chris Pronger: $108.8 million
Salary per regular season game: $93,230
Stanley Cups: 1
Major Awards: 2 (Hart, 1; Norris, 1)
Hall of Fame: Shoo-in

3. Nicklas Lidstrom: $100.6 million
Salary per regular season game: $64,348
Stanley Cups: 4
Major Awards: 8 (Norris, 7; Conn Smythe, 1)
Hall of Fame: Shoo-in

4. Joe Sakic: $96.4 million
Salary per regular season game: $69,956
Stanley Cups: 2
Major Awards: 4 (Hart, 1; Ted Lindsay, 1, Lady Byng, 1; Conn Smythe, 1)
Hall of Fame: Inducted 2012

5. Paul Kariya: $89.4 million

Salary per regular season game: $90,394
Stanley Cups: 0
Major Awards: 2 (Lady Byng, 2)
Hall of Fame: Long shot

6. Vincent Lecavalier: $87.3 million
Salary per regular season game: $81,741**
Stanley Cups: 1
Major Awards: 1 (Maurice Richard)
Hall of Fame: Long shot

7. Rob Blake: $84.8 million

Salary per regular season game: $66,771
Stanley Cups: 1
Major Awards: 1 (Norris)
Hall of Fame: Moderate shot

8. Martin Brodeur: $82.0 million

Salary per regular season game: $65,863*
Stanley Cups: 3
Major Awards: 5 (Vezina, 4; Calder, 1)
Hall of Fame: Shoo-in

9. Keith Tkachuk: $81.2 million
Salary per regular season game: $66,610*
Stanley Cups: 0
Major Awards: 0
Hall of Fame: Long shot

10. Sergei Fedorov: $81.2 million
Salary per regular season game: $66,064*
Stanley Cups: 3
Major Awards: 4 (Hart, 1; Ted Lindsay, 1; Selke, 2)
Hall of Fame: Good shot

* contracts of Jagr and Brodeur expire at the end of this season
** Lecavalier’s calculation includes a buyout. His contract expires at the end of 2017-18