Top-End Salary Spending for all 32 NHL Teams

Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
In the salary cap era what you pay players matters than before, but just like the pre-cap eras there is no guarantee the player will give good value on their contract. Every season there are players who outperform their contract, while others underachieve. General Manager would pay big money if you could accurately predict which players would fall into either category, but much of the NHL is unpredictable and that makes it exciting.
We’ve heard and read the term “top heavy” when discussing NHL teams. It refers to having too much money allocated to a small group of players or having little to no depth to support their top players. Today we will focus on a team’s salary cap structure and how they allocate money.
I looked at three groups. The top-three AAV contracts on each team for the upcoming season, and then the top-five players and the top seven. I also noted the shortest contract for players in the top three on each franchise.
I broke it down by division to start, and at the end there is a league-wide ranking of all 32 teams. Regardless of which team you cheer for this will allow you to compare your team to the rest of the league. Who is getting the biggest bang for their back at the top of the lineup? Who is getting the least return on their investment? And there are a few teams poised to become contenders very soon, based on their salary allocation and skillset of their core.


Apr 26, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) talk prior to a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton: $30.25m with Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has two years remaining. Their top-five totals $41.75m with Mattias Ekholm and Zach Hyman and then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evander Kane push their top-seven to $52m. Offence isn’t their issue, and they will have more cap flexibility this season and won’t start the season in LTIR. Their focus will be reducing the glaring errors, and will be looking to add some smart, reliable depth players to fill out their roster this summer. They consider themselves a legit Cup contender and reducing the five-bell errors will be their focus next season. I’d guess Ken Holland’s big acquisition comes at the trade deadline rather than this summer.
Los Angeles: $28.875m with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Kevin Fiala. Kopitar is entering the final year of his deal. Add in Phil Danault and Adrian Kempe and their top-five is $39.875m. Kempe has three years remaining and will be great value for the foreseeable future. Viktor Arvidsson and Cal Petersen round out their top-seven for a combined $49.125m. Petersen was sent to the AHL last season and didn’t return. He has two years remaining on his deal, and he still counts just over $3.8m against the cap if he is sent down. Will GM Rob Blake find a trade partner, or does he consider a buyout? Maybe they think Petersen can bounce back? Their goalie situation is the biggest question mark of the summer as Joonas Korpisalo is a pending UFA and was their starter in the playoffs.
Vegas: $28.3m with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo. Eichel has three years remaining. Their top-five totals $39.45m with William Karlsson and Alec Martinez and then Jonathon Marchessault, who has one year remaining, and Shea Theodore round out their top-seven at $49.65m. I could see them trying to move Reilly Smith ($5m) in the off-season to create some cap room. Robin Lehner has two years remaining at $5m AAV, but his health is a question, and some feel he won’t play next season. Adin Hill’s playoff run should earn him a contract with Vegas but combined with Logan Thompson their goalie (ones who play) cap hit will be quite low.
San Jose: $27.637m from Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. Karlsson and Couture each have four years remaining. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Kevin Labanc push their top-five to $39.362m. Labanc has one year remaining. Mario Ferraro and Kaapo Kahkonen give them a combined $45.362m in their top-seven. The Sharks have more dead cap space in buyouts and salary retention ($5.945) next season than they pay their fifth highest player (Labanc at $4.75m). Their roster isn’t very deep, and they have very little cap flexibility. They are in the middle of a long re-tooling and rebuild, but I’m not sure if management and coaches see it that way.
Calgary: $23.75m with Jonathon Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar. Kadri has shortest term with six years remaining. Their top-five includes Jacob Markstrom and Andrew Mangiapane for a total of $35.55m. Mangiapane has two years left. Mikael Backlund and Noah Hanafin round out their top-seven at $45.85m. Elias Lindholm likely signs an extension this season that will put him in their top-three starting next season. The Flames should be better next season. There was significant negativity around the team last year and a new head coach will be a welcome change for the group. However, their top players need to play better. Milan Lucic’s $6m cap hit comes off the books, but $4.6m of that went directly to Huberdeau as his new $10.5m deal begins next season.
Vancouver: $23.2m with JT Miller, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. Pettersson has one year remaining at $7.35m. Top-five totals $37.11m with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brock Boeser and then you add Tyler Myers and Andrei Kuzmenko and their top-seven sits at $48.11m. The Canucks also have an additional five players with cap hits of $4.1m or more. Which gives them 11 players at $71.36m. They’d like to move some players with hefty contracts, but not as pure salary dumps, so I’ll be interested to see if they can. On paper the Canucks should compete for a playoff spot.
Anaheim: $18.725m with Cam Fowler, John Gibson and Adam Henrique. Henrique is entering the final year of his deal. Their top-five is a combined $28.975m with Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Strome. Silfverberg has one year left. They aren’t signed yet, but I will put Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry in their top-seven, and they likely combine for at least $10m so I have them at $38.975m, but it likely is more. Pat Verbeek has lots of cap space as the Ducks hope to improve in the coming years. Their goal will be to be in contention for a playoff spot when March begins. I don’t see them making it, but they don’t want another year where the season is essentially over at the end of November.
Seattle: $16.9m with Philip Grubauer, Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz. Eberle has one year remaining on his deal. Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand push their top-five to $27.8m. Vince Dunn is an RFA this summer and after his breakout season he will enter their top-seven along with Yanni Gourde for projected total of $38.566m. Their leading goal scorer, Jared McCann, will enter next year as their eighth-highest AAV, and he still has four years remaining on his contract. Even if he only scores 30 goals next year, he is still excellent value for them. The Kraken are well-balanced but lack a true offensive leader. Maybe Matt Beniers becomes that guy in the future, and if not, they will need to find one internally or via a trade/UFA signing.


Dec 10, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) and forward Auston Matthews (34) and forward John Tavares (91) celebrate after a goal by forward Mitchell Marner (not pictured) to defeat the Calgary Flames in overtime at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto: $33.543m with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Matthews has one year remaining on his deal. They have the most expensive top-three, and their top-five is also the highest at $48.005m with Morgan Reilly and William Nylander. Reilly is the only one of their top-five signed for longer than two more seasons. TJ Brodie and Matt Murray round out their top-seven at $57.962m. Their new GM will have some big decisions to make. Does he stick with their big-five or move one of the forwards? While many applaud the work of Kyle Dubas, he got schooled when signing Tavares, Matthews and Marner and it limited their cap flexibility his entire tenure. Toronto has the highest top-three, top-five and second-highest top-seven, but they have only one playoff win to show for it.
Florida: $29.5m with Alex Barkov, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matthew Tkachuk. Goalie Bob has three years remaining. Add in Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart and their top-five sits at $43.5m. Reinhart is a UFA at the end of this coming season. Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe fill out the top-seven at $52.092m. Bobrovsky’s playoffs has shown he can still perform at an elite level, but he will need to continue that for them to get good value on his deal.
Tampa Bay: $28.5m with Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Kucherov has four years remaining on his deal. Steven Stamkos and Mikhail Sergachev round out their top-five for a combined $45.975m and then they have Viktor Hedman and Anthony Cirelli to round out their top-seven at $60.1m. They are top-heavy and it will be challenging to fill out their roster, however, Tampa will still be competitive because their cap space is spread across forward, defence and goaltending and Stamkos is the oldest at 33. None of their stars are slowing down yet.
Boston: $27.25m with David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm and the two defenders have seven years remaining. They are the only team currently with two D-men in their top three AAV. Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall push their top-five to $39.375m. They add Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha to their top-seven for a total of $49.375m. They are poised for a transition as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are unsure if they will play next season. If they don’t the Bruins’ centre depth will be a big issue.
Ottawa: $24.555m with Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot and the latter two each have five years remaining. Add in Josh Norris and Claude Giroux and their top-five sits at $39.005m. Giroux’s deal is done in two years. Their top-seven has Drake Batherson and Jakob Chychrun for a total of $48.58m. The Senators have a lot of money in their top-five and have paid them (excluding Giroux) for what they hope they will do in the future. Their new owner is buying a team that should become a quality team soon.
Buffalo: $23.242m with Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens. Skinner has four years remaining and if he can score 30 goals for the next few seasons his $9m AAV is a bit easier to swallow. Add in Rasmus Dahlin and Alex Tuch and their top-five totals $33.992m. The top-seven contains Victor Olofsson and Mattias Samuelsson at $43.027m. Dahlin will have a new deal and higher AAV in 2024 and Owen Power will also need a contract. If they can get those two in similar deals as Thompson and Cozens the Sabres should be competitive and have good cap flexibility for many years.
Montreal: $22.25m with Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Cole Caufield. Gallagher has four years remaining. Caufield is an RFA this summer, but I’d guess his deal will be close to Suzuki, so I put him there for this article. Their top-five includes Josh Anderson and Mike Matheson for a total of $32.625m. Then you add Mike Hoffman,who is entering the final year of his deal, and Christian Dvorak in the top-seven at $41.575m. They do have Carey Price on LTIR at $10.5m, but I didn’t include him as he won’t play. Montreal needs to improve their defence corps and add more speed. They should be more competitive next season, but I don’t see them as a playoff team.
Detroit: $19.075 with Dylan Larkin, Andrew Copp and Ben Chairot. Chairot has three years remaining. Their top-five includes David Perron and Ville Husso for a total of $28.575m. Perron has one year remaining. There top-seven includes Robby Fabbri and Jake Walman for a total of $35.975m. Moritz Seider will get a huge raise starting in 2024, but Steve Yzerman has loads of cap space to re-sign players and acquire new ones. The Red Wings need to take a step this season, but with Ottawa and Buffalo also improving it will be difficult to make the playoffs in the Atlantic.


Jun 2, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates his goal with right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) and left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and defenseman Cale Makar (8) in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers in game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado: $30.85m with Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. Rantanen has two years left on his deal and the Avs’ top-three is elite. Gabriel Landeskog won’t play next season, and with a $7m cap hit, the Avs will be in LTIR, so I’m not including him for this exercise. Valeri Nichuskin and Samuel Girard push their top-five to $41.975m, and then Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson round out the top-seven for a combined $50.975m. GM Chris MacFarland has six veteran UFA forwards to re-sign or let walk, but JT Compher is the only one who will command a cap close or above $4m. The Avs have room (with Landeskog injury) to be aggressive and acquire another top-six forward to replace him. They could also move out Girard in a trade, as they have good depth on the blueline, if they want to. They need to add two top-six forwards.
Dallas: $27.8m from Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Miro Heiskanen. Benn has two years remaining. Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson push their top-five to $44m. And then you add Esa Lindell and Mason Marchment and their top-seven is $54.3m. Their advantage is the production they receive from the ageless wonder Joe Pavelski and his $3.5m cap hit. At the start of this season many felt the final three years of Benn’s deal would be painful, but he had a great year. He and Seguin likely won’t produce enough to give Dallas good value on their AAV, but if Benn has another year like this one, they won’t be concerned. Benn’s contract expires, along with Ryan Suter’s, at the same Jake Oettinger and Wyatt Johnson need new deals.
Nashville: $25.559m with Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene. Duchene has three years remaining, but if he’s only had 60+ points twice in the last nine seasons. Ryan Johansen and Ryan McDonagh are in the top-five and push it to $40.309m, and they don’t compare to other team’s top-five contracts that are $40+m. Jussi Saros and Tyson Barrie round out their top-seven and they sit at $49.809m. The Predators issue is lack of offensive punch. Their fourth highest paid forward is Colton Sissons at $2.85m. They have no young forwards who are trending to help in the next few seasons, and after trading away many players at the deadline I wonder if new GM Barry Trotz will consider a re-tooling. It would make sense as Johansen is off the books in two years.
Minnesota: $23.75m with Kirill Kaprizov, Jared Spurgeon and Matthew Boldy. Kaprisov has three years remaining. The cap situation of the Wild gets ugly with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter rounding out the top-five with a combined $38.493m. Suter and Parise were bought out a few years ago, so that is $14.743m in dead cap space for two more seasons. Mats Zuccarello and Jonas Brodin fill out the sixth and seventh slots for a combined $50.493m. Zuccarello is entering the final year of his deal. The Wild have two more years of cap hell, and until then I don’t see them as a legit contender. They’ve shown they can compete and make the playoffs, but going deep seems far-fetched.
Arizona: $23.257m with Jacub Voracek, Shea Weber and Clayton Keller. Voraceck has one-year remaining. Only Keller will play this season. Unlike Colorado and Montreal, the Coyotes won’t use LTIR for players out all season. They will keep Voracek, Weber and Bryan Little on the IR so they count against the cap, and they get to the floor. Nick Schmaltz and Little push their top-five to $34.398m. Lawson Crouse and Zack Kassin round out their top-seven and it sits at $41.898m. But only four of those players will play this season. The Coyotes have become an embarrassment for the NHL. They play in a 5,000-seat arena, have no plan, or community that wants them to build an arena in Arizona, yet Gary Bettman continues to let them look for other options. The one good feature they have for anyone who buys them is their cap flexibility. If the new owner is willing to spend, which I assume they would be, then the Coyotes could sign and acquire players with cap hit.
St.Louis: $22.75m with Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas and Colton Parayko. Parayko has the shortest term at seven years. Add in Justin Faulk and Brayden Schenn and their top-five is $35.75m, while their top-seven with Torey Krug and Jordan Binnington sits at $48.25m. St. Louis has re-tooled their team on the fly after winning the 2019 Stanley Cup. They got younger and handed the offensive reigns to Kyrou and Thomas. They have many good players, but right now don’t have an elite player, and will have to win by getting more really good players.
Winnipeg: $21.642m with Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Josh Morrissey. Wheeler begins the final year of his deal. Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Schiefele make their top-five $33.933m. It is well balanced with forwards, a D-man and a goalie, but Schiefele and Hellebuyck are also entering the final year of their deal. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some tough decisions to make this summer. Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois (RFA, not signed, but made $6m last year and will be getting a raise), push their top-seven to $46.933m. Dubois stated last year he wasn’t signing a long-term extension in Winnipeg. Does he still feel that way, or would he sign if Wheeler and Schiefele were moved, and he becomes the leader? The Jets are one of the teams to watch this off-season.
Chicago: $19m with Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Zaitsev. They are in a full rebuild and the roster matches that plan. Connor Murphy and Petr Mrazek crack their top-five and it sits at the lowest in the NHL at $27.2m. Jason Dickinson and the retained salary on Jake McCabe ($2m) round out their top-seven for a combined $31.85m. Winning the Connor Bedard lottery shouldn’t alter their plans right away. They don’t have much to surround him with, so they need to keep drafting and developing. They will have lots of cap space to take on salary via trade this summer and up to the deadline.
Currently, Dallas has the third highest top-seven next year.


Mar 2, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) celebrates his goal against Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot (33) with teammates during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New York Rangers: $29.642m with Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad. Panarin has three years remaining on his deal. Add in Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider and they top-five is the third highest in the NHL at $44.142m. Their top-seven includes Igor Shesterkin and Vincent Trocheck for a total of $55.427m. Will they re-sign either Patrick Kane or Vladimir Tarasenko? They should be a contender for the next few seasons, but they need some young players to emerge and take on bigger roles or be given the opportunity to try and do more.
Columbus: $28.003m with Johnny Gaudreau, Zach Werenski and Patrik Laine. Laine has three years remaining. Add in Elvis Merzlikins and Jack Roslovic and their top-five sits at $37.433m. Their top-seven includes Erik Gudbranson and Boone Jenner for a total $45.183m. They underachieved last season and are hoping a new coach will help make them more competitive and structured. Staying healthy will be a major help as well. No player played all 82 games for the Blue Jackets and only seven played 70+ games. Who will be the head coach and how many goals will Kirill Marchenko score? He had 21 in 59 games last year. Will he be able to maintain a 30-goal pace?
Washington: $26.7m with Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and John Carlsson. Backstrom has two years remaining and the others have three. Add in Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie and their top-five has a combined $40.25m. And their top-seven rises to $51.2m with Anthony Mantha and Darcy Kuemper. Their biggest challenge is age with Kuznetsov (31) and Carlsson (33) the only two under 35. Like most Cup winners, eventually a rebuild has to occur and they likely will try to hold off until Ovechkin’s deal is up.
New York Islanders: $24.65m with Matt Barzal, Bo Horvat and Anders Lee.  Lee has three years remaining. Add in Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson and their top-five is $36.8m. And their top-seven is complete with Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmeiri for a total of $46.8m. The Islanders’ issue is they don’t have any elite offensive players. Ilya Sorokin has one year remaining on his deal and will command a significant raise or he leaves as a UFA. They want to win low scoring games, but with offence being more of a catalyst today, I don’t see how they do it. Even Sorokin can’t limit them to three GA every game. They need to score more.
New Jersey: $26m26+7.25 with Dougie Hamilton, Jack Hughes and Timo Meier. He isn’t signed yet, but his new deal likely starts with a nine so for this I gave him a $9m AAV. Niko Hischier and Ondrej Palat push their top-five to $39.25m. Jesper Bratt is an RFA and after back-to-back 73 points seasons, he will get a significant raise and will be in their top-seven. Let’s say $6m to be safe and John Marino rounds out their top-seven at $49.65m. The Devils could consider trading Bratt if they want more flexibility. They currently only have four forwards signed for next season. Tom Fitzgerald will be busy signing his RFAs and deciding which of his UFAs (Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Miles Wood, Erik Haula and Tomas Tatar) will return.
Philadelphia: $21.642m with Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov. Provorov has two years remaining, while Couturier only played 29 games last year, but he is expected to play this year. Frank Seravalli has reported the Flyers are looking to deal Hayes, so their top-three could look different before the season begins. Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny push their top-five to $33.392m, and their top-seven includes Rasmus Ristolainen and Joel Farabee for a total of $43.492m. The Flyers could be quite active this off-season. I’m not sure they know what their long-term plan is just yet.
Carolina: $21.61m with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. The Hurricanes are a very competitive team but lack the top-end forward to push them over the top. Aho and Teravainen have one year remaining. Their top-five includes Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns for a total of $32.19m. Their top-seven totals is $42.26m with Brady Skjei and Jesperi Kotkaniemi who one of only two forwards signed longer for more than one season (Slavin and Burns are D-men with two years). Kotkaniemi and Svechnikov have seven years remaining. The Hurricanes lack of an elite finisher has cost them in the playoffs. Who they keep, trade or let walk in the next 13 months will be fascinating to watch. They have loads of cap flexibility if Don Waddell wants to make a significant trade.
Pittsburgh: $21.05m with Sidney Crosby, Jeff Petry and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby has two years remaining on his deal. Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel round out the top-five at $33.25m and Guentzel has one year before he could test the market. Their top-seven includes Bryan Rust and Rikard Rakell and pushes their total to $43.25m. The Penguins are similar to the Capitals, but they have $7m less tied up in their aging top-five.


Here is a look at how the teams rank across the NHL in all-three categories.


Columbus and San Jose both missed the playoffs despite being top-11 among their top-three highest paid players. Meanwhile Carolina and Seattle made the second-round despite being bottom-five.


Colorado and Edmonton moved from 2nd and 3rd to 6th and 7th, while Tampa moved up to 2nd and Nashville and Washington jumped to 8th and 9th despite missing the playoffs last season.
Tampa leads with $60.1m and are $5m more than every team except Toronto. Washington and Nashville are the only teams in the top-14 who didn’t make the playoffs last year. Pittsburgh is aging, but they don’t have a huge amount of money tied up in their top-seven contracts. They need to find some players who can provide support to their top players.
San Jose would be top-10 if you included their buyout and salary retention, which isn’t ideal for a team that finished 29th last year. General Manager Mike Grier has a tough road ahead of him.
We often hear about top-heavy teams, but the truth is most teams who win have big contracts and players who perform. Tampa won because their best players produced. Florida is in the final this year because Bobrovsky and Tkachuk are living up to their contracts. Same with Vegas and Jack Eichel and Alex Pietrangelo. Vegas has very good depth and an outstanding blueline. They haven’t had to rely on Hill to win them games. He has been solid, but no spectacular.
Meanwhile, Florida is in the Final mainly due to spectacular play from Bobrovsky and timely goal scoring from Tkachuk.
There is never one recipe for success. It changes from year-to-year. Tampa Bay won because they had elite players at forward, defence, and in goal. They are somewhat of a unicorn in that sense, as most teams have to sacrifice a bit at one position. Tampa won two Cups and lost a third, but now have more money tied up in their top-seven players than any team in the league. They have $10m more than every team except eight.
Can you win like that?
Can Carolina ever win by having many really good players, but no elite offensive star?
Each year is different, but looking at the chart above, it is clear that most teams (not all) who are competitive have more money tied up in their top seven.

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