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September 19th, 2008 · 3 Comments

by Ron Spence

This post is effectively a background one. In comparing minimum and maximum NBA and NHL salaries, there are a number of variables that have to be noted.

This first table shows the Minimum and Maximum NBA salaries. Tables are needed for NBA salaries, as the league rewards years of experience in calculating salaries (Thus, a Second Round draft pick out of college could get paid as little as $442,114 – the minimum of the Minimum Salary.).

The Maximum Salary Table is subject to a number of variables, as can be seen by contrasting the table below, with some of the NBA salaries listed in the previous post.

This post has not concerned itself with the reasons for the discrepancies between real, and theoretical NBA salaries.

NBA rookie salaries range dramatically (Spreadsheet notes order of picks, and each year’s salary increase, plus the Qualifying Offer.):

The following spreadsheet was listed for last June’s draft, and as you can see, the first overall pick is making nearly $5 million this season, and the bottom of the Second Round’s picks are making the league’s minimum, or a little above (And this is not keeping within the Rookie Salary structure.).

I looked at and have summarized what they have written about Minimum and Maximum salaries.

Maximum NHL Salaries

No player may be eligible to contract for or receive in excess of 20% of the Club’s upper limit in total annual compensation (NHL salary plus signing, roster, reporting and all performance bonuses).

Minimum NHL Salaries

The minimum NHL player salary is $475,000 in 2008-09; $500,000 in 2009-10 and 2010-11, and $525,000 in 2011-12.

Rookie NHL Salaries

Entry Level players will be subject to a maximum annual salary (plus signing and games played bonuses) of $875,000 for 2008 draftees; $900,000 for 2009 and 2010; and $925,000 for 2011 draftees.

Players who sign their first contract at age 18-21 are required to sign three-year Entry Level contracts; players age 22-23 will be required to sign two-year deals; and players age 24 will be required to sign a one-year Entry Level contract.


Daniel Tolensky – from – has written an excellent blog on:

Tolensky has “obtained a copy of Evgeni Malkin’s current Standard Player’s Contract (SPC) [and making the assumption of a] similar bonus structure,”

has calculated what the top NHL rookies should have been making over the past three seasons.

He concludes his projections and calculations with the following:


"The difference between three Ovechkian seasons and three Kanelike years? $8,197,600."

The obvious difference between the highest paid rookies in the two leagues is: the NBA’s top pick is paid in accordance with the order of his selection, with no correlation with his performance. In other words, he can sit on the bench and still make his $4 million plus.

The top NHL draft picks, however, are paid with the sums of the basic salary structure, and various performance bonuses.

Thus, an NHL rookie having an MVP season – better than any veterans – can make more money than an NBA rookie.

But, as the NHLer plays three or four seasons, he falls behind the NBA player dramatically.


All of these variables – between the NBA and NHL Minimum, Maximum, and Entry Level Salaries – should be noted for further discussion.


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jack // Jun 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Whoa. I had no idea the NHL rookie salary structure was built like that. Thanks for the insight.

  • 2 Syrymflash // Apr 25, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    NBA owns NHL in any aspect, I can conclude it once again.

  • 3 Lee // May 24, 2010 at 7:13 am

    yes, because having a young star know he is making 4 mill guaranteed and not having to work for his pay cheque is such a great idea! I’d much rather know that the rookies on my team have that extra bit of motivation and aren’t being spoon fed based solely on how good they were in junior.

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