NHL Rookie Contracts: How much are new NHL players getting paid? (2024)

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We tend to think of professional athletes as billionaires with extravagant lifestyles, dream mansions, luxury cars, and constant travel. However, this is true only for a privileged few, especially in the NHL, where rookies must face serious restrictions on their first contract.

With the NHL Draft about to begin, rookies should already be prepared for what they are going to find. The league's contract policy is perhaps the most complicated in professional sports, especially for those who are new to its ranks.

In principle, newbies have limited options in terms of the type of contract they can sign. Their first agreement is the so-called entry-level contract, whose specifications depend on the age of the player and the number of games they play with the team.

The NHL's entry-level contract

According to information from the CapFriendly website, the maximum salary a rookie can receive is $950,000 per year, slightly above the NHL's general minimum wage, which is $750,000 per year.

Fortunately, teams usually complement this maximum salary with signing and performance bonuses. Signing bonuses may not exceed 10% of the total contract, and performance bonuses must not exceed $3.5 million.

The problem with performance bonuses is that they are paid by teams and go directly against their salary cap. That is why they usually handle them with great care.

On the other hand, the length of the contract depends on the age of the player. Rookies who are between the ages of 18 and 21 as of Sept. 15 of the year they sign their first contract receive a three-year agreement. If they are 22-23 years old, they will receive a two-year agreement, and if they are 24 or older, they will get a contract for one year.

The entry-level slide

One of the most complicated rules of a rookie's starting contract is the entry-level slide. In principle, it should be clarified that even if a player signs an entry-level contract, it does not mean that he will immediately start playing with the team that signed him.

This means that if a player signs an entry-level contract, is 18 or 19 years old by September 15 of the year he is signed, and plays fewer than 10 games in the NHL that season, his entry-level contract is extended by one year.

For example, the contracts of rookies who will arrive in the NHL after this week's draft would run from 2024 to 2027. However, if any of them played only nine games with their team and were sent to a junior team, their contract would "slide" for one year, that is, it would now run between 2025 and 2028.

NHL Rookie Contracts: How much are new NHL players getting paid? (2024)
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