The NHL offseason marks the time of year when players get straight paid.



Connor #McDavid got paid. 👀💰

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As has been the case for hockey, basketball (especially), football and baseball, the cost of signing key pieces has sky-rocketed in recent years. Star players’ contracts are reaching new heights while middle of the pack players are starting to be awarded deals that would have been eye-opening decades ago.

After examining some of the different salary cap brackets in the NHL, you’ll see that many of its biggest stars are surprisingly on extremely team-friendly contracts that are relatively small today. Below, we assembled the best possible starting lines for five NHL salary cap brackets.


  • If a player received a contract extension, they ARE INCLUDED in the bracket in which their new deal falls under.
  • Players are not necessarily given their natural position. Exceptions were made in order to assemble the best possible line.
  • All figures were found at CapFriendly.



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Honourable mention:

  • John Klingberg
  • John Carlsson
  • Justin Faulk
  • J.T. Miller
  • Mitch Marner
  • William Nylander
  • Max Pacioretty
  • Jack Eichel
  • Kyle Turris
  • Mark Stone
  • Cam Atkinson
  • Zach Werenski
  • Jacob Trouba
  • John Gibson
  • Devan Dubnyk
  • Cam Talbot

After a single season, rookies Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have already established themselves as two of the best players in the league with a cap-hit below $5 million. Nikita Kucherov, who is arguably the biggest steal in the NHL right now (considering his contract is not entry level) snags the last spot on the starting line. Jack Eichel, who is  due for a contract extension in the next year, just missed the cut.

Though defencemen Zach Werenski and John Klingberg will likely be regarded as two of the NHL’s very top D in the near future, Josi and McDonagh get the nod at this moment in time. Both have been bricks on the backend and a huge part of their team’s success throughout the years.

In net, Murray gets the nod from a surprisingly impressive selection. Dubnyk and Talbot each had an impressive 2016-2017 campaign, but The Penguins tendy is just 23 and already has two Stanley Cups to his name, and therefore gets the starting role.


$5,000,000- $5,999,999.99


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Honourable mention:

  • T.J. Oshie
  • Jeff Carter
  • Jaden Schwartz
  • Tyler Johnson
  • Blake Wheeler
  • Jonathan Huberdeau
  • Aleksander Barkov
  • Nick Foligno
  • Morgan Rielly
  • Hampus Lindholm
  • Dougie Hamilton
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Seth Jones
  • Torey Krug
  • Rasmus Ristolainen

It’s hard to believe that Islanders center John Tavares comes with a cap hit of less than $6 million. The Mississauga native already has 537 points in 587 games and has undoubtedly been his team’s best player since entering the league in 2009. Seguin has quietly been one of the game’s most consistent players during his time with the Stars, and Jeff Skinner is coming off of a 37 goal season. Watching these three play together would be an absolute treat.

Keith and Ekman-Larsson would make for a very strong defensive pairing, as both players can move the puck with ease and log huge minutes. Keith has recorded at least 43 points over the past four season while OEL has been much above average on a Coyotes team lacking offensive prowess throughout the years.

Recently signed goaltender Martin Jones is one of the few keepers with a cap hit in the $5 million-$6 million range, but he's still a solid option. While he may be the weakest goalie of all, Jones still posted 35 wins last season and helped lead the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final the year before.


$6,000,000- $6,999,999.99


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Honourable Mention:

  • Henrik Zetterberg
  • Alexander Radulov
  • Jordan Eberle
  • Logan Couture
  • Joe Pavelski
  • Johnny Gaudreau
  • Sean Monahan
  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Matt Duchene
  • Artemi Panarin
  • Patrice Bergeron
  • Kyle Okposo
  • Taylor Hall
  • Filip Forsberg
  • Brent Seabrook
  • Cam Fowler
  • Kevin Shattenkirk
  • Johnny Boychuck

As you can see from the honourable mention section, tons of star NHL players fall under the $6 million- $6.999 million category.

Scheifele, Backstrom and Marchand make the cut on forward, as each skater managed to reach at least 80 points last season, an impressive feat when you consider only seven players in the league managed to do so. Karlsson and Giordano, who makeup arguably the strongest pairing on the list, are no brainers on the back-end, while Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby gets the call between the pipes.

This line is filled with firepower.


$7,000,000- $7,999,999


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Honourable mention:

  • Jason Spezza
  • Henrik Sedin
  • Daniel Sedin
  • Shea Weber
  • Marc-Edourd Vlasic
  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • Aaron Ekblad
  • Kris Letang
  • Ryan Suter
  • Tukka Rask
  • Sergei Bobrovsky

The $7 million- $7.999 million bracket is surprisingly thin, and arguably consists of the weakest players. Russian superstar Vladimir Tarasenko was an easy choice on the wing, however the other two forward positions are up in the air. Spezza and the Sedin twins have had fantastic careers, but their best days are behind them. O’Reilly has been a solid contributor for the Buffalo Sabres, and Kuznetsov, who recently inked an eight-year $62.4 million extension has been a stud for the Capitals as well. They narrowly get the edge over the older veterans.

There are plenty of strong defencemen to choose from in this bracket, but Doughty and Hedman stand out amongst the rest. Both move the puck extremely well and are currently two of the strongest skating defencemen in hockey. Behind them, Rinne narrowly gets the nod over Bobo right now after a tremendous 2017 postseason. It's really a coin-toss, though.


$8,000,000 +


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Honourable Mention:

  • Ryan Getzlaf
  • Corey Perry
  • Phil Kessel
  • Steven Stamkos
  • Joe Thornton
  • Jonathan Toews
  • Jamie Benn
  • Alexander Ovechkin
  • Claude Giroux
  • Anze Kopitar
  • Evgeni Malkin

To no surprise, the $8 million + bracket is stacked with the strongest talent. Crosby and McDavid playing together is obviously mind-blowing, but can you imagine Kane playing on a line with them too? It’s not like Malkin, Stamkos and Benn playing together is anything to sneeze at either.

Two of the NHL’s best personalities, Subban and Burns are the only defencemen with a cap hit of at least $8 million dollars. Both are offensive machines and leaders on their team, but they don’t necessarily standout as the strongest pairing when comparing them to Karlsson and Giordano or even Doughty and Hedman. The two still make for a solid duo nonetheless.

When you thought it couldn’t get any better, the line gets a boost with recently extended goaltender Carey Price. He is the cherry on top of this tremendously decorated line.

That wraps it up for our best starting line for each of the five salary cap brackets. Let us know what your best possible starting six is for each one at @BarDown!