Contracts with big annual signing bonuses have become common among top players in recent years. Jamie Benn, Carey Price, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Jakub Voracek also inked deals with substantial signing bonuses.
The biggest reason for the signing bonus is the protection it provides the player in case of a lockout. Many NHL insiders are concerned about a work stoppage ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Expanding revenue, escrow payments and the Olympics are all issues dividing players and owners right now. Signing bonuses get paid in full, even if games are cut from the season, which would reduce base salaries.
The 10 top-earning NHL players are projected to make $144 million this year, including salaries, bonuses, endorsements, memorabilia, and appearances. The tally is up 8% from a year ago. McDavid, Ovechkin, and Crosby are endorsement stars, but 89% of the earnings for the top 10 overall are from salaries and bonuses.