Instead Nathan MacKinnon holding the mantle of one of the league’s best bargain contracts, he is now about to become the highest-paid player in the game starting next season.
MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche have agreed to an eight-year, $100.8 million extension that will carry a $12.6 million AAV, sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports. It’s a deal that will see MacKinnon sign the richest contract in the salary cap. His new deal sees him surpass Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for the top spot at $100,000 where McDavid’s AAV is $12.5 million.
The pact will take effect at the start of the 2023-24 season and the upcoming 2022-23 campaign is the final year of MacKinnon’s previous extension, which was a seven-year deal that saw him earn $6.3 million annually.
The contract situation of the three-time Hart Trophy finalist has long been a topic of conversation due to his level of production and the value of his agreement. MacKinnon averaged 1.31 points per game over the last five seasons.
Re-signing MacKinnon to an extension adds to what has been an active offseason since winning the third Stanley Cup in franchise history. General manager Joe Sakic took over as president with assistant GM Chris MacFarland being promoted to GM. MacFarland later signed on Valery Nichushkin to an eight-year extension carrying a $6.125 million cap hit while also re-signing Artturi Lehkonen to a five-year contract worth $4.5 million annually.
It was also an offseason that saw the Avs lose a linebacker center Nazem Kadri and goalie Darcy Kuemper. They sought to make up for those absences by signing Evan Rodrigues to a one-year deal with the expectation that he would compete with JT Compher and Alex Newhook for the second line central role. Meanwhile, the Avs made a trade with the New York Rangers to get a goaltender Alexander Georgievwho will work together with Pavel French.
Making a new deal for MacKinnon does more than give him the title of being the game’s highest-paid player next season. It also reinforces the last step the Avs have taken when it comes to keeping most of their core intact. Samuel Girard and Mikko Rantanen were the first steps in that plan with both signing extensions in 2019. Girard signed a seven-year deal worth $5 million in each season while Rantanen signed a six-year extension worth $9.25 million. A year later, they traded for Devon Toews and signed him to a four-year contract worth $4.1 million annually.
In 2021, the front office re-signed a captain Gabriel Landeskog and eventual 2022 Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar to long-term extensions. Landeskog received an eight-year deal worth $7 million annually while Makar received a six-year deal that will see him earn $9 million annually.
MacKinnon’s hefty contract means the Avalanche are projected to have $13.987 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. But there are other considerations they have to make during the upcoming season. Both of them Bowen Byram and Newhook, the team’s 2019 first-round picks, are in the final year of their entry-level contracts. Compher is set to be a pending unrestricted free agent while Rodrigues, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, could also hit the open market. Veteran defenseman Erik Johnson will also be pending UFA.