Instead of Nathan MacKinnon having 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 agreed to an eight-year, $100.8 million extension that will carry a $12.6 million AAV, sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports. It is a deal that will see MacKinnon sign the richest contract in the salary cap era. His new deal sees him overtake Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for the top spot by $100,000 with McDavid's AAV being $12.5 million.
The pact will go into effect at the start of the 2023-24 season with the upcoming 2022-23 campaign being the final year of MacKinnon's previous extension that was a seven-year deal that saw him earn $6.3 million annually.
MacKinnon said it's "really cool" to be the league's top-paid player, but said that wasn't the driving force behind his deal.
"Obviously it's really cool, for sure. Hoping there's no more pandemics and the cap goes up even more, but, yeah, I think the term was the most important thing," MacKinnon sad. "I just wanted to be here for the rest of my career and hopefully I get another deal after this, too."
The three-time Hart Trophy finalist's contract situation has long been a topic of conversation given his level of production and the value of his deal. MacKinnon has averaged 1.31 points per game over the last five seasons.
"Nathan is obviously one of the premier players in the NHL so a long-term extension was something we wanted to get done before the season started," general manager Chris MacFarland said in a statement. "He has that rare combination of speed and power with a high compete level that makes him a generational player. We are thrilled he will continue to be a member of this team and this community for many years to come."
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 MacFarland being promoted from assistant general manager to GM. MacFarland has since signed Valeri 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 second-line center Nazem Kadri and goaltender Darcy Kuemper. They sought to make up for those absences by signing Evan Rodrigues to a one-year deal with the expectation he would compete with J.T. Compher and Alex Newhook for the second-line center role. Meanwhile, the Avs made a trade with the New York Rangers to get goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who will work in tandem with Pavel Francouz.
Getting a new deal done for MacKinnon does more than give him the title of being the game's highest paid player next season. It also reinforces the latest step the Avs have made when it comes to keeping most of their core intact. Samuel Girard and Mikko Rantanen were the first steps in that plan with both of them 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 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 was given a six-year deal that will see him make $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 must make over the next season. Both Bowen Byram and Newhook, the team's first-round picks in 2019, 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 a pending UFA.