Avalanche make Nathan MacKinnon highest-paid player in NHL

Nick Kypreos joins Tim and Friends to discuss the Colorado Avalanche signing star forward Nathan MacKinnon to an eight-year extension, why he was always going to be the NHL's top-paid player, and much more.

The Colorado Avalanche have signed star forward Nathan MacKinnon to an eight-year extension worth $12.6 million annually, making him the highest-paid player in the NHL.

The contract, worth $100.8 million in its entirety, doesn't kick in until 2023-24.

“Obviously it’s really cool, for sure,” MacKinnon said of being the highest-paid player in hockey. "Hoping there’s no more pandemics and the cap goes up even more, but, yeah, I think the term was the most important thing. I just wanted to be here for the rest of my career and hopefully I get another deal after this, too.”

MacKinnon is entering the final season of a seven-year, $44.1-million ($6.3M AAV) contract signed in 2016 — which earned him the reputation as one of the NHL's most underpaid players.

His new average annual value of $12.6 million, which exactly doubles his current contract, surpasses Connor McDavid's $12.5 AAV.

McDavid considers being surpassed as the highest-paid player, "good for hockey, I guess, to keep raising the bar.''

"But ultimately the salary cap system's a weird system where the more money you make, the less money someone else can make,'' McDavid added. "It's kind of a weird system that way. There's always going to be give and take.''

The contract breaks down as follows, according to CapFriendly:

2023-24: $15.725M signing bonus, $775K base salary
2024-25: $15.725M signing bonus, $775K base salary
2025-26: $15.25M signing bonus, $800K base salary
2026-27: $3M signing bonus, $9.15M base salary
2027-28: $8.91M signing bonus, $990K base salary
2028-29: $8.91M signing bonus, $990K base salary
2029-30: $8.91M signing bonus, $990K base salary
2030-31: $8.91M signing bonus, $990K base salary

In total, $85.34 million of his contract will be paid in signing bonuses.

The $100.8 million is the fourth largest contract in NHL history, behind Alex Ovechkin's $124 million, 13-year contract with Washington, Shea Weber's $110 million, 14-year contract with Nashville and Sidney Crosby's $104.4 million, 12-year contract with Pittsburgh.

The collective bargaining agreement has since limited contract lengths to eight years for a player re-signing with his own team and seven for free agents.

“It shows a lot of loyalty,” Avalanche president Joe Sakic said. “Nathan wanted to get this done, we wanted to get it done and he’s a franchise player and we’re really excited that he’ll remain here in Colorado for the rest of his career.”

The 27-year-old, drafted No. 1 overall by the Avalanche in 2013, has played his entire nine-year NHL career in Colorado thus far.

This past season, the Halifax native was a key player in the Avalanche's run to the Stanley Cup — leading the team with 13 goals in the playoffs, adding 11 assists and contributing a key goal and assist in the championship-clinching Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Denver's the only place I want to be, for sure," MacKinnon recently said in Henderson, Nevada, during a pre-season player media tour.

Since 2017-18, his fifth season in the league, MacKinnon has produced 167 goals and 275 assists (442 points) in 338 games. In the playoffs, MacKinnon has 90 points in 73 career games. His list of accolades includes: a Stanley Cup in 2022, a Calder Trophy in 2013-14 and a Lady Byng in 2019-20.

Though MacKinnon has never won a Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, he has twice finished second (2017-18, 2019-20) and once finished third (2020-21) in the voting.

"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," said Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland in a press release.

"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."

Extending MacKinnon is just Colorado's latest piece of business in a busy off-season. The club also extended forwards Valeri Nichushkin (eight years, $49 million) and Artturi Lehkonen (five years, $4.5 million), and defenceman Josh Manson (four years, $18 million).

Mackinnon will become the Avalanche's highest-paid player by a wide margin, eclipsing Mikko Rantanen's $9.25-million AAV which previously held as the team's highest total.

Cale Makar, Colorado's other superstar who won the 2022 Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, is signed at $9 million a season through 2026-27.

The defending Cup champions now have MacKinnon, Makar, Rantanen, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nichushkin, Lehkonen, Manson, Samuel Girard, Logan O'Connor and Alexandar Georgiev under contract for the next three seasons.

With files from The Associated Press

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