Nathan McKinnon is no longer on one of the cheapest contracts in the league, but starting next season, he will be the highest-paid player in the game.
Sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports, that McKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche agreed to an eight-year, $100.8 million extension that would bring in $12.6 million in AAV. The deal would give McKinnon the most lucrative contract of the salary cap era. His new contract sees him top Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for $100,000, while McDavid’s AAV is $12.5 million.
The deal will go into effect at the start of the 2023-24 season, and the upcoming 2022-23 season is the final year of McKinnon’s previous extension, a seven-year deal that could earn him $6.3 million a year.
Given his production levels and trade value, the three-time Hart Trophy finalist’s contract situation has long been the topic of conversation. Over the past five seasons, McGinn Farms has averaged 1.31 points.
Re-signing McKinnon extends an offseason that has been active since winning the third Stanley Cup in franchise history. General manager Joe Sakic took over as president, and assistant general manager Chris MacFarland was promoted to general manager. McFarlane has since signed an eight-year extension with Valery Nichushkin, capped at $6.125 million, while also re-signing Arturi Raikkonen to a five-year, $4.5 million-a-year contract.
It was also an offseason, and the Avs lost second-line center Nazem Kadri and goalie Darcy Kuemper. They are trying to make up for those absences by signing Evan Rodriguez to a one-year deal, with the expectation that he will compete with JT Compher and Alex Newhook for the second-line center role. Meanwhile, the Avs traded with the New York Rangers for goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who will team up with Pavel Francouz.
Signing MacKinnon to a new contract doesn’t just earn him the title of the highest-paid player next season. It also reinforces the latest steps Avs has taken to keep most of its core intact. Samuel Girard and Mikko Rantanen, who both signed contract extensions in 2019, are the first steps in the plan. Gillard signed a seven-year deal worth $5 million per season, while Rantanen signed a six-year deal worth $9.25 million. A year later, they traded DeVentus and signed him to a four-year, $4.1 million-a-year contract.
In 2021, the front office re-signed captain Gabriel Landskog and eventual 2022 Norris Trophy winner Kyle Makar to long-term extensions. Landeskog got an 8-year deal worth $7 million, while Makar got a 6-year deal that would see him earn $9 million a year.
McKinnon’s massive contract means Avalanche is expected to have $13.987 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. But they have other factors to consider next season. The team’s 2019 first-round picks Bowen Byram and Newhook are both in the final year of their entry-level contracts. Compher will become a pending unrestricted free agent, while Rodrigues, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, could also hit the open market. Veteran defenseman Eric Johnson will also be a pending UFA.