Colorado Avalanche: How the Jeff Skinner Contract Affects Mikko Rantanen

The Colorado Avalanche might face more difficult negotiations for Mikko Rantanen’s contract thanks to the new Jeff Skinner contract.

The Colorado Avalanche have to sign right wing Mikko Rantanen. We all know that. We all know it’s not going to be cheap.

Well, the Jeff Skinner contract may have made Rantanen’s more dear. The Buffalo Sabres — they who bequeathed Ryan O’Reilly with a $7.5 million AAV contract when he was still a 60-point guy (He still is, he just might be one with a Cup ring soon) — just signed the winger to an eight-year contract with an AAV of $9 million.

Skinner is another 60-point kind of guy. Actually, he’s only hit that points total three times in his career — 63 points, actually, each time. He has hit the 30+ goal mark three times and the 40-goal mark once. Jeff is 27, so he’ll be 35 when this contract expires.

Jeff Skinner is not a Rantanen, so on the face of it you might not think his contract will affect the Avalanche’s negotiations at all. However, you also have to acknowledge that Skinner is peaking. It’s unlikely he’ll be having 30+ goal seasons at the end of the contract, which makes 60-point seasons unlikely.

Mikko Rantanen, on the other hand, isn’t even striding into his peak. After a modest 38-point rookie season, the 22-year-old exploded. He recorded 84 points (29 goals, 55 assists) his sophomore season and 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) this last season.

And there’s no reason to think he won’t continue producing at that pace or even better. That fact catapults him well past Skinner.

The winger is just finishing his entry-level contract which carries a ridiculous (for what he brings) cap hit of $894,167, making him just a little better paid than Gabriel Bourque. Obviously, that’s going to change, and he’s going to be the best-paid player on the team.

No one doubts who our best player is — Nathan MacKinnon. However, our superstar didn’t want a bridge contract, and he wanted term. He became our highest-paid player by earning $6.3 million over seven years. That seems so modest now, but he signed that contract when he was 20 and Matt Duchene was still on the team.

That’s noteworthy because Duchene was our best player at the time, and his contract was seen as an internal cap. (That’s where the contention with O’Reilly came into play.) MacKinnon pushing past that cap, even modestly, was seen as a big statement.

Well, the Colorado Avalanche are going to have no hope of imposing an internal cap with MacKinnon’s salary as the top. Rantanen was never going to accept such little money, not in this current market.

And now that Skinner, a lesser player, has signed for so much over such a long time… well, I’m sure Rantanen is going to get both money and term. I’m going to guess $10 million over seven years.

Here’s what Joe Sakic said of the situation:

“It’s a priority to get him done. We prefer long term, but if it has to be short term than it has to be short term. We want to make sure that we have him signed.”

It’s not going to be short term. Rantanen’s agent, Mike Liut, is infamous for eschewing bridge deals. And Colorado has no leverage.

Ah, well, the Colorado Avalanche have cap space, so they’re good to pay Mikko Rantanen what he deserves. I’m sure they’re shaking their heads about the Buffalo Sabres, though — that team seems to have money to burn.