Colorado Avalanche: 3 Questions about the Pending Mikko Rantanen Contract

DENVER, COLORADO - FEBRUARY 05: Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche plays the the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Pepsi Center on February 05, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - FEBRUARY 05: Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche plays the the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Pepsi Center on February 05, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have one of their biggest signings yet to complete — that of RFA Mikko Rantanen. Here are three questions about that signing.

The Colorado Avalanche need to sign Mikko Rantanen. He’s our star winger and a beautiful complement to superstar Nathan MacKinnon. He was a steal at #10 in the Draft, and he’s improved every single year of his NHL career.

I could go on, but I don’t think anyone is going to doubt that the Avalanche need to sign restricted free agent Mikko Rantanen.

The Avs have been busy with some of their housekeeping signings. After signing borderline NHLers Sheldon Dries and Ryan Graves, they just have a couple more borderline players to sign — Vladislav Kamenev and A.J. Greer.

But the elephant in the room is our big, awkward giraffe — Mikko.

So, let’s look at three questions related to the pending contract between Rantanen and Colorado.

1. Who are the Comparables?

General managers usually use comparables when they’re making pitches to their free agents. So, they talk about how this player put up a similar performance for his team, and this is the contract he signed.

So, the big question for the Rantanen contract is who his comparables are. According to Avs insider Adrian Dater, GM Joe Sakic is purportedly using Sebastian Aho and Leon Draisaitl as comparables.

Aho is 21 years old. He has 242 NHL games of experience spread across three seasons. In that time, he’s recorded 197 points (83 goals, 114 assists). Last season was a career year for him — 83 points (30 goals, 53 assists).

Draisaitl is 23 years old. He has 351 NHL games of experience spread across five seasons. In that time, he’s recorded 312 points (125 goals, 187 assists). Last season was a career year for him — he recorded an astounding 105 points (50 goals, 55 assists).

Rantanen is 22 and has 239 NHL games with a total of 209 points (80 goals, 129 assists). Last year, his career year, he recorded 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists).

So, on the face of it, Rantanen is right in there with both those players. Aho signed with the Hurricanes for five years with an annual cap hit of $8.45 million. Draisaitl signed for eight years with the Oilers with an annual cap hit of $8.5 million.

The hold up might be that there are some remaining RFAs who might skew the contracts, including Brock Boeser, Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, and Matthew Tkachuk. Rantanen’s agent may be waiting to see if one of those might be a good comparable for Mikko.

2. Is the KHL Threat Real?

Waves went through Avs Nation when the news came out in mid-July that the Kazan Ak Bars of the KHL had acquired Rantanen’s rights from Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, another KHL team.

Neftekhimik drafted Mikko Rantanen in 2013. So, I guess in the alternate universe of the KHL, they have his rights. This summer, they traded those alternate-reality rights to Kazan.

The waves got a little deeper when a proposed offer was reported:

So, the Ak Bars are willing to throw $4 million Mikko’s way to play next season. There’s no escrow on that salary — escrow is when the NHL holds a percentage of a player’s salary to ensure there’s a 50-50 split between owners and players. I’m sure it makes players insane because my head wants to explode just thinking about it. Anyway, tax is also lower in Kazan.

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Granted, you’d have to live in Kazan to get that deal, and I’m sure it’s very nice in its own way, but I also doubt it’s as nice as Denver.  (Ok, it’s a top tourist destination, and I bet $4 million goes VERY far in the Republic of Tatarstan. But Nathan MacKinnon isn’t going to be playing there, and that’s got to count for something.)

Ok, back to reality, and that is that, no, I don’t think the KHL threat is real. No matter how far $4 million goes in Tatarstan, Rantanen is from Finland — and I can tell you from experience that it’s very expensive there. And the no escrow and lower tax rates aren’t going to make up for the fact that Colorado is almost assuredly offering twice that amount.

Hey, when I was buying my most recent car, the car dealer got the mechanic in the back to summon his wife and kid to pretend they were interested in my two-door hatchback as a way to try and drive up the price. And my car isn’t the equivalent of Mikko Rantanen in any universe, alternate or otherwise. I imagine that’s the tactic Rantanen’s agent was taking in drumming up a deal with the Ak Bars.

3. When Will Mikko Rantanen Sign?

So, the only real question left is when will Mikko Rantanen sign with the Colorado Avalanche? Notice, I leave the word “if” out of there because I’m 100% certain the deal will happen and before training camp.

A sub-question is what the holdup is? Like I remarked on, the Mikko camp might be waiting to see what some of those other notable RFAs get. The Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner contracts may be of especial interest, and that’s unfortunate because the latter looks good to still be in question come training camp.

But I don’t think Mikko will go that route.

The other holdup might be term. Rantanen’s agent, Mike Liut, eschews bridge deals. Frankly, it’s in Colorado’s best interest to sign Rantanen to term. However, the player himself might be willing to bet on himself, bet that he’ll continue to improve. Then he might be worth more after a bridge deal.

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What do you think, Avs Nation? Are you getting worried about a potential holdout between the Colorado Avalanche and Mikko Rantanen? Or are you confident Sakic will get it done before camp?