What Will Nathan MacKinnon’s Colorado Avalanche Contract Be?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche and Joe Sakic chat following the series winning victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche and Joe Sakic chat following the series winning victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon is likely to earn a payout. How big will it be?

The Colorado Avalanche are going to re-sign Nathan MacKinnon. Technically, the Avalanche could decide they don’t have the cap space for him and Mikko Rantanten with Cale Makar needing an eventual payout. But, make no mistake, the Avs are signing MacK.

And they are going to have to pay dearly.

According to Avs insider Adrian Dater, the MacKinnon camp is looking to make our superstar the highest-paid player in the NHL. The payout will be nothing compared to an NBA contract. However, the current highest-paid NHLer is Connor MacDavid at $12.5 million. That means that MacKinnon’s agents are asking for at least $13 million. Probably more.

There are a lot of factors that go into play concerning the upcoming contract. First of all, the dreaded cap is an issue. A large part of the reason even superstars in the NHL don’t earn NBA bank is because of the hard cap. The current cap is $82.5 million. Its growth has had to slow to a snail’s pace because of the damage the COVID pandemic did to the league’s revenues.

Currently, the Colorado Avalanche stand at $78.59 million. While it’s true MacKinnon’s new contract won’t take effect until the 2023-24 season, Colorado still has to contend with the likelihood that the cap won’t go up much more than $1 million.

Now, something that does Colorado a big favor is the pending expiration of a big contract. Defenseman Erik Johnson will play out the last year of a contract with a cap hit of $6 million. That fact will give the Avs a little cap relief. Besides MacKinnon, only two other players are likely to snap up some of that funds relief — Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook.

The biggest factor that will determine the amount of Nathan MacKinnon’s new contract is, of course, the player himself. There are his stats — we all know what MacKinnon brings to the team, but in case you’re wondering, he’s at 242 goals and 406 points. He typically leads the team in scoring.

Another factor is his age. He’s only 26 years old. He’s just entering his peak years. Avs management have every reason to believe he’ll be as good as or better than he has been in the last few years.

His agents are also sure to bring up the fact that he’s been the face of the team (Captain Landeskog notwithstanding). Yes, Cale Makar looks like he might be a better player one day, but Nathan has been the one carrying the team. He has two MVP nominations to show for it. And we all know he was robbed that first year he was nominated.

Not to mention he’s, ahem, a Stanley Cup champion. (By the way, his Day with the Cup is August 20.)

The last big point is the one that MacKinnon’s camp should be able to leverage, and Colorado should have to mind if they have any integrity. Nathan MacKinnon has been underpaid for the duration of his current contract.

A young MacKinnon at the tender age of 20 eschewed the traditional bridge contract that many good, young players avail themselves of. They often take a two-year contract after their entry-level one expires. They use that contract to show their worth to the team.

MacKinnon chose instead to sign a contract with term — seven years, to be exact. He also openly offered a hometown discount. He’s been making $6.3 million a year. Sure, maybe when he was 20, 21 and still proving himself that was ok. However, he’s been the team star for at least five of those years. And that’s a heck of a team-friendly contract.

Taking a contract with term was MacKinnon’s choice. However, like I said, the team should have enough integrity to realize Nathan has more than earned a payout at this stage.

Now, everyone has their primary motivation. I don’t think MacKinnon’s is money. He’s as fierce a competitor as they come, and he’ll want to make sure the team stays competitive. I don’t believe he’s going to try to gouge the team just because he deserves a payout or because it’s his best chance to make his lifelong money. I think he’ll offer another hometown discount to keep Colorado as contenders.

We shouldn’t expect it to be quite as team-friendly as the last one. While I doubt MacK wants to gouge the team, I think he’s got enough pride and competitiveness to want to beat MacDavid in terms of contracts. He’s going to require more that $12.5 million.

What’s an interesting idea is whether he’ll go for term again, and therefore take a slight pay cut. Or will he go for short-term bank with the hopes of continuing to show his worth? If he’s worth over $12.5 million now, what might he be worth in three years at his absolute apex?

Personally, I think the team-friendly aspect will be his going for term.

Dater thinks MacKinnon will get $14 million yearly for eight years — the maximum allowed. That combination seems respectable to my eyes, too.

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Executive Joe Sakic has said signing MacKinnon in this offseason is a priority. I’m sure no one will want the distraction of contract negotiations once the season starts. So, the Colorado Avalanche have around a month to lock our superstar down.