Much was speculated over the summer about whether or not the Colorado Avalanche were going to make it a priority give Mikko Rantanen a contract extension. It was argued that the team should lock up their star right winger with a new a long term extension before his Entry Level Contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season. The organization indicated they were content to wait as Rantanen’s camp wanted to see how the season played out, as mentioned by General Manager Joe Sakic in his season opening press conference. A second point per game season would give Rantanen a much stronger case for a big-money, long term extension.
It obviously takes two to tango on a deal but there certainly is a figure that gets the attention of the other party. Assuming there is any possible deal within reason it would be wise to take the proactive approach.
The case for waiting
The Avalanche have team control over Rantanen for the next four years and do not have to rush into any contract decision. Rantanen also does not have arbitration rights upcoming, although that may not end up as a benefit to the organization. A long drawn out contract process with no deadline is possible as seen currently playing out with Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, who is still withholding his services into the regular season while he waits for a contract. An offer sheet is also possible, though they rarely are executed even if there are many ironically gleeful at the idea to take advantage of a team who can’t handle their business in a timely manner.
Rantanen is not a star center nor the face of the franchise and those are the players who generally are in position to get their money early. The Avalanche bucked this trend when they signed captain Gabe Landeskog to a seven-year extension just two years into his NHL career but since then have waited until contracts expired to address long term extensions.
The aforementioned Nylander also plays into the Avalanche waiting on Rantanen because it will be a contract comparable despite Nylander only hitting a career high in points of 61 to Rantanen’s 84. As it stands right now Rantanen’s best comprarables are Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak who signed a six-year deal at $6.66M Annual Average Value coming out of his ELC and a career high of 70 points in his breakout season and Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl who signed an eight-year $8.5M AAV contract after scoring 77 points in his third season. Rantanen likely falls between these two comparables but where exactly to peg him is tough without more information.
The case for an extension
There is more upside in waiting for Rantanen than for the Avalanche as the price likely only goes up by the day. With the salary cap growing each year, especially with now Seattle all but confirmed to add to the expansion coffers, contract comparables are only going to increase and young talented players are getting their long term extensions earlier in their careers as well.
Rantanen also seems like he has hit the ground running on the 2018-19 season by scoring four points in three games including this fantastic assist to Nathan MacKinnon which strongly hints that the tandem’s magic is going to continue for the foreseeable future. Rantanen looks stronger on his skates, is using his large frame more and asserting his skill more, which is a deadly combination. Any thought of a point regression might evaporate soon and even if he does not hit 84 again this season he won’t be far off enough to cause a heavy contract discount. Conversely, if Rantanen builds on last season’s point totals then his contract can only increase.
Rantanen has been a winner at every level and successful in any league he has played in. As a rookie in the AHL he was named to the All-Star team, won co-share of the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial trophy for Rookie of the Year with 60 points in 53 games on a poor San Antonio Rampage squad. Rantanen also captained Finland’s World Junior team to a goal medal that winter. All while accomplishing this in his first year in North America and as a 19 year-old which gave the Avalanche a free contract slide and extra year on his ELC to boot.
In Rantanen’s rookie season in the NHL he scored 38 points and a team leading 20 goals and was tied for third on the team in scoring in the disastrous 48 point campaign. If the Avalanche try to use that point total at face value against Rantanen to argue for a lower contract then there will likely be a fight on their hands.
The 2017-18 season is when Rantanen experienced his breakout on a team which was constructed better and made use of his talents. He scored 29 goals and 84 points, which was good for share of 16th in the NHL in scoring. Rantanen was also the first Finn to break the 80 point mark since Teemu Selanne in the 2006-07 season.
Rewarding a player early who has consistently performed and been such an asset to the organization is just good business. It also sends a strong message to all the other young players who may be in line for rich extensions in the near future such as Samuel Girard, Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot. If they deliver and make a similar type of impact that they will be taken care of in a timely manner and also benefit the organization in the long run by signing early.
It would also behoove the organization to obtain some long term cost certainty as they only currently have six players signed for the 2020-21 season and that number reduces to two the following year. That kind of financial flexibility is a positive but it also means the cost of many of their core and complimentary pieces are not known long term. If the Avalanche want to become a big player in this summer’s free agency then they need to know what some of the bigger commitments they have in the future are before spending a wad of cash on the market.
Locking up Rantanen long term is a low risk and high reward proposition. Who he is as a player and the value he brings to the organization is about as clear as anyone can get on a soon to be 22-year old player. Any possible current overpayment would very likely get made up not far into the future and outweighs the risk of missing the boat entirely on locking Rantanen up to a reasonable deal. If there is any possible way to execute a contract within reason, an aggressive and proactive approach as soon as possible would be beneficial to the Avalanche. A deal that begins with a $7 right now is something that should be strongly considered especially in the seven to eight year range where it buys several Unrestricted Free Agency years.
What should the Avalanche do with Mikko Rantanen?
This poll is closed
Pay him now
Wait until summer