While the Colorado Avalanche have spent the past couple of weeks working through their list of RFAs, one notable free agent still remains without a contract. All star forward Mikko Rantanen remains without a contract and recent reports out of Russia suggest that Kazan Ak Bars have been working to tempt the 22-year old star to the KHL.
Rumours started to swirl when Rantanen’s KHL rights were traded last Thursday. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk drafted Rantanen in the 2nd round of the KHL draft all the way back in 2013. Knowing he would never play for them, the team decided to trade his rights in exchange for forward Radel Fazleyev.
Kazan Ak Bars of the KHL acquired rights for Mikko Rantanen from Neftekhimik #goavsgo— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) July 18, 2019
With the move, Kazan Ak Bars is taking a gamble that Rantanen can’t come to terms with the Avalanche this summer - allowing them to add a superstar to their lineup for next season.
It’s a move that was likely brokered by Ratnanen’s agent in order to put a little more pressure on Joe Sakic and the Avalanche front office but don’t worry, Mikko Rantanen isn’t going to play in the KHL next season.
Igor Eronko - who is normally pretty dialed in with the KHL - reports that Ak Bars Kazan is willing to offer Rantanen a one-year, $4m contract. Eronko points out that there is a lower tax rate in Russia and lack of escrow concerns, but it’s still a very underwhelming number for a player who is coming off back-to-back 80+ point seasons.
Hearing Ak Bars is ready to offer Mikko Rantanen a 1-year deal for $4M (tax is just 13% here and no escrow) #Avs— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) July 20, 2019
While Kazan Ak Bars looks to be taking a (muted) home run swing and will undoubtedly spend some time talking to Rantanen’s agent over the next few weeks, this trade likely has more to do with a potential NHL lockout than anything else. The NHL and the NHLPA are putting on a brave face, but the fact of the matter is that many around the industry believe we’re heading towards another lockout at the end of the current CBA. If that were to happen, a number of NHLers would flock to the KHL and owning the rights of players like Rantanen would be incredibly valuable.
For now, Rantanen won’t be going to the KHL despite being a part of a large group of star restricted free agents that sill don’t have a contract for next season. At the moment, it seems like many teams (and agents) are comfortable waiting on Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs to set the market. That said, as the summer goes on and Marner remains unsigned, we will likely to see some of the other players like Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine (who is represented by the same agent as Rantanen, Kyle Connor and Rantanen being to sign.
It’s an unprecedented RFA class filled with star players that are looking to re-set the market for the players who come after them. Reports suggest that guys like Rantanen and Marner are looking for upwards of $11m or $12m dollars on a long-term deal. The problem is that those deals aren’t likely to come this summer. It’s far more likely that we are going to see players like Rantanen sign two or three year bridge deals in the $8-10m range allowing the superstar to become a free agent again in the middle of their prime.
While a shorter deal might not give the security some players want, it would likely pay off in a huge way. The NHL is due for a new US television deal after the 2020-21 season. With the way sports rights have been selling in recent years, it is expected that the new contract could add a huge influx to hockey related revenue, resulting in a big inflation to the salary cap.
For right now it doesn’t seem as though there is much movement when it comes to Rantanen agreeing to a new deal with the Avalanche but it will come. This KHL news is nothing to be concerned about.
In more relevant news, it looks as though Mikko’s offseason training is going well: