With approximately a month left before the NHL preseason opens up, Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic spent Thursday morning on the golf course hosting his 22nd annual charity golf tournament. During his time on the course, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post and Ryan Clark of The Athletic asked about the status of negotiations with the team’s All Star winger Mikko Rantanen
A restricted free agent, Rantanen is at home in Finland as his agent works with to get a contract extension signed before the start of training camp. “Camp’s coming around so there’ll be pressure on both sides”, Sakic told a group of reporters.
.@Avalanche GM Joe Sakic - at his annual golf tournament benefiting Food Bank of the Rockies - says he’s sure Mikko Rantanen will remain in Colorado, looking forward to negotiations later this month #Denver7 pic.twitter.com/rf3adH0aGh— Nick Rothschild (@nick_rothschild) August 15, 2019
Despite reports last week that the two sides have not spoken, Sakic confirmed this morning that he had spoken with Mikko a few times this summer and that the two see eye to eye on a very important part of the negotiations. Sakic mentioned that both sides agree that a long-term deal is the best course of action. With talk that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are ok with signing their own star RFAs to bridge deals, it’s great news to hear Sakic’s insistence that the Avalanche and Rantanen are not looking at that option.
With a number of high-profile RFA forwards still unsigned (Rantanen, Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Patrik Laine) there has been a lot of speculation that agents are content to wait on the Leafs to set the market with Mitch Marner and then have their clients cash in on a newly inflated market.
James Mirtle of The Athletic speculated last week that Toronto has made three different contract offers to Marner, likely in the range of: 3 years, $8.5m AAV, 6 years, $10m AAV, and 7 years, $10.7m AAV. Marner appears to be requesting something closer to the 5 year, $11.634m AAV contract Auston Matthews signed earlier this year. Those numbers are a decent benchmark for the Rantanen negotiations as Marner is likely his closest comparison.
Since the two sides are looking to sign a long-term deal, the Avalanche are likely looking at an annual average value in the $10m range. As the contract gets longer, the AAV will go up. This is because the team would be buying out years of unrestricted free agency eligibility from Rantanen. The more UFA years a team buys, the higher the compensation a player is going to desire.
The Avalanche are currently $16.5m under the salary cap ceiling, so even if Rantanen is able to get into the eight digit AAV range, the team will still have a lot of cap space to work with during the season.
It’s not a lot of news, but it’s a lot better than the rumors going around last week that the two side had not spoken. After taking the San Jose Sharks to game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last spring, this is a group with high expectations for the coming season. Mikko Rantanen is the second most talented player on the Avalanche, so Sakic knows how important it is to get all of this settled in time for him to be at training camp with his teammates.