On August 15th, 2013, the Colorado Avalanche signed their 2011 second overall pick and captain, Gabriel Landeskog, to a seven-year, $39 million extension in the hopes that he would become a foundational player in their journey to compete for a Stanley Cup again.
After a lackluster 2012-13 season that resulted in the Avalanche drafting some guy named Nathan MacKinnon first overall, Colorado rebounded immediately to finish third in the NHL with a 52-22-8 record. Landeskog finished with 65 points through 81 games as a 21-year-old, cementing himself as a star in the making.
It’s seven years later, and safe to say the bet the Avs placed on him has paid off.
At 28, Landeskog is coming off of a year in which he was on pace to put up some of the best regular season numbers in his career, and he was an integral part of Colorado’s playoff run where he scored nearly a point per game. That $5.5 AAV has aged like fine wine.
This season will be the last of Landeskog’s current contract, posing a number of questions for the Avalanche in terms of how they want to handle their salary cap situation moving forward. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that both parties believe resigning is the best scenario, but it doesn’t hurt to explore all of the options.
Sakic says the club has already had initial conversations with Gabriel Landeskog about getting a new contract done.— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) October 12, 2020
"Everyone is just figuring out where the landscape is going to be." #Avs
Landeskog has earned every penny of whatever contract he receives in the upcoming season. With 460 points in 633 career games, he ranks 43rd among active players in points throughout the decade and 37th in goals with 198.
When looking at his contemporaries, Landeskog has earned significantly less money during his career by committing to the lengthy deal at such a young age. For context, Nashville’s Ryan Johansen (0.67) is a player who has produced a similar point-per-game total to Landeskog (0.72) during his career and was drafted just one season earlier, yet Johansen is currently entering the fourth season of an eight-year deal with an AAV of $8 million. Although contracts vary based on team situation, there’s no doubt that Landeskog will get a significant raise.
Landeskog is still producing at a level that makes him extremely valuable to the top forward unit and as a leader for the entire team. It’s safe to say that as long as he remains in a top six role, there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue to be an important player for the Avalanche for a long time.
Based on the facts laid out, Landeskog will likely receive a contract along the lines of $7 to $7.5 million a year for six to seven years. Despite the fact that Colorado’s cap situation could get significantly more difficult to deal with in the near future, the window of opportunity for winning the Stanley Cup is now, and the team’s chances of doing so drop significantly without Landeskog in the lineup.
There’s a number of ways the Avalanche can go about handling Landeskog if they truly feel compelled enough to go in another direction, but they all just seem too farfetched.
One of the more likely scenarios is a trade in an attempt to retain assets before preparing to sign someone in the offseason. As outlandish as this may seem, the reality is that the Avalanche have done it in the past with guys like Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie.
Considering that newly acquired winger Brandon Saad has made it pretty clear that he wants to stay in Colorado, and the 2021 free agency group has some interesting alternatives when it comes to high-end wingers, like Taylor Hall, there is a story to be built there, however unlikely it may be.
Trading Landeskog would have to have a significant return for the Avalanche to remain as competitive as they are, as well as not completely destroy locker room chemistry. As much as it can be interesting to brainstorm different ways to manage salary and assets, there’s no real reason for the Avalanche to do anything else but to pay the man what he wants—and what he deserves.