31 Takes: Colorado’s long-term cap crunch a huge factor for Rantanen

Ryan Lambert
DENVER, CO - APRIL 17:  Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) during a Western Conference match-up in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 17, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Rantanen is currently in Switzerland skating with SC Bern as his camp negotiates a new deal with Colorado. (Getty)

On some level in these negotiations, it seems like there’s a need to divorce Mikko Rantanen’s success alongside Nathan MacKinnon from his overall value to the Colorado Avalanche.

As of this writing, team and player are apparently separated by some distance in their negotiations. Reports say the Avs basically want to get the player locked in at something around $8.5-million AAV for something like six to eight years.

It’s nice to want things.

The Avs have a ton of cap space, it’s true. There may be arguments that Rantanen deserves Marner Money; he has two seasons of point-a-game scoring versus Marner’s one, but has been far less effective overall at 5-on-5 than Marner, leading to a WAR roughly half of what Marner has contributed in 300 fewer minutes. And again, that’s attached at the hip to one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the league, which hasn’t always been the case for Marner, who’s spent plenty of time with Zach Hyman and Patrick Marleau in recent years.

The Toronto strategy of giving four forwards 40-50 percent of your current cap cannot, however, be the way the Avalanche operate in the long term.

Some might point to MacKinnon signing a sweetheart deal — that lasts another four seasons and is already the best bargain in hockey — giving the Avs flexibility to overpay for other players. Most of their deals right now are reasonable save for what, say, Erik Johnson and JT Compher make. If you can get the combination of MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen to come in under $21 million or so, you’re gonna be in great shape.

But two things loom here: One is that the Avalanche’s long-term strength will come from both that top line and its potentially elite defensive depth. The good news is that only six guys on the current roster are signed after 2021, and those guys are MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, Compher, Johnson, and Samuel Girard. Only Johnson’s is an ugly over-valuation and there’s reason to believe most of those others will actually provide surplus value. Presumably, Rantanen will join them, and the AAV will of course go a long way toward determining what his value is.

But that also means that after next season, there are a ton of questions to answer. Landeskog will be 28 and looking for one last big, long-term deal (if so, maybe just let him walk. Tyson Jost will be on a new contract by then. Cale Makar will need a new contract. Bowen Byram could be a year away from needing an extension as well, depending on whether his deal slides this year.

And suddenly, even with a cash infusion from Seattle’s existence and a new American TV deal, you’re going to be looking to fill out a roster in much the same way Toronto is. The examples set by MacKinnon and Girard may help keep those values down, but then again, they may not in this post-Marner, post-huge-qualifying-offer-three-years-from-now RFA situation.

So while it would normally be safe to argue the Avs have something special with Rantanen and should just cut him whatever kind of check he wants, he’s probably overvaluing himself here. It’s not his job to worry about how the team makes the cap work, especially because so many of his coworkers took what appear to be value-positive or value-neutral deals.

But as with the Leafs, you can very clearly see why both sides feel the need to play hardball. Rantanen is great, but he isn’t Marner. The Avs definitely have a special player on their hands, but they arguably have too many to pay them all like they’re special players.

31 Takes

Anaheim Ducks: It’s weird to me that, given the Ducks’ various… situations, let’s say… Max Jones isn’t just guaranteed to make the team.

Arizona Coyotes: I truly want the best for Phil Kessel in Arizona but I’m kinda on the fence as to whether all this works out.

Boston Bruins: Bold prediction to make about a guy who only just signed a three-year extension.

Buffalo Sabres: Really just kinda squinting at this take.

Calgary Flames: Right up until he became a pro, every benchmark showed Jon Gillies could be a legit NHL goaltender. I guess it was just that bad injuries as soon as he went to the AHL crushed him? I dunno, but it’s a bummer.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes’ alternative to not trading Justin Faulk is starting the season with 55 NHL defensemen on their roster. No ideal scenario here anymore.

Chicago: As always, why would you use your teen prospects in depth roles on the NHL roster in what’s likely to be a long, no-fun season? Stashing them in junior or the AHL only makes sense.

Colorado Avalanche: I like the idea of becoming an outpost to try some low-cost Russians on their last chances in North America. Those guys are still weirdly valued in the league and your chances of unlocking something aren’t zero, so if it only costs you a little bit of money and a roster spot, why not?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Well that was fun.

Dallas Stars: The Stars have maybe five clear top-six forwards, which is at least one fewer than is ideal.

Detroit Red Wings: The thing is no one thinks the Wings are gonna be any good this year so if, “The beauty of exhibition season is a coach can put an 18-year-old defenseman out late in a game with a one-goal lead on the line, or play him with a variety of partners, without worrying about the final score,” this is also true of the regular season that’s likely to end with you in something like 28th. But what I would generally say is: Don’t have an 18-year-old on your NHL roster period.

Edmonton Oilers: Hey let me know how all this goes.

Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari is going to help but he’s probably not anything close to a “steal.” He’s fine, good depth player. That should be plenty!

Los Angeles Kings: The thing with that Ben Hutton contract is, “eh, why not?”

Minnesota Wild: Yes, definitely.

Montreal Canadiens: You for sure want to put a ton of pressure on this barely-20-years-old rookie to produce.

Nashville Predators: Yeah I mean if you like going to church and listening to country music, Nashville pretty much is an ideal destination.

New Jersey Devils: Well, Jack Hughes and Taylor Hall look pretttttttty good together. Granted, it’s against the Rangers’ B squad, but...

New York Islanders: At which point do Islanders beat guys just C&P their “Josh Ho-Sang has to figure it out” stories? It would certainly save them some time.

New York Rangers: There’s some promise on that Rangers blue line, but for now…?

Ottawa Senators: Nooooooooooo, Thomas don’t say it!

Philadelphia Flyers: Yeah I could get into a Giroux-Couturier-Farabee line. Yup.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Why does every team in the league insist on counting on first-year pros for this stuff? Stop it!

San Jose Sharks: I truly don’t get the Sharks’ refusal to address their goaltending even a little bit this summer. I buy that Martin Jones could have a bounceback year, but I’m all the way out on Aaron Dell.

St. Louis Blues: No thanks! Nope!

Tampa Bay Lightning: Yeah this is getting weird!

Toronto Maple Leafs: Come on with this.

Vancouver Canucks: I wonder where JT Miller ultimately slots into their lineup. I can see all that going a number of different ways.

Vegas Golden Knights: This was a joy.

Washington Capitals: I’m pretty sure they cut this kid the second this article published. That’s life!

Winnipeg Jets: This whole organization is in yikes mode right now.

Play of the Weekend

Ehlers’s breakaway speed is very cool and fun.

Gold Star Award

It’s cool that we’re talking about WIlliam Nylander looking amazing against the Senators’ and Sabres’ B teams but he does look good so I guess you can’t complain too much.

Minus of the Weekend

Apparently there were serious discussions for Milan Lucic to be traded to Vancouver so why on earth did Calgary do that instead? Let the division rival take the guy who stinks and costs a lot! What???

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “DingDongCharlie” has an idea.

“Puljujarvi + Russell for Ek + Rask.”

Our transaction is completed, you may take the boy.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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