The Colorado Avalanche have signed center Nathan MacKinnon to a seven-year, $44.1 million contract extension with an average annual value of $6.3 million.
MacKinnon now holds the highest cap hit on the Avalanche roster.
“Signing Nathan to a long-term contract was a priority this offseason,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. “He is going to be a key part of our team for many years to come and it was important to secure his rights moving forward.”
MacKinnon has been an elite hockey player at every level throughout his life, including being selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He followed that up with an impressive rookie campaign, scoring 24 goals and 63 points in 82 regular-season games. That earned him the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, making him the youngest Calder Trophy winner in NHL history at only 18 years and 224 days old.
Since his rookie year, MacKinnon has taken a step back. He seemed to have been cursed with the dreaded “Sophomore Slump” the following season, earning only 38 points in 64 games. This past season, his third in the NHL, MacKinnon put up 21 goals and 52 points in 72 games.
However, he knows there is a lot of work to be done, both on a personal level and on a team level, as Colorado has missed the playoffs two years in a row.
“I really think the players we have — the young guys we have, the veterans — we have a very good mix. It’s been a disappointing couple seasons. I truly believe we’re going to be a very strong team and a contender for years to come.
“I think everybody on the team has a little chip on their shoulder. I think we’re really going to challenge ourselves. Me personally, I’ve never felt more motivated than I have the past couple months. I think I have a lot to prove in this league. I think I can take my game to a whole other level and I’m really excited to show it this season, especially with this new contract. There’s a lot of pressure to perform, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Based on MacKinnon’s mediocre numbers over the past few seasons, many will question the long-term extension. However, despite the drop in his production, I believe MacKinnon is the exception to the rule. He is still just 20 years old and has the potential to be an NHL superstar. He was stellar in the 2013-2014 playoffs, scoring 10 points in 7 games, and is clearly a gifted player. Assuming MacKinnon gets back on track, along with the rest of the Colorado roster, the $6.3 million cap hit will look like an absolute bargain. I think this is a very savvy signing by Sakic.
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