What will Rantanen’s next contract look like?

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Despite the fact that he’s leading the NHL in scoring, it still feels like Mikko Rantanen is an underrated superstar. Maybe that’s because he plays in Colorado, maybe that’s because he’s on the same team as Nathan MacKinnon, but it just feels like he doesn’t get the love he deserves.

He’ll probably get more attention if he wins the Art Ross Trophy, or if the Avs pay him huge money on his next contract. Rantanen is in the final year of his entry-level deal, which means the two sides will be taking care of business in the near future.

The line of Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog has arguably become the best in the NHL. Rantanen and MacKinnon are first and second in the league in scoring, while Landeskog is also running at a point-per-game pace this year. The Avs may be top-heavy, but it’s totally fine if you have three players that can produce at this rate.

When it comes to contracts, Colorado has already taken care of MacKinnon (four years remaining at $6.3 million) and Landeskog (two years remaining at $5.571 million).

So what should the Avs expect to pay Rantanen starting next season?

First, no matter what the number is, expect him to become the highest paid player on the team by a wide margin.

In 2017-18, the 22-year-old had 29 goals and 84 points in 81 games, which means he was tied for 16th in scoring last season. This year, he’s already up to 42 points in just 25 contests. That puts him on pace for 138 points. There’s no way he comes close to 140 points, is there? Regardless, he’ll be getting a significant raise before the start of the 2019-20 campaign.

To figure out how much he’ll make, let’s take a look at some of the recent major extensions that have been signed by elite wingers.

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was one of three players to hit the 100-point mark last season, inked an eight-year, $76 million deal ($9.5 million AAV) with Tampa last summer. That’s a decent comparable. Last year was really Kucherov’s second big year. He also had a pair of 60-point seasons before that, but he’s three years older than Rantanen, which means he’s had more time to prove himself. This feels like a strong comparable.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who is 10 years older than Rantanen, just signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal ($8.25 million AAV) with Winnipeg. The 32-year-old is coming off a 91-point season in 2017-18, and he’s on pace to surpass that number this year, as he has 32 points in 24 contests. He out-produced the Avs forward by a few points last year, but there’s a huge difference in age here. Given the difference in age, you’d have to think that Rantanen’s AAV will be higher than Wheeler’s.

Sharks forward Logan Couture and Stars forward Tyler Seguin are both part-time wingers, who also play down the middle at times. Couture signed an eight-year, $64 million deal last summer, while Seguin inked an eight-year, $78.8 million extension in September. Both players are older than Rantanen and neither of them had more points than him last year.

Keeping all of the above numbers in mind, it sure looks like Rantanen is heading for an eight-year deal worth north of $80 million total. Kucherov out-performed him last year, but the fact that the Avs forward is only 22 years old makes him that much more valuable. That’s not to say that Kucherov is old or anything, but wasn’t as productive as Rantanen is when he was 22.

If the Finn keeps producing at a similar clip, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could earn somewhere around $11 million per season on a long-term deal.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.