We continue our look at next offseason’s potential free agent class by trying to project the next contract for some of the top players that could be available. Today we look at Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Read more contract predictions here.
In the summer of 2013 the Colorado Avalanche placed a couple of big bets on Gabriel Landeskog.
They named him captain even though he was just 20 years old, and then signed him to a seven-year, $39M extension that would begin during the 2014-15 season.
Those two moves were a gamble because even though Landeskog was just two years removed from being a top-two pick, he had a very limited NHL resume. He had appeared in just 118 games with only 31 goals, and was coming off a lockout-shortened sophomore season that was cut even shorter by a concussion.
While his potential was still sky-high, he was still a question mark that was far from a finished product.
The Avalanche were rewarded for their bet.
In the seven years since signing that contract, Landeskog has developed into a fierce two-way player, and over the past two seasons has been a key cog on the Avalanche’s top line alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
At a salary cap hit of just $5.5M, he has been a steal.
His contract — along with MacKinnon’s $6.3M cap hit — have given the Avalanche a huge advantage in constructing their roster around their top players. MacKinnon’s deal still runs for another three years, but Landeskog is set to enter the final year of his deal.
His next contract will almost certainly come with a significant raise.
In short, it is high.
What is funny about this is that he is the third-most productive member of the Avalanche’s top line from a points perspective. But that is more of a statement on how good MacKinnon and Rantanen are than a knock on Landeskog.
But while he lags a little behind his linemates on the stat sheet, he is still one of the NHL’s most productive players. His 0.88 points per game mark over the past three seasons is among the top-45 players in the league. There is a ton of value in that sort of production alone.
When you add in the fact he is the best defensive player of the three and one of the Avalanche’s best possession-drivers, it just boosts his value even more.
Re-signing Landeskog seems like a no-brainer.
He is a good, all-around player, their captain, and they have an outstanding thing going with him on their top line. It is a championship foundation, and given their overall depth around that top line it makes them one of the top Stanley Cup contenders.
But there is some risk with a new deal.
The first is that Landeskog will be 29 years old when his next contract kicks in. For as great as he is offensively right now, there is going to come a point in his 30s where that production starts to dwindle a bit. He does not strike me as the type of player that is just going to fall off a cliff offensively once he hits 30, but a decline in the coming seasons is inevitable. That could take him from “first-line star” to “very good second-liner” offensively, while he presumably gets paid like the first-line star. That is when teams start to get in trouble with the salary cap.
The Avalanche’s salary cap situation has been a luxury in recent years, but it is going to start getting a little more complicated with upcoming contracts for Landeskog, Cale Makar, and their goalies.
But even if Landeskog’s offense drops a little in the future, his defensive and possession-driving game should help maintain a lot of his current value long-term.
What should Landeskog’s contract look like?
The bottom line for the Avalanche is that they are a Cup contending team for the next handful of seasons. They should not be overly concerned about what their salary cap situation might look like in five years as it relates to Landeskog. He is still one of their best players and they are not going to find another player on the open market (or via trade) that is going to replace what he does in the short-term if they were to let him walk.
So what is a new contract going to look like?
I keep going back to the recent contracts signed by Chris Kreider with the New York Rangers (seven years) and Brayden Schenn with the St. Louis Blues (eight years).
Their new contracts kick in during their age 29 seasons (like Landeskog’s will) and their overall value (offensively, defensively, etc.) is all in the same general ballpark.
Having said that, I do think Landeskog is the better overall player, and is likely to continue putting up better offensive numbers playing on that line, in that system, and with those players around him. He could easily hit the $7M per season mark on a seven-year deal when he signs his next contract/
Is there a long-term risk with that down the line? Sure there is. But the Avalanche’s only commitment right now is to win a Stanley Cup with this core group. Landeskog is part of that core and his presence on the roster improves their chances in the immediate future. Dramatically so. If he helps bring a championship to Colorado in the next couple of years, no one is going to care what that contract does to the salary cap five or six years from now. Nor should they.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.