Nathan MacKinnon NHL’s Highest Paid Player with $12.6 Million US AAV on 8-Year Deal

The Colorado Avalanche has made Nathan MacKinnon the highest paid player in the NHL salary era.

MacKinnon, who just turned 27 earlier this month, signed an eight-year contract worth $100.8 million, the team announced on Tuesday.

His new $12.6 million U.S. salary cap, effective at the start of the 2023-2024 season, surpasses Connor McDavid’s $12.5 million U.S. as the highest in the league. McDavid’s $100 million US eight-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers signed in 2017 was the previous record for the highest annual cap hit since the system was introduced in 2005.

The only deals richer than MacKinnon’s, in total dollars, in NHL history:

  • Alex Ovechkin’s $124 Million US, 13-Year Contract with Washington
  • Shea Weber’s $110 Million US, 14-Year Nashville Contract
  • Sidney Crosby’s $104.4 million US, 12-year contract with Pittsburgh.

The collective bargaining agreement has since limited contract durations to eight years for a player who re-signs with his own team and seven for free players.

MacKinnon agreed to the deal with the training camp about to begin. It was a brief off-season for MacKinnon and the Avalanche after they captured their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.

The hard-shooting, fast-skating center tied for the league lead with 13 goals after the season. It was the second highest in a single playoff run in franchise history, scoring just 18 goals from Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in 1996 (when Colorado won its first cup).

He has that rare combination of speed and strength with a high level of competition that makes him a generation player.– Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland on striker Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon, the top pick in the 2013 draft, was a Hart Trophy finalist in three of the last five seasons (’17-18, ’18-19, ’20-21). He has 242 goals in his career and 406 assists, the most of anyone in his draft class.

“Nathan is clearly one of the best players in the NHL, so a long-term extension was something we wanted to do before the season started,” Avalanche director Chris MacFarland said in a statement about the extension on Tuesday. “He has that rare combination of speed and strength with a high level of competition that makes him a generation player. We are delighted that he will remain a member of this team and this community for many years to come.”

The Halifax, Nova Scotia native was the youngest player in franchise history to make his NHL debut (18 years, 31 days), winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie that season. He also won the Lady Byng Award in 2020 for sportsmanship and civilized behaviour. In addition, he has been named captain of the Central Division in the last three All-Star Games.

MacKinnon’s last contract, signed in 2016 and expiring after the upcoming season, was worth $44.1 million US over seven years on a cap hit of $6.3 million US. Just four players surpassed the 495 points he’d racked up in the regular season since that deal went into effect, and his 83 in the playoffs has since become the second-highest in the NHL.

That’s why MacKinnon was known for years as the most underpaid hockey player – a title he really didn’t care about.

Today he has another one – Stanley Cup champion.

He is part of a core Avalanche group that also includes defender Cale Makar, forward Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog.

“It’s really cool, of course, for sure,” MacKinnon said of the highest paid player in hockey. “Hopefully there are no more pandemics and the cap goes up even more, but yeah, I think the term was the most important thing. I just wanted to be here for the rest of my career and hopefully I’ll get a deal after this too. “

MacKinnon is now signed through 2031. Colorado has also signed versatile forward Valeri Nichushkin through 2030, Landeskog through 2029 and Makar, the playoff MVP, through 2027. MacFarland’s job next summer is an extension with Rantanen.

“It shows a lot of loyalty,” said Sakic, now Colorado’s president of hockey operations. “Nathan wanted to make this happen, we wanted to make it happen and he is a franchise player and we are very excited that he will stay here in Colorado for the rest of his career.”

McDavid considers being outdone as the highest paid player, “good for hockey, I guess, to keep raising the bar.”

“But in the end, the salary cap system is a weird system where the more money you make, the less money someone else can make,” added McDavid. “It’s a bit of a weird system that way. It’s always give and take.”

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