Like Whitney Houston, Colorado GM Joe Sakic believes the children are our future. Only instead of singing about ‘em, he’s throwing a lot of Stan Kroenke’s cash their way.
A month after signing Matt Duchene to a five-year, $30 million extension, Sakic locked up Colorado’s 20-year-old captain, Gabriel Landeskog, with a massive seven-year, $39 million deal. That’s a $5.57 million average annual value against the cap when it kicks in for the 2014-15 season.
It’s a significant vote of trust for a player who is coming off a 17-point season, but the value should kick in down the road when the big pivot hits his stride, especially since it buys his first three years of free agency.
That’s key, but so is the understanding of what kind of player Landeskog can be.
You’ll hear talk about the risk the Avs are taking. Maybe the weight of the C compounded the typical sophomore slump. And there are lingering concerns about the concussion Landeskog suffered after being crushed by San Jose’s Brad Stuart. But Landeskog is as close to a sure thing as there is, not just because of his size and skill but because he gets it. This is a player who racked up 52 points during his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season playing alongside Ryan O’Reilly and a cavalcade of spare parts. He may never be a 90-point guy, but he’s a lock for 75-plus with a gritty, all-around game loaded with all the intangibles you could imagine. This was an easy call for the Avs.
“In just two seasons, Gabe has already proven to be a great asset to our organization both on and off the ice,” Sakic said. “The fact that he has agreed to a long-term deal shows that he believes in this team, his teammates and the direction of this franchise moving forward.”
With Duchene inked long-term and first-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon coming on board this season, it’s easy to see why Landeskog was willing to commit. Security’s a great thing, especially when you love where you’re playing.
Now it’s up to Sakic to make the call on O’Reilly, who comes into his contract season with a $5 million cap hit, but a $6.5 million salary. There is no chance that he’s worth more to the team than either Duchene or Landeskog, so this decision sets up as the first real test of Sakic’s tenure.