Nathan MacKinnon NHL's highest-paid player with $12.6M US AAV on 8-year deal

The Colorado Avalanche made Nathan MacKinnon the highest-paid player in the NHL's salary cap era on Tuesday, with the 27-year-old signing an eight-year contract worth $100.8 million US, the team announced.

Halifax native tied for league lead in playoff goals in team's 2022 Cup title run

Nathan MacKinnon has signed an eight-year contract extension with the Avalanche, starting in the 2023-24 NHL season. The $12.6 million US salary cap surpasses Connor McDavid's $12.5 million as the highest in the league. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/File)

The Colorado Avalanche have made Nathan MacKinnon the highest-paid player in the NHL's salary cap era.

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

His new $12.6-million US salary cap hit that goes into effect at the start of the 2023-24 season surpasses Connor McDavid's $12.5 million US 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 went into place in 2005.

The only richer deals 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 contract with Nashville
  • Sidney Crosby's $104.4-million US, 12-year contract with Pittsburgh.

The collective bargaining agreement has since limited contract lengths to eight years for a players re-signing with his own team and seven for free agents.

MacKinnon agreed to the deal with training camp about to start. It's been a short off-season for MacKinnon and the Avalanche after they captured their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.

The hard-shooting, fast-skating centre tied for the league-lead with 13 post-season goals. It was second-highest in a single playoff run in franchise history, trailing only Hall of Famer Joe Sakic's 18 goals in 1996 (when Colorado won its first Cup).

He has that rare combination of speed and power with a high compete level that makes him a generational player.— Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland on forward Nathan MacKinnon

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

"Nathan is obviously one of the premier players in the NHL so a long-term extension was something we wanted to get done before the season started," Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland said in a statement Tuesday about the extension. "He has that rare combination of speed and power with a high compete level that makes him a generational player. We are thrilled he will continue to be a member of this team and this community for many years to come."

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

MacKinnon's last contract, signed in 2016 and expires after the upcoming season, was worth $44.1 million US over seven years at a cap hit of $6.3 million US. Only four players topped the 495 points he put up in the regular season since that deal went into effect, and his 83 in the playoffs are second-most in the NHL since then.

That's why for years, MacKinnon was known as the most underpaid player in hockey — a title he really didn't care for.

These days, he has another one — Stanley Cup champion.

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

"Obviously it's really cool, for sure," MacKinnon said of being the highest-paid player in hockey. "Hoping there's 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 get another deal after this, too."

MacKinnon is now signed through 2031. Colorado also has versatile forward Valeri Nichushkin signed through 2030, Landeskog through 2029 and Makar, the playoff MVP, through 2027. MacFarland's task 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 get this done, we wanted to get it done and he's a franchise player and we're really excited that he'll remain here in Colorado for the rest of his career."

McDavid considers being surpassed as the highest-paid player, "good for hockey, I guess, to keep raising the bar."

"But ultimately the salary cap system's a weird system where the more money you make, the less money someone else can make," McDavid added. "It's kind of a weird system that way. There's always going to be give and take."

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