Brayden Point is 23 years old. Last season, he scored 41 goals and 92 points in 79 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The season before that, he had 32 goals and 66 points in 82 games.
Point, over the weekend, signed a three-year, bridge deal contract with Tampa Bay that carries a cap hit of $6.75 million. Conventional wisdom would say, therefore, that the Point deal was bad news for Mikko Rantanen in his ongoing negotiations toward a new deal with the Avalanche.
After all, Point had five more points than Rantanen last season. If it’s all about “comparables” for him and his agent, Mike Liut, then Rantanen just lost some leverage, right?
Maybe. But the way the deal was structured might be a roadmap for Rantanen and the Avs to do a similar deal, one that both sides could plausibly claim victory at the end. In any big, contentious deal, you always want both sides to be able to feel good – and feel a little pain, too.
The deal has salaries of $5.25 million, $6 million and $9 million. That third year has quite the jump.
That third year is important, because it will set $9 million as the minimum he would make in the first year after the contract expires. After three seasons, Point will still be just a restricted free agent, but the Lightning will have to qualify him at the same $9 million to retain his rights. Essentially, Point is taking a little less now for the guarantee of more later.
Or, the Lightning can sign Point to an extension in the third year of this current deal. They’ll have more cap space in two years, so they can probably offer Point something long-term in the $9 million-plus range. Point wouldn’t start collecting on the bigger, long-term salary until the three-year deal is fully complete, but he’d have a long-term, guranteed deal in his pocket.
I think this could be the solution to the Rantanen deadlock. Rantanen has four more seasons until he’s UFA. So why don’t he and the Avs do a three-year bridge deal at something like this: 8, 9, 10. Rantanen would have an AAV of $9 million for the three years, but in two years he’d be able to sign a longer-term extension. Or, he could play out the contract and know that it would take $10 million per to retain his services. He’d be at the ripe old age of 25 by then.
Let’s sign this right now and play some goddamn hockey, right? The Avs could claim victory by saying they went nowhere near Mitch Marner’s contract, and Rantanen can claim victory by saying “I’m gonna be making 10 and probably more than that in three years.”
Here’s one thing though: The Avs have a lot more cap space right now than they are likely to have in the off-season of three and four years from now. Gabe Landeskog’s deal is up after two more seasons. Cale Makar’s deal is up after two more seasons. After three more seasons, Nathan MacKinnon will be eligible to sign an extension and you know damn well he’s going to want a hefty raise from his current $6.3 million cap hit.
The Avs would like to lock up Rantanen long-term now, not only because they have abundant cap space for now, but because it would allow them to better know their costs longer-term while they try to do other future deals.
To me, it makes sense. But I am told that the Avalanche really don’t want to do a short-term bridge deal with Rantanen. They want this long-term deal at something under $10 million per.
The Rantanen camp, I’m told, would be happy with the kind of bridge deal I just proposed.
The clock is ticking louder on this thing now. If the Avs think they are going to be able to get by with Andre Burakovsky on that top line with Landy and MacK, I think they’re kidding themselves. Burakovsky has skill, but I haven’t seen anything resembling the kind of game Rants can bring so far in the preseason.
The Avs will be a loser without Rantanen (I’m talking in the metaphorical sense here when I say “loser”) and the player always loses when he doesn’t get paid.
They have to figure a way out of this. The Point deal looks like the proper GPS to get there.
But it takes two to tango.