NHL Rumor Roundup: Could MacKinnon Become the NHL’s Highest-Paid Player?

Six weeks out from the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, we’ve started to see answers to off-season questions that have been dragging on for months.

Nazem Kadri is a Calgary Flame, Johnny Gaudreau is a Columbus Blue Jacket, and a host of others also signed new deals and traded jerseys. Now that the dust has settled on some of the biggest moves of the summer, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek took time out in the latest episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast to shed some light on the process behind the mayhem, and a few other deals that might still be on the horizon.

Listen to the full episode, featuring interviews with Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, here.

NATHAN MacKINNON READY TO CHALLENGE McDAVID AS HIGHEST-PAID PLAYER?

Fresh off a streak of dominating seasons that saw Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon earn a few Hart Trophy nominations and win the Stanley Cup, the 26-year-old should be paid handsomely for his break into the top flight. of the league.

The 2013 No. 1 overall pick became one of the game’s most undeniably dynamic talents in recent years, while playing a deal that earned him just $6.3 million per season – a boon for the Colorado. With that deal set to expire after the 2022-23 campaign, Friedman reported that the Nova Scotia native could soon see his salary double.

“Look, I think it’s going to be a big number. I think it’s a possibility — but not a guarantee — that Nathan MacKinnon could end up being the highest paid player in the league,” Friedman said during 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. “Right now it’s Connor McDavid with an AAV of $12.5 million. I think it’s possible. Even if he’s not, I think it’s going to be a big number.

“If the Avalanche do that and it ends up being as high as it could be, I don’t think people are going to object. He’s so good, and he’s so important. The other thing too is, you look at it – (Cale) Makar is at $9m, (Mikko) Rantanen is at $9.25m, MacKinnon is going to be a total UFA, that’s the push. You’ll hear Bill Daly talk about how optimistic they are that the cap will go up a little sooner than they thought, so that’s a big deal.

HOW NAZEM KADRI ENDED UP IN CALGARY AS ISLAND RUMORS SPIN

The Avalanche have the leeway to handle that big increase, of course, as they lost Nazem Kadri, who stood out in 2021-22, to join the Flames in a $49 million contract on seven years.

Kadri’s possible landing spot has been talked about for weeks, with some initially speculating he would return to Colorado, and other rumors suggesting a deal has been struck with Lou Lamoriello’s New York Islanders , before Calgary broke the news.

“There were rumors circulating a few days before that it was a done deal. The Flames confirmed that ultimately it did. But what they were really trying to do is they really wanted to stay the course because they had to trade (Sean) Monahan,” Friedman explained of how the Kadri and Monahan deals unfolded. . “I think they had more than one option, I think some of them potentially failed. But they really wanted to create a situation where they wouldn’t be stuck saying, ‘Oh we’ve got Kadri locked up, but we still have to make the move.” I think it was a strategy on their part. And clearly, it turned out to be the case.

As for the former Toronto Maple Leaf’s other options, it seems Calgary was the favorite from the start.

“Kadri, I think he was really interested in the Avalanche, I don’t think the Avalanche were willing to give up. The Islanders, it’s so hard. … I never thought the Islanders and Kadri were over, I was specifically warned against saying something like that, that it would be a mistake to do so at some point,” Friedman said. . “The one thing that I think really helped the Flames was that they were the more aggressive team.

“The whole Calgary summer changed when (MacKenzie) Weegar and (Jonathan) Huberdeau were put on the table. I think when they lost Gaudreau and they were in danger of losing (Matthew) Tkachuk, they were sitting there and they were like, “What are we going to become? Where are we going here? I think their attitude was, ‘If we can find good players, we’ll try to come back with the rest of our squad’ and all of a sudden two very good players pounced on them. So I think that’s where it really intensified for them – they started to believe, ‘You know what, we can still be really good.’

“Kadri said it, and I think it’s true, they were very aggressive. I think their offer, for a long time, was better than Colorado, the Islanders or anybody else. Colorado had a limit, and I think the Islanders eventually got closer to where the Flames were. I just felt like it took them longer to get to where Calgary was ready to go, and I think that played a part. In the end, I think the Islanders couldn’t clear the room.

Although it’s already been a pretty wild summer for general manager Brad Treliving and his Flames, Friedman noted that more moves could be on the way for the Alberta club – and they were on Kadri’s former teammate, Phil Kessel, before the winger signed for Vegas this week.

“I don’t think they’re done either. I think they will add another striker. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sniffed Evan Rodrigues,” he said. “I think Calgary was interested in Kessel, I think there was a legitimate Flames interest in bringing them in. I wonder if the Flames are focusing on Evan Rodrigues now.”

A PATRICK KANE TRADE COULD COME, BUT NOT YET

Elsewhere in Alberta, the conversation has focused on Chicago winger Patrick Kane, who finds himself a star player on a team leaning heavily into rebuilding mode. Amid much talk that the Oilers are looking to bring in Kane to bolster talent on their wing, it appears there is some truth to the rumors, but a deal may not be imminent.

“There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not they’re going to give Patrick Kane a run. I think it’s legitimate that they want it. I have no reason to believe this conversation is hot air,” Friedman said of the Oilers rumors. “What do the Blackhawks want to do and what does Patrick Kane want to do? First of all, is Chicago ready to do this? They were adamant that they wouldn’t go to Kane or (Jonathan) Toews or (Seth) Jones unless those players came to them. … What makes more sense for Patrick Kane, picking somewhere now or waiting through the season to see who’s good?

“I think that’s one of the things that’s kind of been discussed here, both by the team and by the player – are we doing it now or are we waiting to see who’s good? And I think option B might be the preferred option.

The key issue for any club hoping to acquire the three-time Stanley Cup champion will be their salary, as Kane has one more year at $10.5 million before he becomes a UFA. That will of course be a problem for the Oilers, who already have McDavid at an even higher number on their books.

The solution, according to Friedman, could be a deal involving multiple teams.

“Not only the Oilers, but I think other teams that have looked at Kane have looked at double retention situations,” Friedman said. Such a situation would involve Kane being dealt to a team and then redistributed to his eventual landing spot, with Chicago and that first team keeping their salaries, reducing that number to something more manageable.

As the Oilers continue to look for ways to add to their roster after their most promising playoff run in a decade and a half, Freidman reports general manager Ken Holland has also been looking for blueline improvements

“Before he ended up in Anaheim, I think they were watching (John) Klingberg,” Friedman said. “I think they were trying to do something with another team, potentially Montreal, where Klingberg would sign there and maybe trade to Edmonton. Montreal would take a little [of the salary], and the Oilers would do a sweetener, and maybe they should move a player too. I think we talked about it. »

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