Avalanche and Gabriel Landeskog are in a position nobody expected

I think it’s safe to say that none of us thought we would be here. The agreement of the Colorado Avalanche and their captain Gabriel Landeskog on a new contract to keep him in Denver seemed like a foregone conclusion. Pre-season reports said talks about an extension, while early, were ongoing and both sides were saying the same thing. Landeskog wanted to stay with the only team he knew, while the Avs wanted exactly the same. All of this now seems to be in danger.

Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin / NHLI via Getty Images)

Before we go any further, it should be said that while the two sides are reportedly “very far apart”, this does not mean that all hopes in Landeskog are lost and the Avs will eventually come to an agreement. Negotiations can be tense at times, even though both teams want the same thing.

Joe Sakic and the Avalanche have to move through a tangled flat cap that could force them not to offer the Landeskog a fair market value. At the same time, Landeskog is at a point in a player’s career where, as an unrestricted free agent, he has the greatest control over his future. It’s the best chance for him to make money and get the maximum value for what he brings to the Avs.

Where things are currently

We don’t know how far apart the two sides are. Yet negotiations between players and teams in any sport often start with the players asking too much. At the same time, the team sometimes offers too little and if no one has been offended, the discussions can be continued with a possible meeting in the middle. Concessions must be made on both sides.

Reading Landeskog’s comments, it seems like he’s not yet on the level of someone like Vladimir Tarasenko and his comments “somewhere but St. Louis” in calling for a deal from Missouri. Landeskog seems to be in the disappointed phase by saying things like

“I can’t help but be honest with you that I’m a little disappointed that it has come this far and that it had to come so far”

Gabriel Landeskog to Peter Baugh of The Athletic

Or,

“I still hope that we can come to an agreement and agree, but if it were up to me I would have liked to have done it eight months ago, ten months ago.”

Gabriel Landeskog to Peter Baugh of The Athletic

It makes sense why Landeskog would think that way. For one, the Avalanche and the Landeskog seemed ahead of that exact moment by having early contract talks early last season that saw some, including the Landeskog, thinking a deal was on the way to finalization. That would have been the best-case scenario for both sides. Make it behind you, lock up your captain long term and stay out of the headlines as everyone in the league wonders not only if Landeskog is on his way out of Colorado but gives hope to other teams to get him in to lure their city.

Landeskog’s time as a Colorado avalanche

What the Landeskog has meant for this franchise and this city cannot be underestimated. Second overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Landeskog marked the beginning of a new era for Avalanche Hockey. He was the next generation for the Avs and they thought so much of him and his skills that they named him team captain with the blessing of current captain Milan Hejduk when the end of Hejduk’s career was in sight and Landeskog became the youngest captain in the The NHL’s history was made with only 19. Without Connor McDavid, Landeskog would still hold that award.

In its nine years as an avalanche, the Landeskog has seen everything. The good and the bad. The team that claimed a # 1 seed and then lost in the first round to the Minnesota Wild with a loss in Game 7 OT. Then there was his teammate Matt Duchene, who was expected to be part of the main core of the franchise in the years to come, and asked for a swap after the terrible 2016-2017 season. And we must not forget that Avalanche legend Patrick Roy left his head coach weeks before the start of the season and the team only closed for the Presidents’ Trophy last year.

Let’s not forget a moment that will live in Avalanche history when the Avs were just a year after bottoming out the league. They fought for a playoff spot that came up to the last game of the season against the St. Louis Blues, who happened to be the other team battling those Avs for that spot. It was victorious to take it all and the Avalanche, despite leading the entire game, went out of their way to ensure victory. Landeskog collected the puck against the boards in the defensive zone and threw the puck into an empty blues net. The roar of the crowd and the stacking game that took place on the ice, made up of avalanche players jumping off their feet and jumping onto the Landeskog, is something that will be right around the time Ray Bourque won the Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche Gabriel LandeskogColorado Avalanche left winger Gabriel Landeskog celebrates his goal with teammates (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Dave Chidley)

On a personal level for Landeskog, he was named the league’s best rookie when he won the Calder Trophy in his first season; He was named an NHL All-Star in the 2019-2020 season, and off the ice, he got married and raised a family with his two children.

The only thing that Landeskog still has to achieve with the Avalanche is to win a Stanley Cup.

He was an exemplary player and citizen who stayed out of the headlines for the wrong reasons and was there for the right reasons. Now he wants to be recognized for everything he has done so far.

Why hasn’t a deal been made yet?

I have no doubt that the Avalanche Front Office recognizes and values ​​everything that Landeskog has done for this franchise and they will do whatever they can to come up with a contract with him that they deem fair. The struggle here is due to the current state of the NHL salary cap, which will remain unchanged for the next season.

The moment every free agent in the NHL looks forward to after their 27th season has come at the worst possible time. So these players will understand their respective team’s financial situation and play at a discount or ask for what they think is theirs. This is the landscape in which the Landeskog is currently located.

For the second straight season, the Avalanche are the preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup, and it’s widely accepted in the league that they’ve made themselves competitive for several years. The Landeskog is one reason for this.

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It is also a reason why many thought the negotiations between the Avs and the Landeskog were going pretty smoothly. Many expected that a captain playing on one of the better teams in the league and not yet finalized with that team would close a deal and get back to work as quickly and easily as possible. We don’t seem to be at this point yet.

That doesn’t mean they can’t get there. It wasn’t long ago that the Avalanche and Mikko Rantanen were far apart and over the course of the weeks and the talks a deal was finally agreed. Avalanche fans hope that recent history repeats itself.

The fans and Landeskog

We’ve gone so long in this article and haven’t addressed that one aspect of all of this: the fans. Let it know that the Avalanche fans are as connected to their captain as any fan base can be connected to a captain. So if the worst-case scenario occurs and Landeskog signs elsewhere, would the Avs fans feel like the front office has done everything within the limits of the cap in addition to the contracts needed by other players? Or would they have the mindset that this was your captain, sign him at all costs, no excuses?

I’m sure there will be people on both sides of this argument, but I think most people would go for the latter. But the fact remains that the Avalanche has a lot of work to do in signing players and a limited amount of money to do so.

Even so, I have a question floating around in my head and I cannot bring myself to believe that it is true. Do the Avalanche want to make the two face of the franchise with Nathan MacKinnon, a league superstar, and Cale Makar, who are about to become one themselves? Have the Avalanche turned their attention to making sure Makar is locked up with a long-term deal and have their eye on MacKinnon’s believed mammoth deal out front? Is the Landeskog basically collateral damage? If they keep him on a team-friendly deal, great. If he wants too much, do you let him go and feel like you are still in a good position to compete at the highest level and for a Stanley Cup?

That’s a hard sell to the fan base and a slap in the face of any franchise gamer of all time. But that’s a business too, and while Sakic and Co. are mostly not doing things right and as a fan base appreciates and expects them, tough decisions are ahead of us. Not decisions like letting go of a changing room and fan favorite Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, but decisions like deciding whether or not to give the man you gave the “C” to when you were 19 years old.

I don’t think Landeskog is greedy and asks about the moon. He plays alongside MacKinnon, who said he would take less on his next deal. Hence, the Avs had money to sign other assets (which I don’t think any of us will believe) and Erik Johnson, who recently waived his no-movement clause so the team could protect a defender who did for the Seattle Kraken as him.

Selfless comments and movements from two players who know how special this team is now and how it can be for years to come. The Landeskog knows that too, but he wants what he thinks is fair and what he thinks he deserves. Where the avalanche is and where the Landeskog is, will the middle be enough to end that? We will see.

A lifelong Colorado Avalanche fan and general hockey enthusiast. Moderator of the Locked on Avalanche Podcast, a daily podcast about the boys in Burgundy and Blue. Avid fan of comics, Star Wars, Marvel, Ghostbusters and golf

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