Hours before free agency began, the Colorado Avalanche reached an agreement with their captain.
The Avalanche signed Gabriel Landeskog, 28, to an eight-year deal reported by NHL Network insider Elliotte Friedman and soon confirmed by the team. Friedman tweeted that the deal is for $7 million per year.
Landeskog, the team’s captain since he was 19, and ambassador as the franchise went from worst (2016-17) to first (2020-21) in the regular season, was seemingly close to becoming one of the league’s most sought-after free agents at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
After the entry draft ended Saturday, general manager Joe Sakic insisted the sides still had time. Days ticked by without an announcement. Friedman on Tuesday afternoon reported hearing that seven years at $7 million apiece “is on the table, and there are discussions about the possibility of eight years."
The latter became reality and was announced at about 9:30 p.m., 47 days after the Avalanche’s season ended. The team’s top line remains intact.
“We are thrilled to have our captain signed to a long-term deal," Sakic said according to a team release. "Gabe is the heart and soul of this team and an integral part of our organization both on the ice and in the community. He's the consummate leader, a great teammate, and alongside (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Mikko) Rantanen, is part of what has been one of the NHL’s best lines over the past four seasons. We are excited to have Landy in an Avalanche sweater for many years to come.”
Landeskog has played his entire career with Colorado after being drafted second overall by the team in 2011. He has 512 points (218 goals) through 687 games. He’s not due to become a free agent until 2028-29 and will be the team’s third-highest-paid player behind Rantanen and star defenseman Cale Makar. Makar signed a new six-year deal Saturday.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer expressed public interest in staying but is set to hit the open market unless Colorado has another last-minute deal in store.
If someone else makes the Vezina Trophy finalist the right offer, the Avalanche’s existing options in net include Pavel Francouz, who had surgery and missed the entire 2020-21 season, and Jonas Johansson, who has 18 starts scattered over two NHL seasons.
The Avalanche will also be in the market to fill a few roster spots at a discounted price. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare isn’t expected to be retained. Matt Calvert retired, Ryan Graves was traded and Joonas Donskoi was lost in the expansion draft. Unrestricted free agent Brandon Saad, who spent most of the season on the second line and was the team’s sixth-leading goal-scorer (15), hasn’t re-signed.
“As our top guys are getting more expensive, we're going to have to compliment them with less-expensive guys,” Sakic said.
The team’s longest-tenured player defenseman Erik Johnson could help after missing nearly all of the previous season due to injury. Ideally Sampo Ranta, Alex Newhook, Mikhail Maltsev, Bowen Byram and others on entry-level deals will grow into bigger roles.
“We just don’t want to put too much pressure on them to make the jump if they’re not ready,” Sakic said.
Colorado sent qualifying offers Monday to forward Tyson Jost and defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Conor Timmins and retained their negotiating rights.
The other deal announced Tuesday was one with NHL newcomer the Seattle Kraken. The Avalanche swapped a fourth-round pick in 2023 for 6-foot-5, 233-pound defenseman Kurtis MacDermid.
MacDermid, 27, was Seattle’s expansion draft pick from the L.A. Kings, where he’d spent his entire NHL career. He had two goals and two assists in 28 games with the Kings last season.