One of the most exciting young players in hockey has a new contract. The Colorado Avalanche have announced a six-year, $54MM extension with Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar. The 22-year-old defenseman chimed in himself to confirm the deal as well. Makar joins Alex Pietrangelo and P.K. Subban as the fifth-highest paid defenseman in the NHL at his $9MM AAV.
A Hobey Baker-winning superstar for the UMass Minutemen not long ago, Makar has proved in just two shortened regular seasons and three postseasons that his ability not only translated to the NHL, but is amplified even further. Makar has been among the elite in the league over the past two seasons, recording 94 points in 101 games with 22:27 average time on ice (and climbing). Makar already has a Calder Trophy, All-Rookie Team selection, and First Team All-Star selection under his belt at 22 and finished just shy of adding the Norris Trophy to the list this year as well. The Avalanche hope that Makar’s growing trophy collection will soon include a Stanley Cup too.
The ceiling for Makar at his age and with his dynamic ability is limitless and the Avalanche knew they needed to lock him up long-term, no matter how much money it took. Amazingly, Makar will still be in the prime of his career at 28 when this current contract expires, likely leading to another long-term deal down the road at an inconceivable financial total if his play keeps up. Despite a small frame and offensive focus, Makar is not afraid to play a physical game and has the defensive tools and IQ to hold his own in all three zones. Even if Makar’s offense starts to tail off from his current torrid point-per-game pace, he should easily maintain his value through this contract and beyond and his defensive play and puck moving continue to develop to be among the best in the league.
While adding a $9MM cap hit to the payroll is not easy, the Avs are actually fortunate that the number was not higher. Surely influenced by the six-year term rather than the maximum eight years but also likely impacted by the current flat cap and Colorado trying to keep their contending roster together, Makar settled for $9MM when he probably had a case to match Erik Karlsson for the top number in the NHL among blue liners at $11.5MM. The deal affords the Avalanche some more flexibility as they try to additionally re-sign Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer this off-season. With Makar signed, CapFriendly projects Colorado to have over $20MM in cap space but with only 14 players on that projected roster. Things will be tight this summer and beyond in Denver, but the most important piece is now locked up.