For now, Gabe Landeskog is still a member of the Avalanche. He’s still the team captain, still the voice of reason, still an extension of the coaching staff and front office, and a friend to all.
Landeskog has not agreed to terms with the expansion Seattle Kraken, who have likely wined and dined him since Monday morning when they obtained exclusive interview and negotiation rights.
If Landeskog doesn’t sign with Seattle and doesn’t formally become its lone selection from the Avalanche in Wednesday’s expansion draft, he will remain with Colorado until at least July 28, when NHL free agency begins.
There is still hope Avs fans’ affable nine-year captain and 10-year left winger chooses to lower his asking price to remain in Denver — or the Avs decide they can’t afford to lose him and up their ante.
Again the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Avs may not want to mess with their culture and leadership. Landeskog sets the bar inside the locker room for both. That and his keen net-front presence is exactly why he’s bound to get paid.
After being voted the Central Division’s “Last Man In” for the 2019 All-Star Game, joining linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Landeskog repeatedly said he doesn’t consider himself an all-star talent. That’s probably true. But when it comes to leadership, toughness and the ability to stand in front of the crease and score goals on redirections or rebounds, Landeskog is elite.
The Avs already lack multiple attributes Landeskog provides. The club doesn’t have enough heaviness to its game — big hitters who aren’t afraid to drop the gloves. Superstars don’t provide those things; they get paid the big bucks for their skill. Landeskog falls in the middle of those things. He’s certainly skilled but not to the extent of MacKinnon and Rantanen.
Landeskog did not have a good second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights beyond Game 1. In fact, he was demoted to the second line in Games 5 and 6 when coach Jared Bednar shuffled his lines in search of more offense. And in Game 5, he committed the offensive-zone turnover that led to Vegas’ second goal off the rush in what turned into a 3-2 overtime loss.
Colorado blew a 2-0 third-period lead in that game, a painful defeat that management probably still feels.
Landeskog also had that lazy shift change in Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks in 2019 that disallowed the tying goal to begin the first of three second-round playoff losses.
Landeskog isn’t the perfect player. But he sure is a great captain and an outstanding representative of the team. What’s that worth?
Landeskog’s $5.57 million cap hit over the last seven years was the right figure. If I’m general manager Joe Sakic, I’d find every possible way to bump that up a bit over six years and keep the core together.
If I’m Landeskog, with estimated career earnings of $41.4 million, I’d do what’s best for my family.
Taking the maximum money and term from the highest bidder makes sense. But so does remaining in Denver with a strong chance of retiring an Avalanche after winning the Stanley Cup and cementing himself as a community legend.
Is that worth a little less money over what could be his last big contract? Only Landeskog knows the answer to that.
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