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Avalanche Signs Mikko Rantanen to Entry-Level Contract

Austin Manak Avatar
July 13, 2015

 

After a strong showing at prospect development camp last week, 18-year old Mikko Rantanen didn’t have to wait long to get a contract with the Colorado Avalanche. In a press release today, the team announced they have signed their 10th-overall selection to a three-year, entry-level contract.

The Finnish forward previously had been playing in Finland, where he tallied 9 goals and 28 points in 56 games with TPS in the Finnish Elite League (Ligga). At 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Rantanen has the body to play NHL hockey, especially given the fact he lined up against men while playing in the Finnish Liiga.

According to General Fanager, the maximum value for an entry-level contract in the NHL is $925K per season over the three years. If Rantanen makes the Avalanche out of camp, and we assume he signed a deal for the maximum (terms have not yet been officially released), this will be his salary and cap-hit.

Another option, would be for the Avalanche to give Rantanen big minutes on the top line with their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. Unless Rantanen thoroughly wows the socks off everyone at training camp, big minutes next season on the farm may be the best thing for his development.

If Rantanen plays in San Antonio, the two-way element of his entry-level deal kicks in, and he will earn $70K in annual salary plus his signing bonus.

Per AHL rules, 18 is the minimum age requirement to play in the league. However, there is a transfer agreement in the CBA between the AHL and CHL stating that players coming from the CHL may not play AHL hockey until they are 20. The rule, while frustrating at times for NHL general managers, protects the CHL from having talents poached by the AHL. It’s a bit of a confusing nuance, but since Rantanen was playing in Europe, he is exempt from this rule.

The final option, is the Avalanche still could return Rantanen to Finland to once again play with TPS in the Finnish Liiga. In this case, an entry-level “contract slide” would be applicable. Per the NHL collective bargaining agreement (section 9.1), any player who signs an entry-level contract at age 18, can have their entry-level contract extended, so long as they have played in no more than 10 NHL games. This rule applies for the player’s 18 and 19-year old seasons.

In essence, if Rantanen plays in Finland or San Antonio next season, that season doesn’t count against his entry-level contract, and the same would apply for the following season (so long as he hasn’t played in more than 10 NHL games). Down the line, this delays Rantanen’s UFA clock, giving the Avalanche added financial protection as he enters his prime years — an important consideration to keep in mind.

So, what does this all mean for the Avalanche and Rantanen?

It means, we are still waiting to see how Rantanen performs during training camp. The entry-level contract gives the Avalanche the option of playing Rantanen in North America next season, but the jury is still out on what league Rantanen will be playing in.

Rantanen will be eyeing the spotlight and salary of the NHL, no doubt. However, he and the Avalanche still have time on their side. If I were the Avalanche, I would be very careful to not rush Rantanen to the NHL. If Rantanen has a strong camp and pre-season, a ten game NHL tryout would be justified. Unless Rantanen proves he is absolutely ready to be a major contributor for the Avalanche, I would send him to San Antonio or back to Finland (preference in that order).

Either way, this signing represents an exciting step for Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche organization.

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