In the new golden age of Denver sports, Nathan MacKinnon, Russell Wilson and Nikola Jokic are leading the gold rush.
We will remember 2022 as the year that the Big Three broke the bank.
With MacKinnon signing a contract extension with the Avalanche that makes him the highest-paid player in the NHL, he joins Wilson and Jokic with new megadeals worth more than $600 million combined.
Three superstars who make the Avs, Broncos and Nuggets worth watching are now worth more than a small country. And that’s no exaggeration: $600 million is more than the GNP of Dominica, a beautiful little island in the Caribbean.
Here’s the eye-opening, economic breakdown of the contract extensions, all signed since June, in a summer spending spree like we’ve never seen in this dusty old cowtown:
Jokic: $270 million for five years.
Wilson: $245 million for five years.
MacKinnon: $100.8 million, eight years.
And then there’s outfielder Kris Bryant, who’s not worth a dime, but was signed by the Rockies for $182 million over seven years. Stupid is as stupid does.
At first glance, it appears MacKinnon might’ve picked the wrong sport. His average annual salary of $12.6 million when the new deal hits is dwarfed by the $46 million per annum of Wilson and the mind-boggling $54 million Jokic will be paid.
But want to know the bottom-line truth about all these big bucks?
The cha-ching don’t mean a thing if you don’t get that ring.
While MacKinnon will earn a fraction of the money of the other two, he has by far the best deal in town.
He raised the Stanley Cup before getting paid. And terms of his new contract will give MacK a shot at building a dynasty with the Avs from now right through 2031, when he will be 36.
“Really cool,” MacKinnon said Tuesday at a news conference on the eve of training camp for the defending NHL champs. There was no doubt he was going to get big money. But the real big deal? MacK almost certainly will spend the rest of his NHL career chasing the Cup for the glory of Colorado.
Do I need to remind you the Nuggets have never won the NBA championship?
While Jokic will do his MVP best to write the most glorious chapter in team history, the pro basketball landscape suggests it’s a longshot anytime before 2028, when I’m guessing Joker will be tempted to return to Serbia and ride one of his beloved horses into the sunset after his deal runs its course.
With the fans of Broncos Country growing restless, general manager George Paton boldly made a blockbuster trade with Seattle for Wilson, then made the even bolder wager to pay a 33-year-old quarterback like the elite player the Seahawks no longer believe him to be.
Although it’s too early to make any conclusive judgment, if the small sample size of two games in a Denver uniform is any indication, Wilson appears to be a welcome upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater and the other forgettable QBs who have passed through town in recent years. But the eye test also suggests Paton made a very expensive leap of faith in the hope Wilson can put Denver on equal footing with Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert in the AFC West.
While $100 million can buy an athlete a great big house anywhere in this great big world, it’s the $800,000 of chump change that makes MacKinnon’s deal so interesting.
The small financial details of his contract allowed MacKinnon to become the highest-paid player in the NHL, barely inching past the $12.5 million per year earned by Edmonton center Connor McDavid.
Here’s the interesting part: Instead of dramatically resetting the market, MacKinnon chose to take less money than he could’ve demanded, in order to give himself the best chance to win the Stanley Cup again and again with defenseman Cale Makar and the boys wearing burgundy and blue sweaters..
“We’re not planning on just winning one,” MacKinnon said.
“Nathan is obviously one of the premier players in the NHL, so a long-term extension was something we wanted to get done before the season started,” Avs general manager Chris McFarland said in a statement released by the team. “He has that rare combination of speed and power with a high compete level that makes him a generational player.”
In another year, Toronto center Auston Matthews will almost certainly take away the honor of being the NHL’s best-paid player from MacKinnon.
And MacK won’t care one red cent.
He’s chasing a far loftier goal, signing a contract for life with Colorado that gives him a real shot at surpassing Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy as the best player in Avalanche history.