Mikko Rantanen isn’t concerned that he and the Colorado Avalanche have yet to agree on a new contract, and he expects the Avalanche to be a better team than last season once he does sign.
“Nothing’s wrong; there’s still one month until [training] camp starts,” the 22-year-old restricted free agent forward said at the Finnish Alumni All-Star Game in Lahti, Finland, on Friday. “I know what’s happening, but I’m not stressful. There are a lot of players who are in the same situation.
“[It’s] nice that I’m trusted and the club wants to make a long [-term] deal. Let’s see what happens … The situation hasn’t bothered me.”
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said Friday that contract talks with Rantanen should get going once training camp gets closer.
“Looking forward to the opportunity to have Mikko back,” Sakic said, “and I’m sure he’ll be back here.”
Rantanen was second on Colorado in scoring last season with an NHL career-high 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games; center Nathan MacKinnon was first with 99 points (41 goals, 58 assists). Rantanen led Colorado with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and scored the winning goals in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference First Round to eliminate the Calgary Flames.
He said he believes the Avalanche can take a step forward this season, and that he wants to be the catalyst to make that happen.
“I’m a leading player, and I want to lead this team all the way,” he said. “We need to be constant as a team. We had a good start but then we won six or seven games in [our next] 30 games. Those dips can’t be there if we want to be a winning team and go far in the spring.”
Video: COL@CGY, Gm5: Rantanen blasts one-timer for PPG
Colorado began last season 15-6-4, went 7-17-7 in its next 31 games but finished 16-7-7 to end the season 38-30-14 and earn the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Avalanche reached the second round but were defeated by the San Jose Sharks in seven games.
Rantanen said he is excited about Colorado’s offseason moves; the most significant was acquiring forward Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1 for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alexander Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
The Avalanche also acquired forward Andre Burakovsky in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 28 and signed forwards Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as free agents on July 1.
That depth will supplement Colorado’s top line of Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, who had 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists) last season.
“I believe we can take one step ahead,” Rantanen said. “Second round last spring was good, but we were in Game 7, one win away from reaching the conference final. We have a stronger team now, so the expectations are high. You need depth to be able to win. Look at [the] St. Louis [Blues], they had four good lines, as did [the] Boston [Bruins]. You don’t win the Stanley Cup if you don’t have depth.”
Rantanen is one of several high-profile RFA forwards who have yet to sign a contract for this season, including Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames.
Panu Markkanen of NHL.com/fi contributed to this report