Before the second day of the 2021 NHL Draft began, the Colorado Avalanche secured a different piece of its future.
Defenseman Cale Makar signed a six-year deal with the club on Saturday morning, making him a member of the Avs through the 2026-27 season.
The 22-year-old was a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team this past campaign, one year after becoming the first defenseman in franchise history to win the Calder Memorial as the league's most outstanding rookie.
"A deal of this magnitude, both sides have to feel good about it moving forward," said Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic. "He is a superstar. He is one of the top defensemen in the league, if not the best. He will be up for the Norris year in, year out. We are very fortunate for the next six years we are going to have Cale here hopefully helping us win a Stanley Cup."
In his first two NHL campaigns, Makar has recorded 94 points (20 goals, 74 assists) in 101 career regular-season games, the sixth-highest total by a defenseman through 101 contests in NHL history. Only Harry Cameron (115), Mark Howe (112), Brian Leetch (99), Larry Murphy (97) and Phil Housley (95) had more.
Video: Cale Makar signs 6-year contract with Avalanche
"I think for me, it just it shows the faith that the program has in me and then as well from my side," said the fourth overall pick of the Avs in the 2017 NHL Draft. "I believe in this organization and just where the future is taking us, and I think this contract just shows the faith from both sides and in general."
This past year, the Calgary, Alberta, native notched 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games, the only NHL blueliner to average a point per game in the campaign. He joined Steve Duchesne (82 points in 82 contests with Quebec in 1992-93) as the only defensemen in franchise history to do accomplish the feat. Makar was also the first blueliner to average a point per contest at age 22 or younger since Leetch with the New York Rangers in 1990-91 (1.10).
When it came time to sign a new deal, it was important forr both the Avalanche and Makar that he remained with the franchise for years to come.
"I have so much faith in the organization and the program that I think a longer-term deal was something more suitable for me," Makar said. "Regardless of what the years were, I think we just wanted to work that out on both sides, but I definitely have faith in what the program is building and where we are at now and where we are going to be in the future."
Video: Cale Makar 2020-21 season highlights
Colorado is coming off a Presidents' Trophy-winning season and has advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the three postseasons Makar has played in, but the team is looking for longer runs in springs to come.
In 35 career playoff games, Makar has 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists), the 10th most through 35 postseason contests by a blueliner in Stanley Cup Playoff history. His 0.89 points-per-game average in the postseason is the seventh-highest number in league history (minimum 30 games played).
"I watched almost every one of those games, and it's tough," Makar said of the final few series of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "It's tough watching those, obviously you want to be there. We know as a group our time will come, and obviously some unfortunate bounces the past few years. But like I said, I have so much faith in this organization and where we are going hopefully in the near future here.
"I think just watching those games it just reiterates the consistency that you need to bring to the playoffs… In playoffs it really doesn't matter kind of what you did in the regular season, everything is different. You kind of just got to play that hard style game that is going to win you games regardless of if you win by six goals or one goal. I think that is something that we as a team need to be prepared for more, is just playing in those close situations and being ready for that. Like I said, there is so much time before that and obviously you build all that during the regular season."
Makar is showing his belief in the franchise by committing to being a part of the Avalanche for the next six years and has a goal of helping the club win a championship.
"I couldn't be more excited knowing I'll be calling Denver home for at least the next six years," said Makar. "I will do everything in my power to bring a Stanley Cup to the best fans in the NHL. My Avalanche teammates are an amazing group of guys, and I can't thank them enough as they played such a huge part in enabling me to perform at my best."