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Landeskog's "Heart Is In Colorado"

The Avalanche and the team captain both wanted each other

by Ron Knabenbauer /

In the end, there were no other sweater colors that Gabriel Landeskog wanted to wear other than the burgundy and blue of the Colorado Avalanche.

Landeskog was on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any of the other 31 NHL teams on Wednesday, but he didn't get that far as he inked an eight-year contract through the 2028-29 campaign with the Avalanche on Tuesday night.

"At the end of the day, for me, I was sure what I wanted. My heart is in Colorado, Denver is my home. That's where we put down our roots and that's where I've always wanted to be," said Landeskog the following morning after inking his long-term deal. "So coming down to it, I was very certain about where I wanted to be and my heart was nowhere else. There is no place I would rather be than in Denver and playing for the Avs, so I am very happy that we got it done."

The feeling was mutual.

Selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog has been with the team ever since making his debut on opening night the ensuing season. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's rookie of the year in 2011-12 and was named the fourth captain in Colorado history a few months later on Sept. 4, 2012. At the time, he was the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years and 286 days old.

Landeskog already had experience wearing the 'C' as he was the first European captain and the youngest in 30 years when he assumed the role for his major-junior team, the renowned Kitchener Rangers franchise of the Ontario Hockey League, in 2010-11. However, being a leader at the NHL level has its own set of challenges, and Landeskog and the Avs have grown together during the last nine seasons.

The team and Landeskog have gone through their own ups and downs in the last decade, but both now seem to be on the precipice of the ultimate goal of winning a championship. The Avalanche has reached the postseason in each of the last four years, including winning the West Division title and Presidents' Trophy in 2020-21, and Landeskog has recorded 233 points (100 goals and 133 assists) in that time, seventh among all NHL left wings and third-most on the Avs in that span. Only linemates Nathan MacKinnon (354) and Mikko Rantanen (278) have more.

Video: Gabriel Landeskog Signs 8-Year Contract Extension

"Gabe is the heart and soul of this team and an integral part of our organization both on the ice and in the community," said Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic in a statement following the announcement. "He's the consummate leader, a great teammate, and alongside MacKinnon and Rantanen, is part of what has been one of the NHL's best lines over the past four seasons. We are excited to have Landy in an Avalanche sweater for many years to come."

Getting Landeskog under contract had become a priority for Sakic and the team's management in the days leading up to the start of the free agency period. Colorado had the ability to sign Landeskog to an eight-year deal up until 10 p.m. MT on Tuesday, while other teams could only offer a maximum seven-year contract beginning on Wednesday.

Landeskog said term was the most significant part of the deal, as he wanted to stay with the Avalanche and fully put down roots with his growing family (he now has two young kids) in the only home he's known in the NHL. The new contract was signed just minutes before the 10 p.m. deadline on Tuesday.

"I knew all along that Gabe wanted to be here, and we wanted him here," Sakic said during a video conference call on Wednesday afternoon. "The [average annual value of the contract] is exactly what it was, and we were just going back and forth on term and what the right term was. We decided we were the one team that can give him eight years, and we are happy with that. We're happy our captain is here for the rest of his career. Both sides wanted this."

Video: Landeskog on signing an 8-year contract with Colorado

The eight-year deal is the longest contract the Avalanche has given out since the 2013 collective bargaining agreement between the league and players' association that changed the maximum contract allowed to that length.

"I'm super happy. For me, the most important thing was term and being able to be here for a long time. That was my goal, and that's a dream of mine to sign another long-term deal with the Avs," said Landeskog, who was coming off a seven-year contract he previously signed in 2013. "This is my home, and I feel the connection with the city and connection to the fans and the team and obviously my teammates. That's very important to me, and that's why I wanted a long-term contract.

"Even though it took to the last few minutes, it got done and I'm very happy about it."

In 687 career regular-season games, Landeskog ranks sixth in franchise history in goals (218), eighth in points (512) and 11th in assists (294). In Avs history since 1995, only former captains Sakic (391) and Milan Hejduk (375) have scored more goals. Among members of his draft class, only the Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov has more goals (221) and points (547) while the Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier (692) is the only one to have appeared in more games, just five more than Landeskog.

During this past shortened season, Landeskog finished second on the club with 20 goals and third in points, while leading Colorado and tying for third in the league with eight game-winning markers. The forward now has eight career 20-goal seasons, the third-most by an Avalanche player since the move from Quebec (Hejduk and Sakic both had 11).

Video: Gabriel Landeskog 2020-21 season highlights

If Landeskog did go to the open market, there would have likely been plenty of suitors for his services.

The 28-year-old was able to get a peek of his market value ahead of the NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. Colorado left Landeskog unprotected in order to keep as much of its current roster intact, but part of that process also allowed the Seattle Kraken the chance to negotiate a new deal with the longtime captain as a free agent. Landeskog said there was some discussion between his party and the league's newest franchise, but it didn't go far.

"I had a feeling that I wasn't going to be protected by the Avs, and to be honest I would have done the same thing," Landeskog said. "I would have told Joe not to protect me because that meant we could protect somebody else… My agent was able to speak to Seattle, but for me there wasn't a whole lot there. Yeah, there were some conversations, but I felt pretty good about the position that we were in. My goal and my hope the whole time was that we were going to get something done and that I was going to be back in burgundy and blue."

Colorado is a great place to live and raise a family for Landeskog, and the Avalanche has been an organization that has allowed him to develop and grow as a player and person. There has been mutual trust on both sides in the process and where the team is heading.

The Avs are in a win-now mindset and Landeskog continues to want to lead the charge toward a championship and bring the Stanley Cup back to Denver.

"I heard the term, 'unfinished business.' You know, we haven't accomplished much. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. That is what I said Day 1 and the day I got drafted," Landeskog noted. "I grew up with posters of the Avs' cup-winning team in '96 and '01 in my room, and that was my goal and my dream, to be in a picture wearing an Avs jersey and holding the Stanley Cup. And that is something that will always be the goal. Until you win the final game of the season, we're going to continue to work toward that."

Landeskog made his NHL debut as a mature 18-year-old, and now 10 years later he's even more motivated for the ultimate prize. He'll get to continue that pursuit for his "home."

"I'm very happy with how it turned out," he said. "This is where my heart is and this is where I belong."

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