Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the league's most underpaid player, but he says he isn't looking to make up for that on his next contract.
The Colorado Avalanche superstar is owed $6.3 million per season through the 2022-23 campaign after signing a seven-year, $44.1-million deal in 2016. His $6.3-million cap hit makes him the 82nd-highest-paid player in the NHL even though he's blossomed into a perennial Hart Trophy candidate.
"We have guys that we wouldn't (otherwise) be able to bring in," MacKinnon told Forbes' Jordan Horrobin on Wednesday in Toronto. "On my next deal, I'll take less again. Because I want to win with this group."
There's some irony in MacKinnon saying this while paying a visit to the Maple Leafs. Toronto rosters three of the league's seven highest-paid players by annual cap hit in Auston Matthews ($11.634 million), John Tavares ($11 million), and Mitch Marner ($10.893 million).
The Avalanche are one of the few NHL contenders that isn't in dire cap trouble. MacKinnon's cap hit - which could have theoretically doubled by now had he signed a bridge deal instead of a long-term extension - is a big reason why.
"I was just excited to get paid that much money at such a young age," the 24-year-old said. "Obviously it's pretty (team) friendly now, but I was worth that at the time. … I have no regrets."
MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy awarded to the league's top rookie in 2013-14, but he didn't enjoy a breakout season until his 97-point 2017-18 campaign.
Bridge deals were popular in this offseason's stacked class of restricted free agents. Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Brayden Point, Charlie McAvoy, and Zach Werenski were among those who signed contracts of two or three years, setting themselves up for bigger paydays down the road.
Many of these players missed a large chunk of training camp and preseason during negotiations. MacKinnon's linemate Mikko Rantanen signed a six-year, $55.5-million pact less than a week before the start of the regular season.
"I think you want to get paid what you're worth," MacKinnon said. "I'd probably do the same thing. If a team isn't paying you what you think you're worth, holding out is something (players) are entitled to. … I think it's going to continue that way."
MacKinnon is currently tied for third in the NHL with 44 points while the Avalanche hold second place in the Central Division with a record of 17-8-2.
(Salary information source: CapFriendly)