AVALANCHE

Will the taste of victory convince KSE to go all in on the Avs and Nuggets?

Feb 16, 2022, 6:57 AM
Stan Kroenke...
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Rams went all-in to win the Super Bowl this year, and it worked. To reach the pinnacle of America’s most popular sport, Kroenke Sports gave general manager Les Snead the go-ahead to:

• Trade three picks and Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford
• Trade two picks for Von Miller
• Sign Odell Beckham Jr.
• Not have a first-round draft pick since Goff in 2016
• Use all but $138,000 of their 2021 salary cap room

The Rams will now be way over the salary cap and may fall apart next season, but they opted to mortgage their future in exchange for proven, veteran players who could deliver a championship now. It was a bold strategy not often utilized in the modern NFL, but it worked. And Sunday night, Stan Kroenke was center stage in his own stadium, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. And all Nuggets and Avalanche fans in Denver should be thrilled.

The Nuggets have the reigning MVP and are anxiously awaiting the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. from injury to make a playoff run. The Avalanche are the best team in the NHL and are the highest power-rated team in the history of several Las Vegas sportsbooks. Both teams are in smack dab in the middle of championship windows. It’s time for each team to go for it, all-in, to win a championship, and it’s time for KSE to foot the bill.

Kroenke Sports has been criticized by fans and media in the past for being overly frugal. No one has ever questioned ownership’s desire to win championships, but there was a widespread feeling that they always wanted to do it on their terms, at their predetermined cost. Many fans have criticized KSE for not being willing to spend whatever it takes to put their teams over the top. That all changed with the construction of the world’s greatest stadium and a new approach for the Rams to win big, and win big now.

The question fans need to ask now is, will the Rams victory in the Super Bowl change the KSE model for their other teams?

The Avs may not need any help, but if Joe Sakic finds a deal he likes at the March trade deadline Colorado needs to strike while the iron is hot. Spending any extra money shouldn’t be a hard sell to ownership at all after seeing how it worked out for the Rams. Colorado is the overwhelming favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup in June, but like the NFL the NHL has a hard salary cap, so there’s only so much they can spend.

The Nuggets didn’t swing any deals at the NBA trade deadline last week, leaving a lot of the Mile High Basketball faithful disappointed. If Murray and Porter Jr. return soon, as expected, it’s understandable that Denver didn’t want to give away any assets before seeing a fully healthy lineup including those two with Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon in a playoff run before making any changes.

Going forward, it’s easy to see how the Avs will remain a contender with their core of Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar and the abundance of talent across the roster. Denver has also proven to be a championship destination for NHL free agents in year’s past, so attracting talent has never been an issue. They’ll be in the championship mix.

For the Nuggets, though, it’s quite a bit more complicated. The NBA has a soft salary cap, meaning teams can exceed it and pay a luxury tax. Denver has been reluctant in year’s past to pay the tax if they weren’t a contending team. But now they are and future seasons will have a hefty tax tab if they’re going to retain their core four stars under contract, and continue to build around them. Given the repeated meltdowns we’ve seen from the bench all season, it’s pretty clear the “building around them” part will constantly be a work in progress.

Additionally, the repeater tax in the NBA multiplies that penalty for being above the salary cap for multiple seasons in a row. Denver will have to go into repeater tax territory if they want to maximize their championship window with Jokic as one of the world’s best players.

The financial puzzle the Nuggets face though looks dramatically different than that of the Rams or any other NFL team. All 32 NFL teams are profitable from their massive TV deal before they sell a ticket, parking pass, pretzel or beer . Over the course of the Nuggets history, profitability has often been dependent on making a playoff run and getting extra home games to create revenue. It’s apples and oranges when you’re talking about the money each team and league generates.

Without a locked in profit or a hard cap and with those tax penalties looming, the question is will KSE be willing to pay the price to get the Nuggets to the mountaintop? Hopefully, Sunday’s celebration for the Rams will convince them it’s more than worth it, whatever the cost.

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Will the taste of victory convince KSE to go all in on the Avs and Nuggets?