With 706 NHL games played, the eighth most in Los Angeles Kings history, and 225 goals scored – trailing Wayne Gretzky’s 246 goals for sixth best in franchise history – Anze Kopitar is about to get paid. The questions everybody seems to be asking is how much will that be and over what time period?
Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, MayorsManor has recently confirmed via multiple sources close to the negotiations, the two sides are very close to wrapping up a new eight-year contract for the team’s 2005 first round draft pick and the man who has essentially led the team in scoring since making his NHL debut a little more than a year later.
As we tweeted last week, here is the frame work of the deal:
Update on Kopitar talks – told by multi sources close to situation, currently around 8yrs @ $9.75M (remember, can only get 7yrs on open mkt)
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) November 23, 2015
Of note is the fact that Kopitar cannot get more than seven years from any other NHL team on the open market next summer as an Unrestricted Free Agent. Per the CBA agreed upon in January 2013, NHL teams can offer their own impending UFAs eight-year extensions, while the other 29 clubs can offer a maximum term of seven years.
Many outlets, including MayorsManor, have reported Kopitar and his agent, Pat Brisson, are believed to be asking in the $10-11 million per year range. Brisson was able to secure new contracts for the Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane during the summer of 2014, both averaging $10.5 million per season. While those were among the richest contracts in league history, they were still below the maximum allowable payout, 20% of the salary cap (roughly $14M now with a $71M cap).
If you assume Kopitar could find a team to pay him $11M on the open market, that equates to $77M over seven years. Even if you want to argue he could easily get $10M per season, that equates to $70M total. Hence, if he takes 9.75M per season from the Kings for eight years, the annual cap hit might be lower, yet the total value of the deal would sit at $78M.
From what we have been able to gather, Kopitar isn’t interested in going below the $9.75M number, feeling that equates to a hometown discount, considering all market variables. On the flip side, in every radio interview we’ve given on the subject over the past year, we’ve argued the Kings shouldn’t be looking to go above $9M per season. Apparently, GM Dean Lombardi agrees with that ballpark and has been trying to close the deal in the $9-9.25M range. Just like the Drew Doughty contract talks in 2011 drug out for an extended period, so to have the Koptiar talks. And just like the Doughty camp was able to get close to their number in the end, it looks like Kopitar’s new contract will likely land more in line with his wishes than what Lombardi had hoped for.
With the dollar amount and term all but settled, a no-trade / no-movement clause is believed to be one of the final items still under discussion. And this is more than a small detail, as Lombardi has really only agreed to such clauses for team captain Dustin Brown (can list up to eight teams he will not accept a trade to) and goaltender Jonathan Quick. In fact, it was allegedly one of the sticking points that ultimately led to Rob Scuderi not re-signing with the club in 2013. Naturally, offering this to your franchise forward is far different than agreeing to something similar for a 35-year old defenseman.
Overall, reaction to Kopitar within the hockey community varies from people believing he is one of the top three centers in the league to others feeling he isn’t nearly at that level. Even as recently as a few years ago, former King scoring ace, Marcel Dionne, shared that he wasn’t convinced Kopitar had lived up to his full offensive potential just yet. Although it would be too easy to say the truth likely lies somewhere in between those two statements, one senior NHL scout recently told us that at first he thought Kopitar may be overrated by most, especially given his lack of high-end production. Then, upon continued discussion, said scout commented that if he tried, he couldn’t come up with 10 centers in the league who were all around better players. Interestingly enough, it was also noted that one of the key reasons Jeff Carter is so effective in his current role as the Kings No. 2 center is in large part due to what Kopitar accomplishes as the No. 1 pivot. More importantly, if Kopitar was to leave the Kings, sliding Carter up to the top line would diminish his effectiveness within the Kings system.
As a final little tidbit, long after the contract is announced and the Kings complete their (assumed) run through the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there is one other little housekeeping item that will eventually tie back to this story. Expect Kopitar to be wearing the captain’s C when the Kings suit up for opening night next October, right after they get back from their two-game stint in Las Vegas.
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