According to reliable reports, the Los Angeles Kings are close to re-signing center Anze Kopitar to a new eight year contract in the ballpark of 9.75 million a year.
Now this contract will likely have its fair share of detractors. After all, Kopitar will be in his late thirties when the contract expires surely past his prime. The Kings already have a dearth of cap space and this contract will surely force LA into making some difficult roster decisions in the coming years. Milan Lucic, for example, is having a stellar campaign and will require a new contract after this season. Re-signing him would be a difficult prospect, to say the least, with this new Kopitar contract on the books. It’s also true that his 2014-2015 campaign was not a good one, although I believe fatigue from endless playoff campaigns played a role in the King’s demise last season.
I would counter that Kopitar is absolutely worth it despite these valid concerns. He has brought two Stanley Cups to LA and has a realistic shot of bringing a third one this season to the City of Angels. He is one of the best number one centers in the game in my view. A consistent 60-70 point player, he is extremely strong on the puck and yet possesses silky smooth hands. His years of tutelage under Head Coach Sutter have made him elite defensively and well deserving of Selke consideration. He earned a +/- 34 in the 2013-2014 season when LA won the Cup. In other words, he is the total package.
I distinctly remember Anze Kopitar in his very first NHL game. I watched in awe as I saw Kopitar blow by All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger and then roof it over a sprawling J.S. Giguere for his first national hockey league goal. I knew then, just as I know now, that this is not a player you let go.
Teams such as the Anaheim Ducks (Getzlaf) and the Chicago Blackhawks (Toews) were harshly criticized for signing their respective number one centers to large multi-year deals at rates people assumed were too large. In hindsight, both deals look excellent. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi understands just as those teams did that these types of players are quite simply irreplaceable.
It’s true that there will likely be a drop off in play at the end of the contract. General Manager Dean Lombardi and the Kings likely won’t care though if Anze brings more Stanley Cups to Los Angeles. The window is now open and this contract will keep it open a while longer yet.