Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar is still without a contract for next season. His production is down for a second straight year.
At the age of 28, there are whispers of decline and whether the hulking center is worth the near $10 million per-season, eight-year deal he is reportedly looking for. But the big Slovenian isn’t fretting about any of these issues.
In his mind he’s continuing the play the heady all-around game that turned him into one of the league’s top two-way players.
If Kopitar and the Kings don’t come to an agreement, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Kopitar is in the final season of a seven-year $47.6 million contract. Last year he had a career-worst for a full season at 16 goals.
Said Kopitar to the Los Angeles Times in a Friday feature:
"If the opportunities are coming, I still feel confident about myself that I'm still the same guy and I'm still going to put up numbers," he said. "I think it's just a matter of playing hard and the opportunities are going to come. Eventually the points have to come, too."
This was before Kopitar hooked up with Marian Gaborik for two assists in a 3-2 overtime comeback victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
Kopitar has six points in his last five games. He has just 13 points in 23 games this year – a pace of 46 for the season, which would be a career worst in 82 games.
But with him production is greater than just goals and assists. He leads the Kings’ forwards, averaging 20:06 of ice-time. He’s won 51 percent of his face offs. He averages 2:23 of shorthanded ice-time per-game, also the most amongst Kings forwards.
According to War-on-Ice his 5-on-5 CF% is at 58.29 percent. His CF% relative is at plus-2.39 – all positive puck possession markers.
So then why isn’t the puck going into the net when Kopitar is on the ice like years past? Is the contract a distraction? As recently as 2013-14 he had 70 points and 29 goals.
It may have more to do with Kopitar’s linemates – for example Gaborik has just seven points.
Putting newly-acquired winger Milan Lucic with Kopitar and Gaborik didn’t work and Lucic has since fit in well with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.
Maybe Gaborik’s two goals against the Blackhawks can help get that line rolling offensively.
Said Kings coach Darryl Sutter via LA Kings Insider after the game:
Goal scorers build confidence by scoring goals. Hopefully that’s a jump start.
There’s a confidence that Kopitar’s contract will get done. All indications are that he’s happy in Los Angeles. He owns two homes (priced at $10 million total) in Manhattan Beach and enjoys his alternate captain role with the Kings organization – a group that’s still in its window of Stanley Cup opportunity.
But until it happens, there will be questions about Kopitar and why there’s no deal. Overall, he’s still a valuable portion of the Kings.
And maybe once his contract is eventually finished, his numbers could get a boost – without a distraction of the deal.
Defenseman Drew Doughty gave an endorsement of Kopitar, again per the LA Times.
Said Doughty, "If I want to be on the ice with anyone, I want to be on the ice with Kopi.... He maybe doesn't have the points he usually would, but he's still at the top of his game."
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