Mike Futa, the Los Angeles Kings vice president of hockey operations, said that negotiations on Anze Kopitar’s new contract were “too close to not get it done,” but cautioned that “sometimes, negotiations take a little longer than you like.”
Kopitar, the best forward on the Kings and right there with Drew Doughty for best player overall, is facing unrestricted free agency this summer. There have been reports for several weeks that a contract extension was close. It hasn’t happened yet.
This is getting a little strange, in the eyes of the NHL’s insiders.
“We still don’t have a signed contract. We all think it’s coming. It sure seemed like he thought it was coming when the Kings came through Toronto in December. It’s one of the stranger negotiations I’ve covered, because everything points to it happening but we’re not there.
“Now, the conspiracy theories are coming. ‘Is there a problem we’re not aware of?’ ‘Are they at an impasse?’
“Teams are having their scouting meetings now, and one exec asked if he should actually plan for the possibility Kopitar hits the market.”
Oh, the intrigue!
And then this, from TSN Insider Darren Dreger on TSN 1050 on Tuesday morning on Kopitar:
“This is beyond the point of bizarre now. We’ve talked all year about these guys that have pending unrestricted free agent scenarios. What’s going on with Stamkos in Tampa Bay? Eric Staal doesn’t get as much attention, but he’s a pending UFA. And of course Anze Kopitar.
“Many have reported over the last weeks and months that a new deal was imminent. Our group felt there would be an announcement coming early in the new year. Unless Dean Lombardi has had some epiphany and changes his approach, that’s not going to happen. Not necessarily that the extension isn’t going to happen, but that it’s not going to happen any time soon.
“This is not sitting well with his star. [It’s a] dangerous game Lombardi and the management of the LA Kings are playing these days.”
Wait, they're HUNTING KOPITAR FOR SPORT?!
Oh, I see, not the "MOST Dangerous Game." Just a dangerous game ...
Now, it could be that Kamp Kopitar has been in a holding pattern in hopes that Steven Stamkos signs before free agency, and that rising tide of salaries lifts up the Kings star’s price tag even higher.
It could also be said that without that deal in Tampa, Dean Lombardi and Kings ownership are holding the line at a certain number that, come July, could look like an absolute bargain based on what Stamkos gets.
Then again, the suspicion has also been that Kopitar’s number won’t be tied to Stamkos’s, and that it would never reach the $10.5 million that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane make; and that his number is expected to fall in-between their contracts and Evgeni Malkin’s at $9.5 million, with Kopitar asking for at least $10 million annually.
Look, it’s going to get done. The fact that the Kings only made the Vincent Lecavalier deal contingent on his retirement tells you they have a sense of their cap and what they need to retain Kopitar. Clear him, have Milan Lucic move to Vancouver plus the salary space Kopitar already has slotted for him and – BOOM – you can hit that number.
It’s just a question of when. And a question of how much longer this can go before it’s an issue.
As Dreger said: “I’m told that Anze Kopitar is growing upset with the situation.”
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