LOS ANGELES – Anze Kopitar was both disappointed and elated after the Los Angeles Kings blew a two-goal lead in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Kopitar was upset at how the game played out but happy he could call Los Angeles home for the next eight years. Earlier on Saturday it was announced Kopitar and the Kings agreed to terms on a front-loaded eight-year contract extension worth $80 million.
The deal, which starts next year, will keep the 28-year-old Kopitar in Los Angeles through the 2023-24 season and presumably will make him a King for the rest of his career. Kopitar was drafted by the Kings in 2005 and has been a key component for the team in their recent run of success that includes two Stanley Cups since 2012.
Kopitar's prior deal, which ends following this season was for $6.8 million per-year over seven years.
“I’ve been a part of this organization, I guess when we went through pretty big struggles and not very fun years when we played. We turned that around and the last few years have been pretty exciting for everybody,” Kopitar said. “It’s obviously a great feeling and knowing I can be a part of this team for years to come now. It’s something I expressed throughout the process that I’d like to stay here and as soon as it’s finalized it’s some sort of relief and a very nice feeling.”
Still, the generally laid back Kopitar burned with how Los Angeles lost the game, blowing a 3-1 lead at the midway point in the third period to the Senators at home. If the Kings had won, he’d probably appear happier. Kopitar notched one assist in 20:11 of action and won 73 percent of his faceoffs. The Kings out-shot the Sens 33-23.
“When you make mistakes like that every team is going to make you pay,” Kopitar said. “Very uncharacteristic of us to blow a two-goal lead. We blew that in a matter of minutes. “
This competitive fire is partially what makes Kopitar one of the most valuable players in the NHL. His $10 million salary cap hit is currently listed as second-most in the NHL for next season, behind Chicago Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane who have $10.5 million salary cap hits on their deals. Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos has yet to sign an extension with the Lightning.
“Bottom line, guys like Anze Kopitar, the best years are in front of him,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. ”Guys get rewarded for winning Stanley Cups. When they’re with one franchise for a period of time, when you’ve won Cups, everyone’s looking forward to the next part with him. He’s worth every penny. You win championships with players like that. Very clear he’s worth every penny.”
Now, Kopitar can plan the next stage of his career and his life. He is reportedly building two homes in the Manhattan Beach area of Southern California and both will go to good use with him being here for the next eight years.
“It’s definitely nice knowing the eight-year plan ahead and just, yeah somewhat plan,” Kopitar said. “You never know what’s going to happen. In a perfect world, if everything goes according to my plan and the team’s plan, that sense of security is very nice.”
Kopitar again said he wanted a contract to get done before the season. It didn’t happen, and he started slowly with just one goal and three points in his first 10 games played.
Since then he’s upped his game with 36 points in 43 overall, including 16 points in his last 10 games. After a Monday win over the Detroit Red Wings where Kopitar had four points, the Kings were off until Saturday’s game against the Senators. With Kopitar scoring at a prolific pace, the time was right for his management team to push for a new deal. Kopitar hasn’t finished a full season with below 61 points and 16 goals and is considered one of the top centers in hockey.
“I’ve said it before, I would have liked it to be done before the season so that it would be behind me,” Kopitar said. “I realize it’s a business, it’s a process and when two parties collide like that it can go a little bit longer and this one was a little bit longer but it’s done now and I’m very happy about it.”
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