LOS ANGELES -- When center Anze Kopitar was taken by the Los Angeles Kings with the 11th pick in the 2005 NHL draft, he joined a struggling franchise that was years away from relevancy, let alone championships.
Two Stanley Cup titles later, there’s no place he’d rather be, and it will be where he stays after agreeing Saturday to an eight-year contract extension. No financial terms were disclosed, but TSN reported that it’s worth $80 million, an average annual value of $10 million.
“I’ve been a part of this organization when we went through pretty big struggles and not very fun years when we played,” Kopitar said after a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Staples Center. “We turned that around and the last few years have been pretty exciting for everybody … knowing we have a winning team here, that’s what makes you want to stay here for an extended period of time.”
The extension seemed to play out for so long that Kopitar almost laughed when asked if he had doubted it would get done. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, “It wasn’t breaking news."
The Kings took their time to lock down the Selke Trophy candidate who has led Los Angeles in scoring for eight straight seasons and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.
“I would have liked it to be done before the season so that would have been by me,” Kopitar said. “Again, you realize it’s a business. It’s a process. When two parties collide like that, it can go a little bit longer. This one was a bit longer and it’s done now.”
Kopitar will make $14 million next season, $13 million in 2017-18 and $12 million in 2018-19, according to TSN, and has a no-movement clause for the first four years. He supplants defenseman Drew Doughty, whose contract has a salary-cap charge of $7 million a season through 2018-19, as the highest-paid player on the Kings.
“Guys get rewarded for winning Stanley Cups” and that the extension was not about numbers,” Sutter said. “He’s worth every penny of it. It’s got nothing to do with that. You win championships with players like that. Very clear.”
General manager Dean Lombardi was not available to discuss the impact the extension will have on the Kings’ salary cap.
Next season the Kings will have more than $48 million tied up into six players -- Kopitar, Doughty, forwards Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, and goaltender Jonathan Quick -- according to generalfanager.com.
Forwards Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. The remaining two years of recently acquired Vincent Lecavalier’s contract, which carries a $4.5 million salary-cap hit, will come off the books when he retires at the end of this season, as Lombardi said the 35-year-old center plans to do.
Kopitar is in the final season of a seven-year, $47.6 million contract. He has a team-high 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) this season, has 16 points in his past 10 games and a four-point game (one goal, three assists) against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. Kopitar has at least one point in 16 of his past 20 games.
“It’s definitely nice knowing the eight-year plan ahead,” 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.”