Yesterday, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed matching eight-year deals to stay with the Chicago Blackhawks long-term. That was a big deal as is, but even more noteworthy was their salary: $10.5 million. This makes them the first players to exceed a $10 million cap hit since the salary cap was put in place after the 2004-05 lockout.
With the cap rising to $69 million this season and (eventually) past the $70 million mark, player salaries are only going to rise. Kane and Toews won't be the last ten-million-dollar players.
Which brings us to Anze Kopitar.
With seven of the Los Angeles Kings' key players locked up through at least 2019, Dean Lombardi is largely going to be able to avoid giving his core players the kind of massive deal that Kane and Toews got. There's one exception, though, and it's Kopitar. Kopitar's contract is up in the summer of 2016, and you can bet that as soon as July of 2015 hits, Lombardi will be looking to lock Kopitar up. (Recall that Dustin Brown was re-signed on July 18, 2013, even with a year still remaining on his deal.)
Kopitar was arguably the Kings' MVP this season, and after leading the Kings in scoring in six straight seasons (and in both the 2012 and 2014 championship runs), he's finally begun to earn respect from the rest of the NHL. We'll wait until his 2014 season review to fully praise him, but needless to say, he's going to be the highest-paid player on the Kings when he's re-signed. And he'll deserve it.
The question, though: will Kopitar join Kane and Toews in breaking the $10 million barrier? Arguments for a $10 million deal include his obvious excellence at both ends of the ice, his key role on two Stanley Cup squads, and the lack of other LA contracts with a huge cap hit. Arguments against include Lombardi's emphasis on term over salary, his potential willingness to take a hometown discount, and his lack of league-wide individual accolades. Again, the question is not whether he deserves a $10 million deal, but whether he'll actually get it.
Fire away with your thoughts in the comments.