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Anticipating Anze Kopitar's Next Contract

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So Your Favorite Team Is Signing A Superstar To A Max Length Contract That Will Go Into His Thirties

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was about a month and a half ago when I wrote this about Anze Kopitar in his season review:

I hope he's a King for life. I hope he retires and the Kings build a statue for him at center ice. I hope they make him president of the team. I hope Phil Anschutz just gives the whole franchise to him. If Anze plays until he's 90 and he's terrible for the last 55 years of his career, but all of those seasons come as a member of the Kings, then I'd be happy until I die. I hope the Kings retire his number and also all multiples of 11. Retire #99 again and put Kopitar's name on the jersey. I don't care. Rename the team from Kings to Kopitars. Make him ruler of the entire damn planet. Anze, if you read this, please adopt me. I love you very much.

Since then, nothing has changed for me or him. He's still amazing and I'm still smitten.

We have, fortunately, heard rumors that his contract negotiations are underway. There is even hope that his contract will be finalized before the off-season ends, which would be fantastic for my personal well-being.

Everyone knows that Anze Kopitar is an excellent player. He has a sparkling resume from top to bottom: great scorer, great possession player, two Selke nominations, two Stanley Cup wins, Olympic success, and so on. There isn't anything underrated about him at this point, so there's pretty much no chance the Kings get away with a surprise discount.

Anze will be 28-years old at the beginning of this season, which means that this is likely his last shot at a big payday. Since it seems unlikely that he will hit free agency, the maximum length of his next contract is 8 years. In my estimation, it is probable that his contract will be at or just under the maximum. He has no real reason to sign a contract for a length shorter than that, as he most likely won't be able to pull a larger payday a few years down the line.

Along those lines, the Kings have shown no restraint when it locking up players into their thirties. Jonathan Quick's 10-year extension began with his age-27 season, and Dustin Brown's 8-year deal started with his age-29 season. It would be an error to shift this strategy with Kopitar anyway, as Kopitar is easily the best of these three players.

Signing Kopitar for 8 years will also likely help his cap hit down a tiny bit, as the Kings can drop his salary marginally in the final years of the deal. It seems unlikely that Kopitar's contract will be a major concern at that point of his career anyway. Put more simply: the Kings really need to pour money into being great over the next couple of seasons as the situation begins to look a bit more dire once we get four or five seasons out.

Dean Lombardi has signed four core players to major, long-term extensions so far in his tenure with the Kings. Anze Kopitar's last contract still represents the heftiest hit to the Kings' salary cap at the time.

I'm always interested in the percentage of the cap that a contract takes up, because it's a quick and reasonable way to adjust for the way that contracts inflate over time. For instance, a max contract in the 2005-06 season was only worth $7.8m per year. Now, 10 years later, the most a player can earn in a single season is $14.8m.

When Kopitar's 7-year extension started in 2009/10, it took up 11.97% of the salary cap that season. For comparison's sake, Drew Doughty's took up 10.89% of the cap when it began in 2011/12. Jonathan Quick's and Dustin Brown's extensions respectively cost the Kings 9.02% and 8.51% of the cap initially.

If you go around the league, there are recent situations that the Kings can draw from in coming up with Anze Kopitar's contract. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane recently signed deals that will initially eat up 14.71% of Chicago's salary cap. Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O'Reilly signed contracts that will cost their teams 10.5% of the salary cap as they begin (O'Reilly's contract actually begins next season, but you hopefully get the point).

I decided to take a look at a handful of forwards that could come up in contract talks for Anze Kopitar.  In the table attached below, I've included 5v5 production and possession stats for the three seasons leading into the beginning of their new contracts. The table also includes the following: age at time of contract, year the contract started, contract length, cap hit, and percentage of cap. To further illustrate things, I highlighted contracts I thought were particularly good (green) or bad (blue). In addition, I highlighted players whose situations are similar to Kopitar's in terms of age and performance (yellow).

First off, before anything else, let's all take a moment to laugh at this disastrous Ryan Kesler contract. I think that it is by far the worst contract on the list. It makes no sense whatsoever. Kesler is currently an acceptable #2 center on the wrong side of 30 with a ton of injury history, and the Ducks just committed almost $7m a season to him until he's 38-years old. As bad as the Kane contract will be, he's at least going to rack up some points for the next several seasons. Kesler isn't even very good right now. Incredible.

Anyway.

At the top of the list, you'll see the players whose situations represent the spectrum that Kopitar's contract will sit in.

Point scorers definitely get the biggest paydays. While Malkin is a legitimate stud, Datsyuk probably got a tiny bit more than he truly deserved based on his gaudy point totals. Still a great player, but I'm not sure he's worth as much of the salary cap as he was given at the time. With that said, Detroit could have estimated that the cap was going to skyrocket from its low spot in 2007/08. Datsyuk has also always had a great defensive reputation, which surely helped to line his pockets.

Kopi's situation most closely aligns with Mikko Koivu's and Ryan Getzlaf's. Anze is more accomplished than either player was at the time of their deal, but their numbers are comparable. My best guess is that Kopitar's contract is going to mostly fall in line with Getzlaf's. Unlike the aforementioned Koivu, Getzlaf has won the Stanley Cup, which does seem to have a pretty significant impact on a player's contract. Kopi will get a relatively significant raise over his previous contract, but it should (it better) fall well short of those awful Kane and Toews contracts.

My projection for Anze Kopitar's upcoming contract is an 8-year, $71.4m deal. That will eat up about 12.5% of the Kings' salary cap in year one of the deal, should the cap stay roughly the same. He would cost the Kings $8.93m per year.

Anze Kopitar is probably going to be a King for a long time still. This is great. Even when the Kings have been bad, Kopitar has always been a joy to watch. If I'm wrong, and the Kings give him $10.5m per season, that's fine with me. It's Kopitar. Just keep him.

What do you think that Anze Kopitar's cap hit will be? Answer in our poll below and tell us what you think he's worth!.