Future Free Agent Profiles: Anze Kopitar and Steven Stamkos

Updated: November 18, 2015 at 8:00 am by Cam Lewis

Many of the biggest names from the potential 2016 Free Agent market have already signed extensions with their respective teams. Erik Johnson, Jakub Voracek, Mark Giordano, and Brent Seabrook came to terms on new deals before the season began, but Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar, arguably the two most coveted potential free agents, are still without contracts. 

If Kopitar and Stamkos do manage to slide between the cracks and July 1 rolls around before they’ve signed new contracts, you have to expect just about every team in the league will be lining up with a truck full of money to throw at them. That said, how likely is it they make it that far? 

Anze Kopitar

According to Sportsnet, Kings fans shouldn’t be worried about Kopitar coming to terms with a new deal before he hits the free market. Director of Hockey Operations Mike Futa has said that Kopitar is the centrepiece of what the Kings organization believes is the core of the team’s success. He also said that the two sides have been working to put together a new contract and that “it’s too close to not get done.” 

So what will a new contract for Anze Kopitar look like? 

This is his 10th season in the NHL, all of which have been spent in Los Angeles. Over that span, he’s been one of the league’s most consistent two-way forwards. He’s averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game in all but one season of his career and he’s consistently managed to have solid possession numbers that have always been positive in relation to his teammates. He also produces at a top line level, as 2014-15 was the only season of Kopitar’s career in which he didn’t manage to score 20 goals. Over the past five seasons, he’s ninth in terms of scoring among centres, right ahead of Jonathan Toews and just behind Joe Thornton. 

Considering his elite defensive game, strong possession numbers, and elite production, Kopitar could command a massive contract in free agency. I mean, if Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Spezza are making an average of $7.5 million, then there’s no reason Kopitar shouldn’t be getting a substantial upgrade on his current $6.8 million annual salary. Actually, in terms of production and pedigree, Kopitar and Toews are nearly identical. Kopitar has averaged 0.88 points per game and a 55.7 Corsi For percentage through his career, while Toews has managed 0.89 PPG and a 57.2 CF%. And of course, both have been Stanley Cup champs more than once. 

If he opts to stick with the Kings, which I’m guessing he will, it’ll probably be at a reduced chunk of coin than what he could potentially command in free agency. Like I said, there’s no reason he couldn’t command north of $10 million using Toews as a yard stick, especially considering how uncommon it is legitimate top centres hit the market. Obviously the Kings will be pushing for some kind of a hometown discount, but I doubt Kopitar will end up signing for anything less than $8.5 million annually over eight years. 

The Kings need to do what they can to get Kopitar signed, because if they don’t, somebody will be very, very happy to do so regardless of the price. 

Steven Stamkos

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been waiting for this since June 20, 2008 — Steven Stamkos is an unrestricted free agent. Well, not yet, but we’re only a few months away from July 1 and him and the Lightning haven’t made any significant headway on a new deal that we know of. 

Stamkos’ agent, Don Meehan, spoke on TSN 1050 Radio last week and said that the two of them have been in talks with Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, but because of the nature of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the quality of player Stamkos is, they would “practice due diligence to the nth degree.” Obviously that means that Stamkos and his agent will be seeking the best possible contract they can, and it’s fair to assume that he won’t be looking to take a hometown discount to stay in Tampa Bay. 

You really can’t blame him. I mean, it’s pretty uncommon that a perennial 40 goal scorer in the prime age of his career hits the open market. 

He’s signed two contracts in his NHL career so far. His maximum entry-level deal, which is standard for first overall picks, and then a five-year extension with a $7.5 million cap hit that ate up the rest of his RFA years. This summer, he’s lined up to sign one of, if not the biggest contract in the league right now.

While Stamkos doesn’t have the playoff success of defensive pedigree that Kopitar does, he’s certainly one of the game’s elite players. He’s in his eighth year in the league, and over his career he’s managed a point-per-game average and a goal roughly every second game. He’s scored 40 goals four different times, including a Rocket Richard Trophy winning 2011-12 season in which he scored 60 goals. Since entering the league as an 18-year-old in 2008, only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals than Stamkos has. 

I wouldn’t rule out Stamkos signing in Tampa Bay. Obviously there’s loyalty there, living in Florida is really nice, there’s the advantage of not having to pay income tax, and the team is already a contender. It makes a lot of sense for Stamkos to stick around with the Lightning, but of course it’s going to be difficult for them to squeeze in the mammoth salary he’s going to command. I’m guessing he’s going to hit the open market and see what other teams are legitimately willing to pay him before making a decision, even if it ultimately means taking something less than a max contract to stay in Tampa. 

That said, if Tampa gets into a bidding war with a team like, oh I don’t know, Toronto, they would have a difficult time keeping up.