TORONTO — Despite a significant gap in contract negotiations, Anze Kopitar feels confident he will be wearing silver and black for years to come.
On Sept. 1, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told Kings insider Jon Rosen that the parties were “not even in the ballpark” when it comes to reaching a new deal.
Sitting down with Sportsnet Wednesday, Kopitar said there is no reason for Kings fans to worry.
“There’s no reason for me to panic. There’s no reason for anybody to panic,” the star centre said.
“I’d like to stay an L.A. King, and I’m pretty sure the Kings would like me to come back. We’ll see. We’ll work on it. The talks are still ongoing, just maybe on a little bit of a slower pace than everybody expected.”
When the puck drops on the Kings’ season Oct. 7, Kopitar will enter the seventh and final year of a $47.6-million pact that carries a $6.8 million salary cap hit.
The Kings and Kopitar are working on a long-term deal that should see him become the most handsomely paid King — a post currently held by all-world defenceman Drew Doughty, at $7 million annually.
While Steven Stamkos — the only impending 2016 free agent as critical to his his club as Kopitar — is playing his cards close to vest, Kopitar would like to ink an extension this month.
“It would be ideal. It would be very nice if we could get this done [before training camps ends], but if not, no alarm is going off. There’s still plenty of time,” he said.
If you’re Kopitar’s agent, you’re pointing out his two Stanley Cup rings, the 610 points in 683 career games, the back-to-back Frank J. Selke Trophy nominations and the 2015 Lady Byng nomination.
Or you’re walking into Lombardi’s office and simply hitting play on the 2014 video, when Wayne Gretzky anointed Kopitar the third-best player in the world, behind only Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million cap hit) and Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million).
Kopitar says Gretzky’s statement was the best compliment he’s ever received.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the greatest player of all time. When he gives you the thumbs-up, you feel you’re doing something right. It fires you up a bit more,” Kopitar, 28, said.
“I’ve talked to him, but not about that. I’ve golfed with Wayne a few times, and I’ve really enjoyed his company, but we’re not talking about me.”
Until a deal is signed, we will be talking about Kopitar.
So, Anze, what is your ballpark?
“I’m not going to go into specifics,” he said, “but I still feel confident this will get resolved and we can get it done.”