Earlier this month, it seemed progress was being made in contract negotiations between the Los Angeles Kings and pending free-agent center Anze Kopitar. TSN's Darren Dreger claimed the two sides were “inching closer” toward an eight-year contract extension.
Kopitar, 27, is in the final season of a seven-year, $47.6 million contract. It's rumored his new annual salary could be around $10 million. With Mike Richards' finally bought out and Slava Voynov now off their books, it was believed the Kings had freed up sufficient long-term cap space for Kopitar's new deal.
However, Sportnet's Damien Cox reports there's a “definite sense” negotiations have stalled, leaving some observers puzzled by the delay. That's likely because the Kings, while apparently willing to re-up Kopitar to a long-term extension, still wish to make the dollars work in their favor.
Factoring in the Richards' buyout and salary-cap recapture penalties and Voynov's departure to Russia, the Kings have just over $49 million invested in next season's payroll. A $10-million annual cap hit for Kopitar quickly pushes that number to over $59 million.
If the cap ceiling fails to significantly increase above the current $71.4 million for 2016-17, the Kings won't have sufficient room to re-sign or replace pending free agents like Milan Lucic, Christian Ehrhoff, Brayden McNabb, Jhonas Enroth and Trevor Lewis.
Meanwhile, Cox's colleague Elliotte Friedman believes the Kings could be in the market for one or two defensemen. He claims they're currently unhappy with their present mix.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, however, reports the Kings have found stability on the blueline. Assistant GM Rob Blake told LeBrun things were shaky at first, but claims things have sorted themselves out. McNabb is now skating with Drew Doughty, while their second pairing consists of Jake Muzzin and Alex Martinez.
The new combinations are obviously working well. After dropping their first three games, the Kings have won six in a row.
RIVALS HAVE EYE ON BLUES' GUNNARSSON
Less than a month into this season, injuries are taking a significant toll upon the St. Louis Blues. Forwards Paul Stastny (broken foot), Jaden Schwartz (fractured fibula) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) are on injured reserve, while defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Dreger reports the Blues were getting offers of forwards from rival clubs, with their primary target being defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. The 28-year-old is carrying a cap hit of $2.6 million and is slated next summer for unrestricted free agency. While recent reports suggest Gunnarsson might be available, Dreger claims they're unwilling to do so right now, especially with Shattenkirk still on the shelf.
It's also possible that the offers the Blues are getting aren't very good. That would explain why they're going the professional-tryout-offer route with aging free-agent forwards Martin Havlat and Dainius Zubrus.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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