from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
It’s also why the new Kopitar contract, expected to be announced Friday, may have little impact on the negotiations involving the other key centre approaching unrestricted free agency this summer – Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, who is not close to signing an extension with the Lightning.
There are some who link the two negotiations on the grounds that players of their calibre are usually locked up years before they hit the market. But upon closer examination, it really isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.
Stamkos, at 25, is three years younger than Kopitar, but his team hasn’t had nearly the same success as the Kings or the Blackhawks, captained by another great centre, the much-admired Jonathan Toews.
Toews and Kopitar are annually in the running for the Selke Trophy which, while nominally awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward, has really morphed into a way of acknowledging the game’s best two-way player.
And while Toews’s leadership skills are considered unparalleled in today’s NHL, Kopitar is a touch better offensively. He has led the Kings in scoring for eight consecutive years, and Darryl Sutter – a very hard coach to please – has long called him the best centre he’s ever had.
Stamkos has a different skill set. He is a far more gifted goal-scorer than Toews and Kopitar. In the current NHL, only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and perhaps Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks are in his company.
But as a rule, general managers tend to loosen the purse strings more for players who’ve led them to championships.