The first year of Anze Kopitar’s $80 million contract extension may end up being the worst year of his NHL career.
In a full 82-game season, the 29-year-old center has never put up fewer than 61 points. But with just six goals and 27 assists in 54 games, the reigning Selke Trophy recipient is on pace for only 46 points in 2016-17.
Last night, Kopitar was held pointless for a fourth straight game as the Kings fell, 4-1, to the Bruins at Staples Center.
“Can’t chase the lead,” said head coach Darryl Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “Early goal, just a constant theme. Chase the lead. Need some production out of the top end of your lineup to overcome that.”
With the loss, the Kings found themselves four points back of the second wild-card spot with only one game in hand on Calgary.
Sutter was asked if there was one thing that concerned him above anything else.
“Yep,” he said. “Production from the top end. Absolutely, 100 percent.”
Given Jeff Carter has scored more than his share of goals (29), the coach was clearly talking mostly about Kopitar.
That being said, Marian Gaborik only has six goals himself, and that’s a problem for Kopitar because the Kings, after losing Justin Williams and Milan Lucic in the last two years, aren’t exactly swimming in high-scoring wingers.
Gaborik, who turned 35 just a few days ago, is signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $4.875 million. Combine that with Dustin Brown, 32, being signed through 2021-22 for a cap hit of $5.875 million and the Kings have over $10 million in cap space tied up in two aging wingers who aren’t providing many goals.
So, that’ll be the challenge for GM Dean Lombardi going forward. It just remains to be seen if there’s a solution.
The Kings host Anaheim tomorrow.