LA Kings lock up center Anze Kopitar with 8-year contract

Anze Kopitar agreed to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension with the Kings on Saturday, keeping Los Angeles' franchise center with the club through the 2023-24 season.

After months of negotiations, Kopitar's agent, Pat Brisson, confirmed the terms of the contract, which makes Kopitar one of the NHL's highest-paid players.

Kopitar was scheduled to be a free agent this summer, but the deal conceivably keeps the two-time Stanley Cup champion with his only NHL franchise through his 18th season. His contract's $10 million average annual value trails only Chicago stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who make $10.5 million.

Kopitar has been Los Angeles' leading scorer in each of the previous eight seasons, emerging as a two-way NHL standout with remarkable playmaking and scoring skills. The 28-year-old Slovenian star has 230 goals and 415 assists in 725 games over 10 seasons with the Kings, who drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2005.

Kopitar will make $14 million next season, including a $9 million signing bonus. His $13 million salary in 2017-18 also includes a $9 million signing bonus. His salary scales back to $12 million in 2018-19, $11 million in 2019-20 and $8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Kopitar has a no-movement clause in the first four seasons of the deal and a limited no-movement clause for the final four seasons requiring him to submit a list of seven teams acceptable for a trade.

After a scoring slump last season and early this year, Kopitar has been on a tear lately with 15 points in nine games for the first-place Kings, who face Ottawa on Saturday. He has 12 goals and 23 assists in 42 games this season, again leading the Kings in scoring.

Kopitar is a two-time finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward. He also led tiny Slovenia to the quarterfinals of the Sochi Olympic tournament.

He is the cornerstone of the Kings alongside defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick. They led the eighth-seeded club to its first Stanley Cup title in 2012, and they repeated the feat in 2014 after reaching the Western Conference finals in 2013.

Los Angeles missed the playoffs last season but has come back strong with largely the same core of those championship-winning teams. The Kings have opened a healthy lead atop the Pacific Division midway through the season.

Kopitar is beloved by Los Angeles' fans who appreciate his talent and his community service work alongside his wife, Ines. His dog, Gustl, even has a Twitter account with more than 4,000 Kings fan followers.

Kopitar has seven career 20-goal seasons, although he managed just 16 last season. He acknowledged that the contract negotiations weighed on his mind in recent months, but his play picked up when the deal got closer to completion.