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Anze Kopitar contract: Phillip Danault risks being 3rd center for a few years

When Phillip Danault made the decision to leave the CH in the summer of 2021, it quickly became clear that it wasn’t just a question of money. The Quebecer felt that his offensive potential wasn’t being exploited enough in Montreal, and he sensed that the Kings wanted to give him the chance to show it.

Clearly, he wanted a top-6 role, and one where he wasn’t just a defensive specialist.

And after two years, we have to admit that he’s proving the Kings right. He amassed 51 and 54 points in his two seasons in California, including a 27-goal campaign in 2021-22.

However, with the arrival of Pierre-Luc Dubois (a natural center) at a high price, we wondered if his position as second center was in jeopardy. And in doing so, his best chance of returning to the top-6 was going to be following the departure of Anze Kopitar, who will turn 36 at the start of next season.

That said, today the Kings announced that the captain had signed a two-year contract extension. Basically, he’s in for the next three years.

So, for the next three years, the Kings will be counting on Kopitar, Dubois and Danault on their center line.

But when you look at it, Kopitar will still be the team’s first center, and the Kings didn’t pay the big price to put Dubois on the third line.

This means that, for the next few years, Danault is likely to be the team’s third center.

There’s a scenario in which Dubois is moved to the wing so that all three are in the top-6, but again, Dubois is a natural center and it’s really questionable whether the Kings will be comfortable moving him to the wing. He’s capable of doing it (and being good at it), but considering the hefty price paid for his services, they might want to maximize his use.

Kevin Fiala, Adrian Kempe and Viktor Arvidsson will all play on the wing in the first two lines. A guy like Trevor Moore, a natural winger who just signed a big five-year contract at $4.2 million a year, could also push for a top-6 role.

And there are still some youngsters who could also force the team’s hand.

Clearly, then, there’s a scenario in which Danault becomes the team’s third center for a few years, until Kopitar no longer has the level to do so. He may slow down by the end of his contract in three years’ time, but the Slovenian shows no signs of declining.

So it’s something to keep an eye on, but the idea of seeing him at the center of the third trio in a more defensive role (but with some time on the power play, I imagine) does exist. And since we know he didn’t want such a role in Montreal, I wonder if he’ll be more willing to fill it with the Kings.

In gossip

– Zach Fucale reflects on his KHL signing.

– Interest in Dan Vladar.

– Here’s wishing him success tomorrow.

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