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As usual, Anze Kopitar excels in the middle

September 30, 2011 | 10:47 pm

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Through all the negotiations between the Kings and Drew Doughty’s representatives, through the tense moments and final happy moments when Doughty agreed to an eight-year, $56-million deal  Thursday, one person remained above the fray.

That was center Anze Kopitar, who was thrust into the middle of an uncomfortable situation after Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi declared he would not pay Doughty more than the $6.8-million average annual value of Kopitar’s contract, then the highest on the team.

Kopitar became a benchmark in the talks, a role he didn’t want and didn’t enjoy. He also became part of the back story because he used to employ Doughty’s agent, Don Meehan, before switching to another high-powered agent, Pat Brisson.

Meehan seemed determined in these negotiations to get more money for Doughty, his current client, than the amount earned by his former client, Kopitar. To complicate matters even more, Meehan and Lombardi had a history of battles while Lombardi was general manager of the San Jose Sharks.

In the end, the deal that Doughty signed Friday was structured so that Doughty’s average salary of $7 million is more than Kopitar’s $6.8 average. But in the next five seasons the more experienced Kopitar will earn $35.6 million and Doughty will earn $33.3 million. That allows everyone to save face and the Kings--though spending more money than they'd planned--get to keep Doughty for eight seasons.

“To be honest, maybe it sounds selfish, but I didn’t care about it because I know that’s the business side of it,” Kopitar said. “The names are thrown in there and for some reason they used my name for [an] example, I guess.

“I’m glad it’s over. But it’s not going to change anything. Me and Drew are really good friends and that’s going to stay the same. I texted him [Thursday] night and congratulated him on the new contract and told him we’re going to see each other soon. I’m really happy for him. It’s good to have him here for eight more years, for sure.”

Kopitar said he wasn’t aware that he will have a bigger financial payout in the next five seasons than Doughty will.

“Like I said, I did not care about it. At the end of the day he’s making $7 million a year and that is what it is,” Kopitar said. “And I’m sure they had a good argument about the $7 million.

“He’s obviously a huge piece for us so I’m sure he deserves it, too.”

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-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kings center Anze Kopitar. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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