Reaching unrestricted free agency is something most NHL players are forced to wait patiently for during the early stages of their career, but for forward @Andrew Copp, he’ll receive an opportunity to reach the open market around this time next summer.
Coming off his two-year, $4.56 million contract, which was awarded by an arbitrator in 2019, Copp, 27, became a restricted free agent once again this off-season and ultimately avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal that’ll pay him $3.64 million in 2021-22, according to PuckPedia.com.
Since the 6’1″ forward is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, there was some belief that he’d command a multi-year contract and, if that wasn’t an offer the Jets were willing to make, he’d file for arbitration for the second time in three years.
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Rather than putting pressure on the club’s front office to find a resolution to this situation, which may have resulted in a potential trade, Copp didn’t feel it was necessary to fight for himself this time around and was happy to sign for one more season. Given the increased playing time that he’s earned over the last two seasons, taking the high road was a route the left-hander felt most comfortable with during contract negotiations.
“I’ve gotten a lot more opportunity the last two years and taken steps in my game and continued to get better,” Copp discussed during his zoom press conference. “So going through arb wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to do again. But I’m always ready and willing to fight for myself, and fight for what I think I deserve and all that.
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“So at the end of the day, I’m happy not to have to go through that process and happy that we came to an amicable negotiation that was pretty quick, actually.”
With contract talks in the rear-view mirror, Copp will now be able to solely focus on the upcoming campaign and is preparing to do whatever is asked of him, suggesting he’s ready to play up and down the lineup once again. Though he’ll almost certainly begin the season alongside teammate @Adam Lowry on the third line, coach Paul Maurice likely won’t hesitate to turn to him if someone suffers an injury or underperforms within the top-six forwards.
“It’s just the role that I’ve had the last couple years of being very versatile and moving between lines pretty seamlessly,” Copp explained. “I think that’s a conversation that I’m sure I’ll have with Paul [Maurice] in the next month before training camp starts and see what he’s thinking. Obviously, there is a lot of different ways that the lineup can shake out.”
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Enjoying the top statistical performance of his career in 2020-21, Copp registered career-highs in average ice time (18:15), total goals (15), power-play goals (six), total points (39), even-strength points (26), power-play points (12) and points per game (0.71) over 55 games.
In addition to the offensive explosion he enjoyed, the former fourth-round selection also generated 115 shots on goal, 67 hits, 41 blocks, 22 takeaways and a 53.0% faceoff percentage.
Based on his uncertain future, Copp will probably experience a very similar process to the one he just went through next off-season, but unlike this time, he’ll be able to speak to 31 other organizations. Even though taking this approach is risky, especially if he suffers a significant injury, the veteran forward has been betting on himself his whole career and isn’t prepared to stop now.
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“Obviously, being on a one-year deal, next summer will kind of be the same sort of thing,” Copp mentioned. “And then, we’ll see what happens after that. But, I’m basically betting on myself and have done that for the last 10 years so why stop now?”