The deal comes in the wake of Copley’s impressive 2022-23 season. Copley has gone 15-3-1 in 20 games played, seizing the Kings’ starting job from franchise legend Jonathan Quick. It’s been a whirlwind campaign for Copley, who signed with the Kings over the summer undoubtedly with the idea in mind that he’d be the Kings’ number-three netminder, spending the bulk of the year with their AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign.
That didn’t happen, though, as the immense struggles of $5MM AAV netminder Cal Petersen this year (.868 save percentage in 10 games) necessitated that Copley be brought to the NHL roster to back up Quick, in order to allow Petersen to rebuild his game as the AHL starter.
While Petersen has performed quite well at the AHL level (.918 save percentage in 19 games) the Kings have kept Copley in the NHL, as he simply keeps on winning. Copley went on a seven-game winning streak from December to January, and, after taking a loss against the juggernaut Boston Bruins, won his next three games as well.
Copley’s numbers outside of his record aren’t great (.897 save percentage) but he’s put the Kings in a position to win and has given them just enough in net in order to come away with two points on most nights. While it’s not the largest sample size, it’s easy to see why the Kings have made the choice to give him a $1.5MM deal for next season.
What isn’t easy to see, though, is where Copley factors into the Kings’ future. Quick is 37 and certainly struggled this season, and also is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. In September, Quick stated that he planned on continuing his career beyond this season. While it’s possible that his lackluster performance this season has changed his outlook, it seems more likely that the ultra-competitive Quick will want to continue his career so he can end it on more productive footing.
But with Copley now on an NHL deal for next season, could Quick be forced to head elsewhere if he doesn’t want to retire? It’s always seemed as though Quick would have a place on the Kings for as long as he would want one, but perhaps the Kings’ dire situation in net this year has changed that.
What’s also possible is that the Kings may choose to buyout Petersen. Despite Petersen’s strong AHL performance, the Kings could opt to buy out Petersen in July. While the move wouldn’t save them any cap space for 2023-24, it would save them nearly $5MM the year after, at the cost of a $1.6MM cap hit for the following two years.