“I’m super excited, obviously this is the place I want to be. I think we’re in year four now in total here, I’ve loved all my time here and it’s starting to feel like home. I’m happy to stay here, be our own group of guys and keep moving the needle forward.”
Mikey Anderson with nothing but love coming out of his eight-year contract extension, announced earlier today by the Kings. Anderson is currently playing on a team-friendly, one-year contract he signed back in September, which felt like an absolute steal for the organization when it happened.
It also felt like there was certainly more to come, with a player who said clearly at the time that he wanted to commit his long-term future to the Kings, an organization that happily played him well over 20 minutes per night, signifying his importance to the franchise in the long run. Today’s announcement is the culmination of that importance, with Anderson now tied to the LA Kings for longer than any other employee, in any capacity.
“I was trying to get through the year, trying to build the resume a little bit more, I had only played about a year and a half if you take the COVID years, it wasn’t necessarily the full year,” he said today of the short-term extension he signed in September. “We couldn’t find something that worked out great, so from my standpoint, I was just trying to take one more year and play. As a group, we’ve had a good start to the year and individually it helped pay off. We were able to find something that worked now.”
When talking over the summer, Anderson did not inject himself much into the conversation when it comes to contract negotiations on the first go around and that remained largely the same for his long-term deal here this season.
The negotiations on Anderson’s deal saw the intensity increase over the last week or so, eventually resulting in the contract officially being signed here this morning before practice. Anderson always wanted to stay here for the long haul and the eight-year term buys out his remaining three years of restricted free agency, as well as five years of unrestricted free agency.
“The last week or so things started to pick up steam a little bit, we started talking a little bit more and it happened pretty quick,” he said. “This is a place I was wanting to stay in, I think I told you that earlier in the year too, this is a place I can see as a home for a long time. I’m happy we were able to find something that worked and I’m able to stay here.”
From Day 1, Anderson was an NHL-level contributor, but he’s still progressed and grown his game here over the long haul, resulting in an extension that makes him the second-highest earning defenseman on the Kings, behind only his partner, Drew Doughty.
Anderson was initially slotted to play on the second defensive pairing with Matt Roy during his first full season with the Kings but found himself up alongside Doughty by the fourth game of the season. He never left. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Doughty and Anderson have played nearly 84 percent of available minutes together at 5-on-5. When factoring in injuries, that total is really even higher. Anderson’s steady, day-to-day improvements have made it impossible to take him off that pairing, providing stability for both Doughty and the Kings with a set, reliable partner.
Drew Doughty – He makes more plays with the puck now, I still think he’s going to keep improving at that. In the neutral zone, he’s finding better passes, more open guys, that’s improved a lot. He’s also improved in all of the things he was good at already, defensively, good stick, good positionally. He just keeps improving every year and I think he’ll continue to because he has that type of personality where he’s always trying to get better.
Todd McLellan – Physically, his strength and conditioning has improved immensely from the time that he arrived and he’s really committed to it. Then, after that, he’s always had a pretty good toolbox and he’s learned quite quickly when and how to apply those tools in the game. I think his physicality has gone up more as he’s gotten more confident throughout the years.
As his game has improved and his level of play has gone up, any potential intimidation factor of the role he’s been tasked with has gone down accordingly.
When looking at Anderson’s most common opponents over the last three seasons, it’s a slew of top players in the Western Conference. Names like Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson in Vegas, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz in Arizona, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog in Colorado. Skewed by the reoriented schedule from 2020-21, names like Logan Couture and Kirill Kaprizov are also in Anderson’s Top 10 for most frequently-faced forwards.
In last year’s playoffs, the top two names on the list read McDavid and Draisaitl. Regardless of situation, Anderson is being used in those high-leverage roles against top talent. If there was ever any sense of awe in those moments, it’s certainly no longer there.
“I don’t know if it existed, but the intimidation factor of playing against the other team’s best players, he’s through that now, he does that every night,” McLellan said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you have to be a little bit in awe when you first step on the ice consistently against Crosby or Malkin, McDavid or Draisaitl. I really think that’s gone now and for him, he just expects to do it.”
As he’s handled the difficult matchups that the Kings have thrown his way, Anderson has developed a reputation as a defense-first, shutdown-type defenseman. His point totals are far from gaudy – his 11 assists and 13 points so far this season are already career highs at the NHL level – though he has taken a big stride forward when it comes to puck movement and offensive activation.
Where he’ll continue to make his bread, however, is defensively.
“Mikey has the ability to produce points and create offense, but when he hangs his hat, he hangs it on defending and shutting down the opponents,” McLellan added. “A big part of that is using the blue line as an aid, his gaps, strike points and net play. He’s very good at all of that and he’s going to be doing it for the Kings for a long time.”
With an eight-year commitment comes a clear signal that the Kings view Anderson as a big piece in that next wave they’re building and bringing through the ranks, if not eventually even more than that.
On the backend, the Kings already signed defensemen Matt Roy and Sean Walker to extensions that currently have term. Up front, forwards Adrian Kempe and Trevor Moore signed extensions over the last 12 months, to complement the external additions of Phillip Danault and Kevin Fiala with long-term deals, as well as Viktor Arvidsson via trade. The Kings currently have eight players signed to contracts between $3 million and $5.5 million. Back when Anderson played his first full NHL season, the Kings finished the 2020-21 campaign with just one player in that salary range – defenseman Olli Maatta. How’s that for rebuilding that age range?
“We’ve got a great group of young, core players,” Anderson said. “I’m just happy that I get to be here with them for the time being and continue to keep moving the group forward and try and get back to where those guys were 10 years ago. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to learn from all of them.”
As he looks ahead at what’s to come, Anderson is still focused on the short-term goals of the 2023 stretch run, despite what’s now the long-term security and outlook of an eight-year contract.
The Kings are certainly a team that is frequently thrown around when it comes to adding pieces over the next few weeks, approaching the NHL’s Trade Deadline in early March. While he and others in the room are aware of the process, and the job that General Manager Rob Blake has, it’s also nothing within his control, when it comes to roster moves that could impact the organzation. Anderson’s sights are clearly set on the next day’s job. With the extension now behind him, it’s back to work for Anderson and his teammates.
“As a group, we show up every day and we try and do the work, whatever we can do to get wins,” he said. “Obviously, we’re in a spot where we control our future right now as a group and it’s just coming to the rink, trying to get wins and as long as we’re winning, things are going to go the right way. Whatever they’ve got to do, we’re not involved with anything that goes on like that. We put our heads down, come to the rink, get to work every day and try to get better.”