On Nov. 15, all players signed up till the end of the 2021 season will become free agents, and those who've done will be evaluated accordingly in the hot stove league. The position of focus this offseason in the LCK is the mid lane. With the exception of Gen.G's and DRX's, all mid laners are up for grabs — yes, even Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok.
The mid lane has always been a critical role in League of Legends and all LCK teams that made it to Worlds 2021 all had great mid laners leading them, to the point it was almost compulsory to have a great mid in order to succeed. Now, as Heo “ShowMaker” Su's, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon's, and Faker's contracts are expiring, the LCK is headed for its hottest offseason to date.
Here are the most valuable free-agents-to-be for the 2022 LCK offseason.
1. Faker (T1)
LoL esports wouldn't be the same without Faker and the GOAT has truly shaped the scene as we know it. Already last year, there were doubts about Faker's future as he couldn't qualify for Workds. However, this year, he proved that he is still an S-tier mid laner, making top 4 at Worlds 2021. Faker's popularity hasn't declined one iota and a lot of fans still hope he wins his fourth world championship before retiring.
There's been a lot of rumors around Faker's previous three-year contract, including that Faker might be getting paid more than iconic players in traditional sports leagues in Korea. T1 have been treating Faker exactly how the face of the industry should be — with a huge check and even a co-ownership position.
T1 has every main member's contract signed until 2022 except Moon "Cuzz" Woo-chan and Faker. Whether Faker will aim for Worlds again with the 2021 teammates is a hot topic. Everything about Faker is under the spotlight — from the team, salary, to contract terms.
2. ShowMaker (DWG KIA)
While Faker remains the GOAT, ShowMaker has had the best results in the recent few years and is expected to become the next "future of LoL esports". His insane outplays on the big stage show all the qualities of an iconic star.
Throughout DWG KIA's best moments, ShowMaker has always been in tandem with Canyon, forging a very strong bond. This offseason, however, there is a chance that ShowMaker leaves DWG KIA to play with another jungler. Both ShowMaker's and Canyon's contracts with DWG KIA end this year and with back-to-back Worlds finals to their accounts, their price is expected to jump a lot, and it's hard to say whether one team can afford them both.
3. Chovy (HLE)
Chovy has made it to the Worlds quarterfinals three seasons in a row, playing for three different teams, and while that might not sound too fancy, his record is still appealing to team owners who still struggle at Worlds.
Chovy was instrumental in getting a ragtag team like Hanwha Life into Worlds top 8 and his ability to solo carry a team is unparalleled. Considered the best laner in the world, he's triggered more "CHOOOOVYYYY" cries by LCK casters than one can count.
Chovy has been together with Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu these past two years, first on DRX and then on HLE. When it comes to the mid-jungle duo, however, he's been paired with plenty: with a rookie like Pyosik at DRX to yoHan, Arthur, and Willer at HLE. And while Pyosik and Willer were both considered good for rookies, Chovy hasn't really played with a superstar jungler since Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong in Griffin.
4. Gori, Fly, Dove, Fate, Lava
Even in the lower tier teams, the mid lane position had a huge impact, as shown by players like Kim "Gori" Tae-woo (Nongshim RedForce) and Kim "Lava" Tae-hoon (Fredit BRION) accumulating significant Player of the Game (POG) points. In the end, NS RedForce's mid laner gathered the most to win "Player of the Split".
Gori and Lava made for some unexpected pairings that really surprised top teams. The most memorable mid-jungle duo was from Fredit BRION's Lava and Eom "UmTi" Seong-hyeon who defeated DWG KIA twice this year. Afreeca Freecs' combo of Song "Fly" Yong-jun and Lee "Dread" Jin-hyeok, while KT Rolster's Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon and Kim "Dove" Jae-yeon were so inseparable that they were dubbed the "DoDo Duo".
Neither of these players is complete, however. Gori as great playmaking abilities, but lacked in the laning phase for the better part of the season. Fly has a small champion pool, and the other mid laners just aren't capable of individual outplays you'd expect from the role.
Now, there is certainly the option where all players renew their contracts and bring a quiet end to the stove league. However, there will be a lot of competition for each spot that opens up. The destination of LCK's iconic mid laners — Faker, Chovy, and ShowMaker — will ripple through the offseason and will dictate it more than anything else.
LCK players with contracts ending in 2021
Top: Kim "Khan" Dong-ha
Jungle: Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu
Mid: Heo "ShowMaker" Su
Support: Cho "BeryL" Geon-hee
Top: Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee
Jungle: Ko "YoungJae" Young-jae
Jungle: Sung "Flawless" Yeon-jun
Jungle: Moon "Cuzz" Woo-chan
Mid: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok
Hanwha Life Esports
Mid: Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon
Bot: Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu
Mid: Kim "Gori" Tae-woo
Bot: Seo "deokdam" Dae-gil
Support: Kim "Kellin" Hyeong-gyu
Top: Park "Summit" Woo-tae
Jungle: Kim "OnFleek" Jang-gyeom
Mid: Yoo "FATE" Su-hyeok
Bot: Lee "Prince" Chae-hwan
Support: Lee "Effort" Sang-ho
Jungle: Lee "Dread" Jin-hyeok
Mid: Song "Fly" Yong-jun
Bot: Bae "Bang" Jun-sik
Support: Son "Lehends" Si-woo
Top: Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon
Jungle: Kang "Blank" Sun-gu
Mid: Kim "Dove" Jae-yeon
Bot: Lee "HyBriD" Woo-jin
Support: Jang "Zzus" Joon-soo
Top: Yoon "Hoya" Yong-ho
Jungle: Eom "UmTi" Seong-hyeon
Jungle: Lee "Chieftain" Jae-yub
Mid: Kim "Lava" Tae-hoon
Bot: Park "Hena" Jeung-hwan
Support: Yoo "Delight" Hwan-joong
All main members are signed until 2022-23.