(Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Chicago Sky have put the core designation on Kahleah Copper, giving her the option to accept a one-year, $228,094 supermax deal to return to the team.

The core designation means the team retains a player’s rights, but the sides can begin negotiating different terms on Jan. 15. The offer could also result in a sign-and-trade.

“We want to see Kahleah stay in a Chicago Sky uniform for a long time,” Sky head coach and GM James Wade tells Just Women’s Sports. “She is a very important part of our culture off the court and on the court. We appreciate the growth that she has had and we appreciate the fact that she is so motivated to continue to grow and evolve as a star player. So this is a special day for us, and hopefully it’s a special day for Kahleah.”

Copper ended the 2021 season as one of the WNBA’s biggest breakout stars. Named to her first WNBA All-Star Game, she also won Finals MVP after guiding the Sky to their first championship in franchise history. The 6-foot-1 wing led the Sky with 14.4 points per game during the regular season and increased her output to 17.7 points per game in the playoffs.

After elevating her play the last two seasons, Copper entered the offseason as one of the most sought-after free agents. But the 27-year-old has expressed her interest in returning to Chicago.

Originally drafted No. 7 overall by the Washington Mystics in the 2016 WNBA Draft, Copper was traded to Chicago in 2017 as part of the deal for Elena Delle Donne. Copper has cemented herself as an integral piece of the Sky, who will also look to retain unrestricted free agents Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot when negotiations begin on Saturday. Candace Parker and Azurá Stevens are under contract for the 2022 season.

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.