Drew Doughty, Chuck Kobasew

Drew Doughty looks to become highest paid King

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Not all of the news regarding the Los Angeles Kings revolved around Brad Richards today. While the organization was giving its best sales pitch to the most sought after unrestricted free agent on the market, their best restricted free agent made his intentions clear. A report as surfaced on Friday that Drew Doughty would like to be the highest paid player on the team next season. This is on a team with Anze Kopitar making $6.8 million per season. Clearly, neither Drew Doughty, nor his agent Don Meehan believes the second contract should “bridge” the player to their veteran years.

The Fourth Period had the story and an update on the negotiations between Doughty and the Kings:

“It was originally believed that Doughty’s salary would hover around the $6 million to $6.5 million, per year, but that no longer appears to be the case.

While both parties anticipate a deal at some point, negotiations have been categorize as moving ‘slowly,’ a source with knowledge of the situation told TFP.

Doughty’s agents, Don Meehan and Mark Guy, have been relatively quiet, only to relay the two sides are ‘still having discussions.’”

There’s no question that Drew Doughty has the potential to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Two years ago he became the second youngest player to ever be nominated for the Norris Trophy—the youngest was a guy named Orr. He had a break out performance for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and was drawing comparisons to Ray Bourque.

That was then.

This season Doughty came to camp in poor shape. He had an extremely slow start to the season due in large part to his poor conditioning; then to make matters worse he suffered a concussion early in the season. Once he rounded into shape and shook off the effects of the concussion, he showed signs in the second half of the player that has all the potential in the world. He finished the season with 11 goals and 40 points in 76 games. Despite his slow start, he still led all Kings defenseman in goals, ice time and plus/minus. Then again, a guy who is asking for this kind of money should lead his team in most major categories. Even though he was widely regarded as the Kings best blueliner last season, he didn’t even lead the defensive corps in scoring.

The Kings organization wants Doughty to show a higher level of commitment before they give him a superstar contact offer. There were thoughts that he’d be offered a short-term deal similar to Jack Johnson’s previous contract to prove himself to the organization. Once he proved his dedication, the Kings would reward him with a long-term deal like they did with Johnson.

Dean Lombardi has repeatedly tried to build Los Angeles by paying players on what they’ve accomplished—not their potential. When they perform on the ice, then they are compensated for their accomplishments. With these desires, it looks like Doughty just wants to skip over the “proving” portion of his career and jump straight to the payday. Two seasons ago he looked like he was on his way; but it’s hard to give a lucrative multi-year deal to a player who took a noticeable step back in his third year.

On free agency day, the elephant in the room is the Kings active pursuit of Brad Richards. If they had a contract in place with their young, star defenseman, they’d have a concrete idea of the amount of money available to lure the former-Stars forward. Los Angeles management (and ownership) clearly has a plan in place, but it would be much easier if Doughty’s deal was done before the free agent madness started. It’s doubtful that another team would tender an offer sheet for Doughty, but if they did it could certainly back the Kings into a corner like the Sharks were a season ago.

The Kings have all summer to sign the restricted free agent and we have every reason to believe a deal will eventually be finalized. The only question at this point is “how much will it cost to get a deal done?” Apparently each side has their own opinion.

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.