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.