While everyone is focused on Steve Stamkos and his ongoing restricted free agent contract talks in Tampa Bay, there’s another premiere restricted free agent making his team sweat things out. Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty is tied in negotiations with Kings GM Dean Lombardi about just what he’s going to do about keeping him long term.
Doughty was a Norris Trophy finalist in 2010 and at age 21 going on 22, he’s got a long and illustrious career staring him in the face. It’s a career that could see him rank out as one of the top five defensemen in the league for the next ten years at least. While his 2010 season was outstanding, his 2011 saw him come back to earth a bit. While he was still good, he wasn’t great and the kind of deal he’s looking for from the Kings is a career-changing offer.
The Los Angeles Times’ Fabulous Forum finds out from Lombardi that the process of getting Doughty signed won’t be a quick one.
“I am getting the feeling on Drew that unfortunately this could take a while. As we just saw this past week free agency produces a frenzy for players at all levels. We must be judicious about not getting into this market for our own players. Therefore it is critical with Drew that the dollars reflect a fair rate of return regarding the term of the contract. We must be prepared to do what it takes to get it right.”
Lombardi also said the Kings would match any offer sheet Doughty might sign with another team. It’s unlikely any team would make an offer of a magnitude that would entice Doughty away, because paying him that much money would leave that team little room to pay the support players necessary to build a winner. Also, Doughty grew up a Kings fan.
The helpful part of being a restricted free agent is that there’s no real timeline aside from the start of training camp or the season to get a deal done by. With opposing teams reluctant to push the issue and sign those players to offer sheets, teams owning their rights aren’t threatened to move faster to get a deal done. The Kings have enough cap space to not be scared by potential poaching and that’s why you’ve got things dragging out now. Dragging out being relative term here.
While the chances are slim that Doughty will get poached by another team with an offer sheet, getting the deal done and done right is important for both sides, especially the Kings. Signing him up to a potential cap-crippling deal does no one any favors. Dean Lombardi’s done things smart before and they’ll get things right with Doughty, just don’t go holding your breath over it.