Drew Doughty

Kings and Drew Doughty agree on 8-year, $56 million contract

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After months of negotiating and a stress-filled summer for Kings fans all over California, the waiting (and worrying) has finally come to an end. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Los Angeles Kings and restricted agent Drew Doughty have at last come to terms on an 8-year, $56 million contract. And not a moment too soon.

In an official press release, the Kings announced that the two sides had come to a verbal agreement.  Needless to say, the announcement ignited celebrations for hockey fans in Los Angeles; and shouts of denial from opposing fans who still  held out hope that their team would sign the restricted free agent an offer sheet.

“The Los Angeles Kings have reached a verbal agreement with restricted free agent defenseman Drew Doughty on a multi-year contract, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced tonight.”

By all measures, the two sides came together on a deal at the last minute. The Kings finally budged after insisting that he average cap hit of any deal would not exceed Anze Kopitar’s team high $6.8 million per season. From Doughty’s side, the young defenseman accepted an eight-year deal—a longer term than he may have preferred. The $7 million average salary per season will make him the third-highest paid defenseman—trailing only Shea Weber’s one-year contract and Brian Campbell’s ridiculous $7.1 million per season. Kings’ governor Tim Leiweke praised GM Dean Lombardi for getting a deal done that works for the team.

“Dean did a good job here. Dean is unbelievable with the budget and the forecasting and, as you know, he’s a professor when it comes to the boxes and forecasting where we’re going long-term. So he was passionate about protecting ourselves with some flexibility here. I feel good about the fact that we have someone that has the vision that Dean has, long-term, and is keeping the nucleus together. But he’s also smart, and he knows eight years is eight years. And this kid is 21 years old. He’s going to 29, and still in his prime, when he’s done with this contract. That’s a good thing for the franchise. The guy that isn’t mentioned here, Mr. Anschutz, he has broken the bank here. We are sending a very strong message to our fans. We’re committed to winning, and we just proved it again.”

Three weeks ago, there were reports that the Kings had offered the 21-year-old defenseman a 9-year deal worth $6.8 million per season.

From the Kings point of view, it’s easy easy to understand their excitement. The 8-year deal will eat up four of Doughty’s valuable “unrestricted years,” at a reasonable $7 million per season. One of the difficult parts of the negotiating process is that there’s no real comparable salary for a player like Doughty. He’s already become the second youngest player to be nominated for the Norris Trophy and proved he belonged among the league’s elite at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The timing also worked out for Los Angeles as well. There were plenty of artificial deadlines; but both sides understood that a deal needed to be reached by the end of the week or Doughty would miss regular season games. The Kings have two more preseason games in North America before leaving for Europe on Saturday night. People around the organization said they hoped to sign him in time to participate in a couple of preseason games before the regular season started in Berlin. With tonight’s deal, the team will decide if they want him to play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Avalanche before heading to their final preseason game on Tuesday in Hamburg, Germany.

For Doughty, he instantly becomes one of the highest paid defensemen (and players) in the NHL. He successfully skipped his “second contract” and jumped right to his huge payday at the tender age of 21. $7 million per season will buy quite a few cocktails for the man who recently reached the legal drinking age.

Symbolically, it shows that the organization realizes he’s an crucial piece to their puzzle. He’s now the highest paid player on a team that not only has playoff aspirations, but Stanley Cup dreams. No pressure there kid.

Now comes the tough part. As weird as it may sound after this prolonged three month ordeal, someone may want to tell Doughty that negotiating the contract is the easy part. Now he’ll have the next eight years to prove that he’s worth it. With that kind of money and the type of team the Kings have assembled this season, individual statistics may not be enough to justify that kind of contract.

All the sudden, the stakes have been raised for Drew Doughty and the LA Kings. A Norris Trophy? He has eight years. Legitimate playoff performer? He has eight years. Stanley Cup?

You get the idea…

For Frederik Andersen, the spotlight’s on

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21:  Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs speaks with the media during a press availability on June 21, 2016 at the Encore Ballroom in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2016 NHL Award Ceremony will by held on June 22 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This post is part of Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT…

James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson.

Over the last half decade, those four were tasked with the responsibility of being Toronto’s No. 1 goalie. Reimer was the lead dog, with 153 starts over five years, followed by Bernier (140 over three), Gustavsson (96 over three) and Scrivens (28 over two).

As the figures suggest, those four had plenty in common. They each spent multiple years in Toronto, and had a shot at the No. 1 gig.

Now they have something else in common, too.

None of ’em play in Toronto anymore.

It’s been a revolving door — one pushed by fans and media, some would argue — and the Leafs tried to halt it this summer, striking a bold move to finally solidify their goaltending position.

Frederik Andersen, the lanky Dane that rose to prominence in Anaheim, was acquired for a pair of high picks, then quickly signed to a lucrative five-year, $25 million deal.

That trade was profound, and so was the payday. The contract nearly quintupled what Andersen made on his previous pact, and made him one of the highest-paid players on the active roster.

The Leafs insisted it was money well spent.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to acquire a goaltender who has proven to have success in the playoffs, is at the prime age, has the reputation on and off the ice that he has, and the players love playing in front of him — I don’t know how you cannot try to acquire a goaltender like this,” GM Lou Lamoriello said upon acquiring Andersen. “We’ve acquired a 6-foot-4 goaltender who has athleticism.

“Right now we’re extremely comfortable with our goaltending.”

And it’s true — Andersen has all the attributes of a quality No. 1. He’s shouldered a heavy workload before, making 53 starts during the ’14-15 campaign, followed by another 16 in the playoffs as Anaheim advanced to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.

He’s also in the “sweet spot” as far as development goes. Andersen had plenty of seasoning in Europe and the American League before making his NHL debut at 24.

Now he’s a veteran of three full campaigns, with 125 regular season and nearly 30 playoff games on his resume.

And he only turns 27 this October.

Those are the positives.

How about some negatives?

For starters, he’s going from a pretty good team (the Ducks finished sixth in the NHL last year) to a pretty bad one (the Leafs, as you might’ve heard, finished dead last). He’s also going from a relatively laid back market to one of the most frenzied in the league.

Canadian cities can be tough on goalies, something that Reimer, Bernier, Gustavsson and Scrivens all experienced to some degree during their times in Toronto.

It happens elsewhere, too.

“It takes a certain temperament to play in Canada,” former NHL goalie and current TSN analyst Jamie McLennan told the National Post. “Roberto Luongo was a star in Florida, goes to Vancouver and stars there and then the fans turn on him because he doesn’t deliver a Cup and then leaves and it’s like, ‘Oh geez, we lost a really good goalie.'”

So, how will Andersen adjust to the spotlight? The Leafs did well to take some pressure off by inking veteran Jhonas Enroth to be the backup, but Enroth is exactly that — a backup.

Toronto fans will see how Andersen deals with increased attention this September, as he projects to be Team Europe’s No. 1 for the World Cup of Hockey — which, of course, will be played in Andersen’s new home rink, the ACC.

It’ll be like a dress rehearsal prior to the live show.

But for Andersen, the stakes might feel a little bit higher.

Poll: Will the Leafs have a captain this year?

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock stands on the bench during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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There are six teams currently without a captain — Carolina, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, Winnipeg and Toronto — and of the six, it’s the latter that seems furthest from filling the role.

Back in April, head coach Mike Babcock said he didn’t expect the Leafs to have a captain this season. That news hardly came as a surprise — Toronto had just wrapped a difficult first year of what figures to be a lengthy rebuild, and didn’t seem to have any leading candidates to inherit the “C” from Dion Phaneuf, who was traded to Ottawa in February.

Of course, things have changed since then.

The biggest, by far, was Toronto landing phenom Auston Matthew with the first overall pick at the draft. GM Lou Lamoriello also locked in two of the club’s better young players — Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly — to matching six-year deals, and added a physical veteran presence in free agency by signing former Islander Matt Martin.

All of this makes for a different dynamic in the dressing room, but will it impact the captaincy?

Hard to say.

At first glance, the Leafs still seem to lack a leading candidate, at least for the present. If Lamoriello and team president Brendan Shanahan wanted to go the veteran route, they could anoint Brooks Laich or Matt Hunwick as a placeholder, though neither projects to play a significant role on the team beyond this year and into the future.

Rielly could be the guy but, at 22, he’d be awfully young.

The same can be said of Matthews, though many do expect him to eventually captain the Leafs. But asking him to shoulder that responsibility now — as an 18-year-old rookie — would be the most anti-Lamoriello move of all time, so you can rule that out.

Anyway, here’s how this will work. The poll will be a straight yes-no and, if you vote yes, put your pick for captain in the comments section.

Welcome back: Flames sign Higgins to camp PTO

Chris Higgins
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Chris Higgins is back in Cowtown.

On Tuesday, the Flames announced that Higgins would be attending training camp on a professional tryout, bringing him back to the organization he played part of the 2009-10 campaign with.

Higgins, 33, had spent the last six years in Vancouver. His stint with the Canucks included some quality highs — a trip to the ’11 Stanley Cup Final, and an 18-goal, 43-point season the year following — but ended on a sour note last spring when, after GM Jim Benning failed to orchestrate a trade, Higgins was placed on waivers and spent time in AHL Utica.

All told, Higgins finished the campaign with three goals and four points in 33 contests.

In June, the Canucks bought out the last of his four-year, $10 million deal.

Higgins has played in Calgary before — as mentioned above — but that’s not his only connection to the organization. The Flames’ new head coach, Glen Gulutzan, was the assistant in Vancouver for the last three years and worked closely with Higgins (who had a good season in Gulutzan’s first year with the Canucks, scoring 17 goals and 39 points).

 

 

Under Pressure: Auston Matthews

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: (l-r) Lou Lamoriello and  Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs attend round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s the collective, really.

There’s no single reason why Auston Matthews was our clear cut choice for today’s “Under Pressure” post.

No single reason, because there are so many reasons.

There was the pre-draft hype, which was off the charts. There was Toronto tanking to get the No. 1 overall pick — or, as team president Brendan Shanahan put it, earning the pick “the hard way.”

There were the names, too.

Matthews is now linked to Patrick Kane, after becoming the first American to go No. 1 overall since Chicago took Kane nine years ago. Matthew is also now forever linked to Leafs legend Wendel Clark — Toronto’s last No. 1 overall pick, taken all the way back in 1985.

Then, there’s his pedigree.

And with that pedigree comes privilege.

Before he ever played a second of NHL hockey, Matthews was named to Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey — ahead of the likes of Max Domi, Boone Jenner and Alex Galchenyuk, the latter a 30-goal scorer and already a veteran of nearly 300 NHL contests.

Pundits have already slotted Matthews into a top-two center role in Toronto, one that will come with all the requisite power play time befitting a special offensive talent. As a result, expectations for this year are sky high. A recent NHL.com projection said the 60-point plateau should be within reach, and think pieces about how other rookies won’t just concede the Calder.

Smartly, but perhaps futilely, Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello is trying to shield Matthew from some of pressure that comes along with being, y’know, the savior of a team in one of the league’s most storied markets.

“I don’t think there’s any player that’s going to be the face of this franchise,” Lamoriello said at the draft, when asked if Matthews would be exactly that. “The logo will be the face of the franchise.”

Lamoriello went on to say that when “you’re taking an 18-year-old and expect him to do wonders, it’s not fair.”

No, it’s not fair.

But it is the reality.