Some might quibble about other names (such as Luke Schenn), but ultimately this off-season featured four big-time restricted free agents. Three of them have signed new contracts to varying degrees of satisfaction, as Steven Stamkos’ deal seemed like an everyone wins proposition, Zach Parise’s one-year deal carried hints of optimism and Shea Weber’s arbitration award might as well have included foreboding clouds.
The only major RFA left is Drew Doughty, whose contract talks are putting a damper on some of the positive buzz related to the savvy moves Los Angeles Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi made so far this off-season. It seems like the world-class defenseman wants to be the highest paid King, which is a reasonable proposition since he may just be the best one. The only problem is that the other contender for that title (Anze Kopitar) already has a pretty hefty contract that carries a $6.8 million annual salary cap hit.
It’s unclear how far the two sides are really apart, but if Rich Hammond’s latest update is any indication, they aren’t exactly at the bargaining table hashing out the details day and night. Hammond reports that the Kings rolled out a long-term offer for Doughty but the two sides haven’t spoken in two weeks.
There have been no new discussions in the past two weeks. The Kings have a long-term offer on the table, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the issue extend into late August, or perhaps even into September. It’s worth noting that Doughty’s agent, Don Meehan, also represented Evgeni Nabokov when, in 2002, Nabokov held out before signing a contract with the San Jose Sharks (and then-GM Lombardi) in late October.
As for the current Doughty negotiations, Lombardi said today, “I think it’s fair to say that in the last conversation, we set the parameters, as to where we feel his contract should be. We talked about a number of scenarios, and I guess now it’s their move. They never really responded.”
Well, that doesn’t seem very promising, but Meehan (or at least his agency) is also in limbo with Schenn, so it’s not like this isn’t standard operating procedure. Beyond the most obvious issue of simply getting a deal done at some point, there’s also the worry that Doughty might be falling behind. The one bright side of Hammond’s report is that Doughty has been in contact with the Kings’ coaching staff about the hockey side of things.
We’ll have to wait and see if the dynamic defenseman will be there for training camp in September, though.