Drew Doughty reportedly turns down 9-year contract offer from Kings

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Every summer there’s an offseason story that just won’t go away. Last season it was Ilya Kovalchuk and next season it will probably be a power struggle over a new collective bargaining agreement. But this year? This is the year of the Drew Doughty contract talks. It’s only a week until the Kings open their training camp and with each passing day, it looks like camp will start without the talented 21-year-old under contract. Just a hunch, but this probably isn’t how the organization wanted to spend their last few days of the offseason as they look to contend in the West this season.

For the first time in months, there has been an update on the negotiations with concrete numbers—outlining an offer with both a specific dollar amount and years for a potential contract. Respected NHL insider Nick Kypreos from Sports Net sent out this message late Thursday afternoon:

“Where does LA go next after Doughty rejects multi offers including 9 yrs/61.2M. The 6.8 aav would have matched Kopitar’s as Kings highest”

Presumably, the 9-year term is the Kings’ idea. A deal of that nature would take Doughty until he was 30-years-old and would eat up four of his unrestricted free agent years. On the flip side, there have been rumors that the Doughty camp is looking for a 5-year deal that would take him right up to unrestricted free agency.

Pro Hockey Talk reached out to Don Meehan at Newport Sports, but he preferred to not make any comment at this time.

On the financial side of the deal, the $6.8 million cap hit would equal Anze Kopitar’s team-high average salary. Like Doughty, Kopitar thrived from the moment he stepped foot onto NHL ice and earned a hefty raise before proving himself with a “second contract.” Regardless of any other specifics within the negotiations, LA Times writer Helene Elliott is reporting that “it doesn’t appear that an agreement is imminent.”

Doughty was the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 Draft—the highest defensemen picked in a deep defensive draft. In 2010, he burst onto the international stage when he made the Canadian Olympic team and thrived in Vancouver. At the end of the season, he was the second youngest Norris Trophy finalist. After his second season, at the tender age of 20, he looked to be on the fast-track to superstardom.

But something happened on the way to becoming the next Raymond Bourque. Doughty started the 2010-11 season slowly and suffered a concussion at the beginning of the season. It took about half the season before he finally found his stride—yet his year-end statistics were a far cry from the numbers he had posted the previous season.

Here in lies the dilemma from the Kings perspective. Do they play Doughty like the superstar that he was in 2009-10? Or do the pay him like the star he was in 2010-11. Even in a down year, Doughty was clearly the best defenseman on a team loaded with plenty of talent on the blueline. He plays against some of the toughest competition on a nightly basis, kills penalties, and still lead the defensive corps in points per game. He did all of that in an “off year.”

The fact remains that while he was the Kings best defender last season, he was one of the league’s best defenders the previous season. If he were to make $6.8m – $7m next season, he’d be in the Joe Thornton/Jarome Iginla/Zdeno Chara stratosphere of salaries. Not only are those players leaders of their individual teams (each is a captain), but those are all major award winners. Iginla’s won an Art Ross and a couple of Rocket Richard Trophies. Thornton’s won a Hart and Chara’s won a Norris. They’ve proven over time that they are elite players.

Everyone assumes that Doughty will be an elite NHLer for years to come—but he hasn’t proven it over time. Yet.

Eventually this story will come to an end with Doughty signing with the Kings. He’s a restricted free agent and the Kings desperately need him if they want to get to where they want to go this season. The sooner the deal is done—the better for all parties involved. But make no mistake: the specifics of the deal will have ramifications for the next 10-15 years.

If the Kings can find a way to lock him up to an extended contract, they’ll have their young core securely in place for the foreseeable future. If he signs a two or three year contract, the Kings will be able to negotiate with the young defender as he would set up for the big payday that would dictate the rest of his career.

But if Doughty signs a five-year contact, just about every GM in the league will start putting their pennies in their piggy bank for a spending spree in 2016. A 27-year-old, unrestricted free agent elite defenseman? It would make the Brad Richards sweepstakes look like child’s play.

LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

Kris Letang Penguins
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

“I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

“He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

“I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

“First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

“The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

“It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.