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.

Backstrom expected to return for Capitals vs. Blue Jackets

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Nicklas Backstrom had a smile on his face and no concerns about missing another game.

“I’m good to go,” Backstrom said. “It’s like that guy in `Mighty Ducks.’ I woke up, no pain.”

Backstrom was referring to the fictional Adam Banks character who returned from a wrist injury in time for a championship game. The Washington Capitals are getting the real standout Swedish center back while they’re on a roll.

The Capitals are expected to have Backstrom back Monday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. He missed the past eight games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, and Washington went 6-1-1 in that time.

With Backstrom ready to go, the Capitals are set to have their full, healthy lineup on the ice for the first time this season. Despite injuries, they lead the NHL with 22 wins and 49 points through 31 games.

“As of right now, we are playing good hockey and we are getting the points we needed,” Backstrom said Sunday. “It is still early in the season, so you have to keep build, build and build. We are a team that is building for upcoming things.”

Upcoming are matchups against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, a popular preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup. But Backstrom is of course referring to the playoffs, where the Capitals are looking to bounce back from last season’s first-round exit and make another championship run like they did in 2018.

There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that, especially given their success more than a quarter of the way through the season without the full complement of healthy bodies.

“That shows the depth that we have all the way through our lineup,” coach Todd Reirden said. “That’s been a good problem to have, and it’s allowed us to see some other players get opportunities and showcase some of the abilities they have.”

Backstrom’s return puts Washington’s lineup back in regular order. He’ll take his regular place between Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson, allowing Reirden to keep the hot second line of Jakub Vrana, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie together.

Braden Holtby is expected to start in goal against Columbus.

The Buzzer: Stars Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.

His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.

Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.

Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.

As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.

There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.

Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)

Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.

Highlight of the Night

Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:

Star Wars Storm Surge

Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.

Factoids

  • The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
  • NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

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It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

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The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.