Daunting Drew Doughty decision looms for Kings

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This post is part of Kings Day on PHT…

Out of context, re-signing Drew Doughty is as close to a no-brainer as it gets in the NHL.

A resounding resume

The Norris Trophy winner and elite defenseman has been a rock for the Los Angeles Kings, and his significance might only become more pronounced as the franchise deals with big changes (and losses on the blueline) in 2017-18.

Now, $7 million is undoubtedly a lot of money, but Doughty would command a (flinches) king’s ransom on the open market. So, when that cap hit expires in 2018-19, Doughty will get paid. It’s remarkable that, considering his robust resume of accomplishments, Doughty is now just 27 and will be 29 when his current deal expires.

Fixer upper

The question the Kings face isn’t really about re-signing Doughty.

Instead, it’s the difficult riddle of trying to squeeze out more runs with this current core or giving a rebuild a bold shot in the arm by – wait for it – trading Doughty sometime during the next season or two.

Los Angeles could conceivably gain a lot in trading Doughty, especially if GM Rob Blake is creative. In making such a courageous move, the Kings could enjoy some combination of:

  1. Salary cap relief, in convincing a trade partner to eat ugly deals in Dustin Brown ($5.875M through 2021-22) and/or Marian Gaborik ($4.875M through 2020-21) as part of a Doughty deal.
  2. Gain precious draft assets and/or prospects. Much like other contenders, the Kings’ farm system took some hits as they angled to contend with this current group. It was generally worth it, but now Blake & Co. need to pick up the pieces.
  3. Trading for roster players who are young and cheap.

Why they must ponder the seemingly unthinkable

Let’s not forget just how old this team looks. By the end of Doughty’s contract, Brown and Jeff Carter will both be 34. Anze Kopitar, who just turned 30, will be 32. Jake Muzzin will be 30 and will only have one year remaining on his bargain $4M deal. Alec Martinez will be 32. Jonathan Quick will be 33. Gaborik will be 37 and, barring a buyout or move, will still be on the books for two more seasons.

We’ve already seen Kopitar struggle, and while Carter’s been resoundingly productive at a great rate, Father Time seems to punish snipers as much as anyone.

Even Doughty would be close to 30 by then.

It’s unclear how many of these Kings deals are easy to move, and to some, that might serve as a signal to just go for it and then suffer through a rebuild.

Still, you wonder how desirable it would be for Doughty to stay if Los Angeles really starts to slide, although it wouldn’t be surprising if he remained loyal to a squad he won two Stanley Cups with.

A matter of time

On the bright side, the Kings have a full season before they can even sign Doughty to a contract extension, so 2017-18 could serve as a helpful barometer for this situation. Even so, you never know when an optimal trade offer might come; a team could conceivably be willing to give up far more for Doughty if it means getting him for a season or more at such a valuable rate.

It’s all a lot to take in, and trading Doughty would almost certainly stand as a wildly unpopular move with Kings fans, even if the returns were solid and the logic is sound.

At minimum, it’s something management should think long and hard about. It could be one of the most fascinating situations to watch, especially if you’re the type of hockey fan who pines for rare big trades after seeing that mammoth Kyrie Irving – Isiah Thomas trade in the NBA.