Holdout: One that withholds agreement or consent upon which progress is contingent.
The Kings have had a fantastically productive offseason. They added the second line center that they’ve always needed. They added the left wing sniper they’ve needed since Luc Robitaille left. They added more veteran leadership to provide depth, and hopefully help the Kings navigate their way through a deep playoff run. They have one of the elite, young defens… wait, nevermind.
Say hello to Los Angeles’ worst nightmare.
One of the very few players the Kings have no replacement for isn’t going to be LA when the team opens training camp early Friday morning. In fact, earlier this week, members of the Kings were already participating in informal practices as training camp approached. Mike Richards was making cross-crease passes to Simon Gagne. Ethan Moreau was on the ice forming new bonds with new teammates. Anze Kopitar was starting pick-up games and showing no negative effects of his season-ending ankle injury. There’s only one who’s missing.
This isn’t exactly how the team hoped to start one of the most captivating seasons in franchise history.
As LA Times columnist Helene Elliott explains, the toughest part of the negotiations is the lack of a comparable contract. For that matter, there’s a lack of comparable player:
“Doughty’s value is difficult to pin down. He has shown he’s a singular talent, with a second-year performance in which he earned an Olympic gold medal, and was a finalist for the Norris trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman. But he reported to camp in less than optimal shape a year ago, suffered a concussion early in the season and needed a while to regain his timing. Defensemen with his skills and skating ability are rare, but the Kings have to factor in how he fits in their salary scale.
They also have to project what might happen if he remains unsigned and how it would affect the team in the locker room and on the ice. Doughty is a vital presence in the room besides being a dynamic player, and it wouldn’t be easy for the Kings to replace him.”
Here’s a refresher for anyone who hasn’t been following the contract negotiations: the only concrete offer that has been reported was a 9-year contract worth $6.8 million per season extended by the Los Angeles Kings. It was a deal that was not accepted by the Doughty’s camp.
The importance of the $6.8 million cap hit can’t be overstated—it’s the same average salary attached to Anze Kopitar’s 7-year deal that he signed in 2009. The Kings have built their salary structure with Kopitar as the highest paid player on the team; something the Doughty camp is challenging. Then again, people around the organization will debate whether Kopitar or Doughty is more important to the team. Hence the desire for an identical average salary.
Factoring in potential, the increased salary cap, and the climate for defenseman contracts, it’s understandable that Doughty is looking for a higher salary. Like Elliott illustrates, there is no comparable player around the league today. Shea Weber is working on his third contract, Duncan Keith signed a 13-year contract, and Zach Bogosian isn’t in Doughty’s league. There is no map to follow here.
Another important factor within the context of the negotiations is that Doughty is seemingly unwilling to part with his unrestricted contract years. He’s a restricted free agent for the next four seasons—anything beyond that would prolong the time before he’s eligible to hit the open market. It’s understandable that the Kings want to sign him for a longer-term deal (in the 7-9 year range) to eat up as many of the unrestricted years as possible. Yet from Doughty’s point of view, it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to go past five seasons.
For now, we’ll sit and wait for someone to blink.