“I always wanted to be an L.A. King and I want to stay an L.A. King.” Those exact words were uttered from Drew Doughty’s mouth in a recent interview with NHL.com following his team’s early 2018 NHL playoff exit.
The encoded message was distributed through various mainstream and social media channels and decoded by Los Angeles Kings fans as music to their ears. Their feedback will assuredly be filled with both joy and relief should Doughty, in fact, decide to put pen to paper and forever remain a King.
Drew Doughty’s Ungodly Resumé
Where to begin? Two-time Stanley Cup champion, four-time NHL All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup of Hockey and World Junior Hockey Championship gold medalist, Norris Trophy winner and now looking to add yet another Norris to his Hall-of-Fame resumé:
THIS YEAR’S BEST BLUE LINERS: #NHL announces #Lightning‘ Victor Hedman, #LAKings‘ Drew Doughty and #Preds‘ P.K. Subban as the 2017-18 Norris Trophy finalists. MORE: https://t.co/vF7yOlgag7 pic.twitter.com/I0F2U3SZNO
— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) April 19, 2018
Doughty, 28, is very much in his prime and, based on perpetual production, still has an upward trajectory. This is scary for future opponents. He enjoyed the best statistical season of his storied 10-year NHL career in 2017-18, where he, yet again, played a full 82 regular season games and notched a career-high 60 points coupled with a staggering plus-23 rating.
The Kings defender signed an eight-year, $56 million contract with the Kings in advance of the 2011-12 season. Although the deal is not set to expire until the end of the 2018-19 season, general manager Rob Blake has the ability to negotiate a new contract with Doughty and his representatives as early as July 1.
In a recent interview with L.A. Kings Insider, Blake expressed the prudence of the matter, “John (Stevens) and Drew and I had a pretty good understanding down the stretch and in the playoffs where our focus needed to be, and that shifts to priority number one, to get Drew signed.”
Should this come to fruition, the Kings should expect to pay the prettiest of pennies for the all-world defender.
Bank will be Broken
Doughty certainly is mindful of his worth and is not in the business of succumbing to the “hometown discount” strategy. As it currently stands, the mobile rearguard has an annual cap hit of $7 million, which ranks him as the ninth-highest paid defender in the NHL. Suffice it to say, Doughty may very well be the best defenseman in the world and will need to be compensated as such.
Nashville Predators defender, P.K. Subban is currently the NHL’s highest-paid defender with an average cap hit of $9 million. Although that does seem like a healthy figure, his eight-year, $72 million deal was signed back in 2014. The salary cap has since jumped from $69 million in 2014 to $75 million in this recent season and, is expected to go up by at least $3 million for next year. Subban’s contract, with today’s market conditions factored in, is a suitable starting point for discussions.
Yes, Anze Kopitar is a forward, however, it is indisputable that he and Doughty have comparable impact and value to the Kings. Much like Doughty, Kopitar continues to get better with age. He enjoyed a renaissance this past season and may very well take home some additional hardware at this summer’s NHL awards. His consistent production for the silver and black culminated in an eight-year, $80 million contract extension in January of 2016. The Doughty contract could very well mirror that kind of coin.
The only other defender in the NHL that could rival the hefty asking price that Doughty warrants is Ottawa Senators superstar Erik Karlsson. Like Doughty, Karlsson will be entering free agency following the 2018-19 season and can begin extension talks with the Sens this summer. However, the likelihood that he remains with his incumbent club is very much an unknown. Regardless, he and Doughty will assuredly be using one another as benchmarks when the time comes to negotiate.
Other Realistic Suitors
While all 30 other NHL teams would likely do nefarious things to coerce Doughty to sign long-term with their club, there is likely only one that might cause him to flee the west coast. He has embraced all of the fantastic things associated with living in Los Angeles and would need to be blown away to rid himself of his current utopian situation.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The inevitable connection. Doughty grew up in nearby London, Ontario and still owns a home in the area. The Maple Leafs are currently infested with young stars such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, and could use a franchise defenseman to propel them into another stratosphere. With that in mind, during the NHL’s All-Star Game in February, Doughty was recruited by Matthews to unite forces and come to The Six next summer.
Although Doughty is a mega-superstar with the Kings, he does still retain some semblance of privacy in Los Angeles. Conversely, if he were to move to Toronto, widely regarded as the mecca of hockey, the microscope lens would be exponentially magnified. Suffice it to say, Doughty is well aware of the potential impact if he were to become a Leaf:
Unfinished Business in L.A.
Doughty being taken by the Kings with the second overall selection of the 2008 NHL draft was serendipitous for both sides. Although he was a New Jersey Devils fan growing up (weird, right?), his favorite player was Kings legend, Wayne Gretzky. His boyish appeal, killer flow and overall easy going nature make him a perfect fit for California. He has been instrumental in putting the Kings back on the NHL map and is confident that they will stay there.
Believes in Blake
When probed by L.A. Kings Insider about what the team’s direction might be, Doughty spoke highly of Blake and the Kings’ brain trust:
“They want to transform this team into their winning ways again. Whether or not they do a lot in the off-season, I don’t know, but like I said before, we have these young guys coming up that I think are going to make a difference, and I think that shows me how much potential we have in the future, and I’m good with it and I’m happy to hopefully re-sign here.”
Gunning for Blake
Not only does Doughty believe in Blake, he is narrowing in on overthrowing the Hall-of-Famer as the franchise’s best defender. Sure, this is a subjective determination, but Doughty wants to start his case by surpassing Blake’s goals record, and he’s not far off.
In early February, Doughty registered the 100th goal of his career, and leapfrogged Steve Duchesne for second on the team’s all-time list for defensemen. “It was a pretty big milestone,” Doughty told the Daily News. “Obviously, it’s something I guess I’ve never really thought of before until it kind of came up. It was never one of my goals to score 100 goals in the league; I never really thought of that.”
Doughty currently has 102 goals and next in line is Blake’s total of 161. Let’s hope that he makes a mockery of the record and forever remains a King.