Last season for the Kings, it was Ilya Kovalchuk. This year’s off-season dilemma? Re-signing Drew Doughty. Put aside trying to land Brad Richards via free agency, Dean Lombardi has been trying to get a new deal in place for the defenseman before training camp. The plan was to have Drew signed by July 1st, but here we are, the start of training camp and no new contract. So what’s the hold up? The past few days have seen a lot of fans blaming Doughty and calling him a “diva” for turning down a long-term deal worth what is believed to be an average of $6.8 million. We don’t know the specifics of what the Kings offered, but it has been reported that Doughty’s camp is asking $7 million. Lombardi has publicly stated that he thinks what he offered is fair and wouldn’t be offering more. The Kings have no issues with cap space, so why can’t Lombardi give Doughty what he is asking? The easy answer would be that he is spending wisely. We have seen this team go through the rebuilding process since Lombardi was hired on as General Manager in 2006. He is taking every step to make sure the Kings are going to be successful for years to come. He is taking extra care to be sure he can have all the right pieces in place to make that vision become reality. Drew Doughty is a valuable player. With the direction the team has been headed the past few seasons, getting a contract in place is a priority.
So, is Doughty the diva here, or is it his agent, Don Meehan? We can’t know for sure what goes on behind closed doors. It’s easy to forget that Doughty is only 21 years old. He’s never been in this kind of situation and the last few months of contract talks have most likely been stressful. While his agent can’t have total control, being so young and inexperienced in the situation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Doughty putting his trust in Meehan through this. It is also known that Lombardi has a past with Don Meehan. In 2002 when Lombardi needed to sign a pair of players in San Jose, he had the same type of situation. Both players were represented by Meehan. In an interview after Hockey Fest, Lombardi stated that he didn’t believe Meehan was holding 2002 over his head, but people hold grudges and one can never be too certain.
Should Doughty get $7 million a year? No. I don’t think he should get more than the Kings top scorer, Anze Kopitar. In a couple of years, I would reconsider. That isn’t to say Doughty wasn’t a key player. At the young age of 21, Doughty already has a Norris Trophy finalist season and an Olympic Gold medal under his belt, but he still has a lot to learn before earning a big payday like that. Earlier today, Kings defenseman Jack Johnson said in an interview that he jokingly told Doughty that he would do his contract for free. Last season, Johnson represented himself and negotiated his own seven-year deal worth $30.5 million. For the sake of getting to training camp and back around the team, I would take Johnson’s offer if I were Drew. Not knowing how long it will be until an agreement is reached, the one positive thing to look at in this situation right now is at training camp. Other young defensemen in the system are getting a look in his absence. For now, Kings fans are hoping that this debacle comes to an end, preferably before training camp ends. It would be nice to see him with the team before the season started.