While Ottawa Senators captain and star defenseman Erik Karlsson's contract talks have gathered a lot of attention, the same couldn't be said of Los Angeles Kings top defender Drew Doughty... Until now. Given the Kings’ swift playoff elimination by the surprising Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the series, his name is now expected to come up more often in this summer’s trade chatter.
The 28-year-old blue liner is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, and while the Kings can open contract extension talks on July 1, there is a belief that they could instead choose to change the core of their team and move Doughty. In his latest column, Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre believes Doughty’s future is at the heart of the Kings’ offseason challenges, as he noticed important voids to fill on the roster in Los Angeles during their first-round series. The Kings were the bigger, slower team at the hand of the the smaller, faster Golden Knights, and therefore MacIntyre feels they must change to adapt to the NHL’s changing game.
"Since their last Stanley Cup, the Kings are 1-8 in playoff games and have failed to make the tournament in two out of four seasons. Their expensive roster is aging and, compared to the best teams in the Western Conference, their top players are getting slower by the year," adds MacIntyre.
The Sportsnet reporter also pointed out how Doughty raised eyebrows earlier this season by saying he’d seek to maximize his market value, even suggesting he’d swap contact numbers Karlsson to make sure they both get top money as he believes they deserve “quite a bit more” than the $9 million annually earned by Nashville’s P.K. Subban. However limited salary-cap room could affect the Kings' efforts to boost their offense during the summer.
“If you’re the Kings and in transition, are you going to pay Doughty, say, $100 million for eight more seasons? Or are you going to speed the transformation of your roster by getting a bundle of assets in return for the best defenceman in the game?”
According to Cap Friendly, the Kings have over $32 million invested in Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Dion Phaneuf. If the Kings agree that Doughty is worth more than the aforementioned $9 million and offer him over $10-million annually on an eight-year deal, it will be quiet a lot for L.A. to take on their payroll for the coming years...
Doughty’s status is expected to catch the attention of rival clubs with salary-cap space seeking a blue line stud. Let's not forget that the Toronto Maple Leafs said earlier this year they need to add a star defender to their roster...