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Hradek: Kings GM confident about Doughty deal

If you're a Los Angeles Kings fan worried about the slow-moving contract negotiations between dynamic young defenseman Drew Doughty and the team, GM Dean Lombardi has a message for you.

 

"This isn't a standoff like we've been seeing in Washington," Lombardi said, joking about the current federal government gridlock as a way to find perspective for his efforts to re-sign Doughty. "I'm fairly confident that we'll be able to get this done."

 

The Kings boss and Doughty's representatives (Don Meehan and Mark Guy of Newport Sports Management) have been in communication during the past few days in an effort to move the conversation toward a resolution.

 

"We've been talking," Lombardi said. "We’re trying to hammer it out, but I don't think I really have a handle on it yet."

 

Part of the problem for Lombardi is the lack of contracts for players that are comparables for the 21-year-old Doughty, who became a regular on the Kings' blue line just months after being selected with the No. 2 pick of the 2008 Entry Draft.

 

Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos, who was taken with the first pick in that same 2008 draft, recently signed his second contract, a five-year deal worth $37.5 million (an annual cap hit of $7.5 million). Stamkos' value -- as an elite forward coming out of his entry-level contract -- had been somewhat defined by previous deals signed by Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well as those inked by Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

 

There aren't many comparables to Doughty among young defensemen.

In recent seasons, Dion Phaneuf's six-year, $39 million contract ($6.5 million cap hit) -- not Shea Weber's on-going discussions for a new deal in Nashville -- might be the most logical target point. Phaneuf's big deal was his second contract; Weber is working on his third agreement.

When you compare the stats from their first three seasons, Phaneuf had compiled better offensive numbers than Doughty brings to the table now. In 243 regular-season games, Phaneuf had 54 goals, 105 assists, 159 points and a plus-27 rating. By contrast, in his first 239 regular-season games, Doughty has 33 goals, 93 assists, 126 points and a plus-16 rating.

 

The numbers don't tell the whole story, though.

 

Doughty already is viewed as an elite puck-mover who, at age 20, played a significant role on Canada's gold medal-winning Olympic team in 2010. That makes him quite unique, particularly in a League that seems to be getting faster with every shift.

 

While a rugged defender with a monster shot from the point, Phaneuf doesn't possess the same skating and puck skill as Doughty, who also comes out of his first contract nearly two years younger than the ex-Flame/current Leafs captain came out of his initial deal. And Phaneuf didn't get an invite to the Olympic party.

 

On July 12, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Kings were offering their franchise defenseman "up to nine years at more than $6.5 million per season." Since then, no one from either side has refuted that report.

 

The potential term cited in the report particularly is significant because, under current CBA rules (the current agreement expires Sept. 15, 2012), Doughty would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after four more seasons. Normally, marquee players command a premium for giving up "unrestricted" years.

On his watch, Lombardi was able to structure deals with top center Anze Kopitar and defenseman Jack Johnson that extended into those important seasons. Apparently, he's trying to do the same with Doughty.

 

On the flip side, the Doughty camp might prefer a shorter-term contract, giving him an opportunity to test the free market when eligible. In that case, the Kings likely are looking at a lesser annual dollar amount. That back-and-forth likely is where the deal is stalemated for the time being.

 

Eventually, these two sides will come together on some sort of new agreement. As Lombardi noted, he's in Los Angeles, not D.C. In Hollywood, at least, deals still get done.