EL SEGUNDO -- As the absence of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty stretched into the fourth day of training camp Tuesday, both sides kept their heels firmly entrenched when it came to budging on details of a new contract.
Doughty did make an appearance on CTV Television Network in Canada a day earlier, wearing Kings gear as he practiced with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. He told a reporter that the hold up with the Kings is not related to money, and he wished he could talk more about what’s going on behind the scenes in the negotiations, but has been advised not to speak.
That message was confusing to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who said he made his best monetary offer back in June, an annual salary of $6.8 million, which would equal that earned by Anze Kopitar, the team leader in scoring the last four years.
The only other major condition that could be in dispute is the length of the contract. The Kings would like to sign Doughty for no less than seven years, but Doughty’s agent is reportedly seeking a term of no more than five.
Doughty, with three years' experience in the NHL, will be an unrestricted free agent in four years, opening the doors for a bidding war from outside clubs. Lombardi said he wants to lock up Doughty for a few of those unrestricted free-agent years, especially since the Kings are climbing on a limb by signing a 21-year-old to one of the richest contracts in the NHL.
Signing Doughty for five years would put him on the market the same summer as Kopitar, which is a delicate situation for any GM. Lombardi said he feels he’s investing considerable money in a player who has had just one great season, in 2009-10, when Doughty was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. By investing in potential, Lombardi wants to make sure Doughty will be with the Kings into the prime of his career.
Even signing a six-year deal is apparently not enough of a commitment on Doughty's end, Lombardi said Tuesday.
“If I’m married to him, I might as well be married to him,” Lombardi said.