First, a little history.
Anze Kopitar: Contract through 2015-2016. $6.8 million dollar cap hit.
Justin Williams: Contract through 2014-2015. $3.6 million dollar cap hit.
Jack Johnson: Contract through 2017-2018. $4.35 million dollar cap hit.
Matt Greene: Contract through 2013-2014. $2.95 million dollar cap hit.
Even the veterans, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Simone Gagne have a dollar amount and term.
What do all of these contracts have in common? A missing piece. A lack of a no-trade or no-movement clause. With the exception of Michal Handzus (the only one that immediately comes to mind), Dean Lombardi does not hand them out (and certainly not to the youth) although he has inherited a couple, specifically the home sick Ryan Smyth and Mike Richards being the two most topical and relevant.
You already know a no-trade or no-movement clause only benefits the player. Depending on its specific provisions, the player receives complete to partial veto power while the general manager loses options and flexibility. Other than a showing of appreciation to the player, some intangible gesture to the fan base or perhaps the ability to negotiate a lower salary in exchange for a no-trade / no-movement, no GM in their fiscally responsible right mind favors these. In this salary cap era, especially with the looming CBA, flexibility and options are nearly as important as dollars and length.
That brings us to our Doughty one.
What did he say before being drafted by the LA Kings? He wanted to be a Los Angeles King. Now, some have said that he left out the “highest-paid” adjective before the team name in the preceding sentence and whether that is true or not, I don’t know for certain. I do know, on the surface, Drew hasn’t wavered from his spoken desire to remain a Los Angeles King.
He wants to play here.
He wants to stay here.
That brings us to the contract.
Dollars matter. So does length. However, our source has told us Dean Lombardi has had Drew Doughty’s contract offer for a while now and while the latter two items may need adjusting, we understand neither are in the realm of a deal killer (read: terribly outrageous). The main sticking point may be the no-movement or no-trade clause Drew has allegedly inserted therein (you can probably guess it is a NMC). Absent this flexibility killer clause, this deal may have been done (as it becomes a more straightforward dollars and length discussion) when we told you but, alas, this is why Lombardi and Drew’s people at Newport Sports Management, Don Meehan and Mark Guy (experienced agents though different personalities) get paid the big bucks.
Will this drag out longer? Nobody can answer that, not even the parties, for certain but we understand Dean Lombardi may be working on an alternate option, which may give Drew Doughty security while still maintaining for Lombardi what he may consider a necessary level of pliancy. The proverbial Devil will be in the details. We have also learned that if the alleged NMC or no-trade is watered down too much or removed all together, then Doughty and his agents may want more…yes, the dollars and length kind of “more.” All is fair in love and contract negotiations.
If this is in fact the hold-up, do you believe Drew is being unreasonable? After only three seasons, a heart throbbing sophomore showing but a lesser junior, you could argue both sides of this and not be wrong. He wants money, term & security based on talent, potential and a short history. Players like Drew Doughty don’t grow on trees, as the old cliché goes but that cliché intersects with a GM like Dean Lombardi who, historically, does not pay big bucks, long-term while killing his options at the same time without a lot more history and less speculative potential.
Is Dean Lombardi playing unnecessary hardball? Once again, you could fairly argue both sides. Dean may tell you that Drew hasn’t proven enough yet and the first half of his third season indicates his lack of maturity and being emotionally unready for the big pay-day. Imagine being in Dean’s shoes and concerned that you could pay this “kid” $6 to $7 million dollars per season, long-term and not be able to do what you want with him if his play falls off after the 2014-2105 season (as our most excellent reader, alias Sydor25, pointed out, the NMC or no trade would not kick in until after Drew becomes a UFA), he doesn’t commit to his fitness and doesn’t get close to reaching the “potential” for which he was and is paid. It’s a fair concern but one that is the reality of the NHL landscape. Let’s not forget this gem from Dean in September of last year at the LA Kings Hockey Fest, in response to my question to him about the CBA’s impact on his decision-making process:
You give anybody too much to chew, that person is not going to be the same in continuing to drive in being the best that he can be. And you put this system in place like they did with the NBA, and then you wonder why the best talents somehow get their way with it. Somehow they’re not focused anymore. Well who’s fault is that? How many of you would be focused in your line of work if all of a sudden at 22 years old you’ve got it all? And again, I had no problem with Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy getting their 10 million dollars; Those guys had 10 years in the league, they had proven they were winners, they had proven they were leaders, and god bless ‘em. But for some reason, we went out and said let’s make free agency 25, and then you have a team like Phoenix that’s one of the oldest teams in the league and has one of the lesser payrolls — it’s completely inverted. So, maybe I’m talking a little for selfish reasons too, though. But I think the product when you have players who have stayed together, come up the right way, they perform better, you get a better team, you can get a better product. The other thing for our game, that I think is critical and not only because it is what we believe in building a team, and keeping young athletes together so they not only become the best they can be, but they become teammates and they like each other and stay together for years.
So, will Drew Doughty get signed?
Dean Lombardi has the leverage right now and he will continue to have it throughout the negotiations. Drew will not want to enter the season without a contract. That gives him zero security. Imagine the unthinkable happens on the ice and he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this coming season without a contract. Don’t imagine it, but know that it is a fundamental concern (if not fear) for any player, especially a very young one who has not yet achieved financial security. The fact his favorite actress is Jessica Alba and, well, this is Hollywood may also play a part…but lesser I am sure.
At the same time, Lombardi realizes that he has the nucleus of one of the best defenses in the NHL and there is no way he is going to lose its most talented piece. Add to that his outspoken position on players holding out, not getting to their training and the adverse results that accompany same (to be sure, more than a “hint”), and you bet Lombardi is motivated to get this done. He didn’t just trade for Mike Richards, sign Simone Gagne and attempt to turn this team into a contender so he can turn around and bring uncertainty to its back-end.
Perhaps Mark Guy will bridge some of the gap when, sometimes, two personalities like Don Meehan and Dean Lombardi collide. I also look at two intelligent sides who should realize negotiations that go too far and too long can cause more harm than good to everyone involved and may build resentment and other negative perceptions you cannot measure in just dollars and cents. What other negatives? Oh, let’s say, hypothetically of course, a player getting upset, fingers pointing at agents, one side accusing the other of stalling, deadlines being set (did someone say deadlines?), resentment if said deadlines are missed, stuff happens. Also, don’t downplay the fact Drew’s agents also have Steven Stamkos to worry about and that probably is occupying a lot of their time. I still maintain those who claim there is a zero chance of an offer sheet to Stamkos are being a bit short-sighted. Regarding Stamkos, I believe there are a couple of teams in their vulture position right now. But, I digress…
Relax about Drew Doughty. It will happen. Leave it to the big boys to determine the fate of our very young, 21-year-old budding superstar. Be excited that your LA Kings will enter the season better than the last with skill and depth at the forward positions, a defensive mix of youth and veterans the envy of nearly every other NHL team, one Jonathan Quick ready for prime time and a Jonathan Bernier who is one of the most raw talented young goaltenders I have seen in decades. Fret not about Drew’s contract. He won’t get everything he wants. Neither will Lombardi. Compromise will prevail and you will be the beneficiary of watching this team contend for the Stanley Cup. GO KINGS!