The Los Angeles Kings finally bowed to the inevitable on Thursday signing 21-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty to an eight year $56 million contract.
General Manager Dean Lombardi was said to have taken the position that he wouldn't sign the young defenseman for more than last year's leading scorer: 24 year old Anze Kopitar. That dream is dead and Drew Doughty now officially leads the LA King cap parade with a $7 million a year hit for the next eight years.
The Los Angeles Kings have now got nearly $62 million spent against the cap this season with a league mandated cap ceiling of $64.3 million. The Kings have pretty well run out of maneuvering room.
Doughty is a great young defenseman, one of the best in the NHL today. A comparable young talent, 26-year-old Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators was just awarded a one year contract in arbitration worth $7.5 million. Doughty currently sits as the third highest paid defenseman in the NHL behind Weber and Brian Campbell.
It is hard to justify that much money for that long for a player who has only been in the league for three years. He has had offensive seasons of 27, 59 and 40 points. His Kings have yet to get out of the first round of the playoffs. He tied for 24th in scoring among defenseman last year.
What LA has bought in Doughty is still largely the potential. He looked like an NHL defenseman the instant he joined the league from junior. He will just turn 21 this December 8.
His second season in the NHL saw him score 16 goals and 59 points both the third highest totals by a defenseman that year.
Doughty brings much more than offense to his team. He reminds me of hall of famer Brad Park more than almost any other player. Doughty is that complete talent at defense. He can move the puck, shoot the puck and pass the puck. He is a nasty hitter and almost impossible to get around.
Drew Doughty was a key member of Canada's team when they won the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2008. He was named the best defenseman of the tournament.
Doughty played for the Canadian national team at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver. At age 20, he didn't look out of place. He joined a group of other young Canadian defenseman who excelled at the games: Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Brent Seabrook.
After his second season in the NHL, fans were beginning to call the Kings Doughty's team. Well that's true now.
The Kings join 12 other NHL clubs that have at least $60 million dedicated to salary next year. Of those 12, they probably join the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and maybe even the Tampa Bay Lightning in having legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
None of these teams will be able to add talent easily this season. If they aren't good enough, there will be little their GM's can do to rectify the problem in mid season. Only one of these teams can win the Stanley Cup.
The LA Kings have Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Drew Doughty as the heart of their line-up. They are hoping for another great season from Jonathon Quick in nets. Jonathan Bernier may soon be ready to be the starter in LA.
Big Jack Johnson seems to have evolved into a half point a game offensive defenseman for the Kings.
The rest of the defense is veteran. Thirty-two-year-old Rob Scuderi's best days are probably behind him. Matt Greene is a solid defensive defenseman. Willie Mitchell is another hitter who has looked old injured and slow for a few years now.
It would be nice to see youngster Slava Voynov get a look with the big club.
They've added the often-injured Simon Gagne who last scored 20 goals in a season in 2008/09. They have big slow soft-handed Dustin Penner slotted in a top six spot. Hard nosed LA alum Dustin Brown will also be called on for first line minutes and 60 points or so of offense.
Justin Williams has suffered through some horrible injuries in the past. last year he finally played a 73 game season and put up 57 points and 22 goals. The Kings are hoping he can stay healthy this year.
The Kings don't really look like a Stanley Cup winning team at this moment. They need to have some playoff success to help justify the acquisition of Richards and the huge signing of Doughty. A team with Doughty on it can't help but be good. The LA Kings look to be good for a long time.
LA has mortgaged their future and spent up to the cap in order to win now. The team they have doesn't seem significantly better than the one that lost in the first round to San Jose last year.
At least they don't have to worry that another young talent is going to leave town any time soon.