Great -- Doughty fears (appear?) justified (...or else what Rudy said)

Drew Doughty looks to become highest paid King | ProHockeyTalk
[...] While the organization was giving its best sales pitch to the most sought after unrestricted free agent on the market, their best restricted free agent made his intentions clear. A report as surfaced on Friday that Drew Doughty would like to be the highest paid player on the team next season. This is on a team with Anze Kopitar making $6.8 million per season. Clearly, neither Drew Doughty, nor his agent Don Meehan believes the second contract should "bridge" the player to their veteran years. [...] This season Doughty came to camp in poor shape. He had an extremely slow start to the season due in large part to his poor conditioning; then to make matters worse he suffered a concussion early in the season. Once he rounded into shape and shook off the effects of the concussion, he showed signs in the second half of the player that has all the potential in the world. [...] Then again, a guy who is asking for this kind of money should lead his team in most major categories. Even though he was widely regarded as the Kings best blueliner last season, he didn’t even lead the defensive corps in scoring. The Kings organization wants Doughty to show a higher level of commitment before they give him a superstar contact offer. There were thoughts that he’d be offered a short-term deal similar to Jack Johnson’s previous contract to prove himself to the organization. Once he proved his dedication, the Kings would reward him with a long-term deal like they did with Johnson. Dean Lombardi has repeatedly tried to build Los Angeles by paying players on what they’ve accomplished—not their potential. When they perform on the ice, then they are compensated for their accomplishments. With these desires, it looks like Doughty just wants to skip over the "proving" portion of his career and jump straight to the payday. Two seasons ago he looked like he was on his way; but it’s hard to give a lucrative multi-year deal to a player who took a noticeable step back in his third year. [...] It’s doubtful that another team would tender an offer sheet for Doughty, but if they did it could certainly back the Kings into a corner [...].

Eleven days ago, I said this:

Quisp Notes: Lombardi on Doughty contract [UPDATED with tinfoil hat Smyth rumor connection!] - Jewels From The Crown

We [Lombardi] know the ballpark of the number he's looking for, the term he's looking for, who he thinks the comparables are. We know that he either wants a contract to take him to UFA status, or he doesn't mind falling short of that. We know if he is wiling to get paid around what Jack Johnson got, and, if not, how much more than JJ money it's going to take. Also, we know whether or not he thinks he deserves to be paid as much as Anze Kopitar.

He does.

Based on Helene Elliott's characterization of those meetings, that Lombardi was "blistered" by Meehan, and that there were a series of offers, not just one "serious" offer, I think it's reasonable to assume Meehan is looking for many more dollars than Lombardi can afford.

[...] I do find the phrase "if this is going to get done" a little troubling. [...] I think it's reasonable at least to consider the possibility that Lombardi is bringing up the whole conditioning thing -- and the need for Doughty to get to work early and not waste his summer negotiating this contract and put himself at a disadvantage next season -- as a veiled threat.

I said consider the possibility. Don't freak out.  [UPDATE: okay, maybe a little]

It's not insane to interpret the story so far as "look what happened to Patrick O'Sullivan. He got all distracted and played badly and got traded. He should have been working out all summer instead." It might be a little alarmist to make that interpretation, but I don't think it's entirely disconnected from reality.

Reports today (from Helene Elliott via Twitter) suggest that the current Richards offer from Lombardi is around $7MM cap hit. Let's assume that's the case. If Richards were to sign at that rate, the Kings would have -- per my previous post on the Kings cap outlook -- another $5.4MM to give to Doughty, which is obviously not nearly what Doughty is looking for. Of course, they could simply eat into the summer 10% allowance and give Doughty (for example) $7,000,000.01 (keeping in mind that he wants to be the highest paid King), but then they would have a couple million of salary to dump over the summer, with everyone on the planet knowing Lombardi must deal (not a great position to be in). It also occurs to me that Doughty might be waiting to sign until after Richards goes wherever, just so he can accurately gauge this whole "highest paid King" thing.

p.s. I think the desire to be the highest paid player is misguided and disappointing. This is, after all, the same thing that drove the idiot Kovalchuk to insist on $10MM a year (in order to top his friend Alex Ovechkin). And Kovalchuk at least had scored five million goals. Probably Meehan would argue that Doughty has won four times the playoff games that Kovalchuk has, and that's worth something. Unfortunately, Lombardi (contrary to what Matt says in the article above) paid Kopitar for his potential, not for his past performance, and the fact is he still hasn't reached that potential. All the talk about Kopitar the Kings best defensive forward underlines this. My bottom line is that, while it may be sexy to get the big contract and get to say he's the highest paid whatever, the fact that he appears to expect this while not having actually done anything (yet) to deserve it tells me he's possibly been reading his press clippings when he should be considering what effect his (so far undeserved, if true) salary demands would have on the rest of the team.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If the Kings were to sign Richards at a cap hit of $7MM, and Doughty at a cap hit of $7MM-and-one-cent, they would need to dump at least one expensive roster player to make room. The candidates:

None of these options is desirable. Stoll could be dealt but that would leave us with Andrei Loktionov and either Brad Richardson or Trevor Lewis centering the bottom six, and that's possibly a little light on experience. Loktionov and Lewis could do this in 2012, but I'm not sure about 2011. Penner, I'm sure a lot of people would like to dump him on Florida or someone, but swapping him out for Brad Richards still leaves us with a hole at LW, and I don't know if Richards and Parse is better than Penner and Parse. Brown could go (and might even want to go if Doughty ends up getting more than double Brown's salary -- that's some reward for Brownie buying Lombardi's team-building speech), but now that Wayne Simmonds is gone, we would have a hole on the right side until Tyler Toffoli is ready, and I don't think that's going to be this year (as much as I would like it to be). Greene, like Stoll, is needed until the young'uns -- Jake Muzzin is the closest -- are ready. I guess if I had to pick, I would dump Greene because (a) he has value and (b) he's slow, and the idea of getting rid of Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Greene (the four slowest Kings) in one off-season, and replacing them with Mike Richards, Brad Richards, Jarret Stoll (replacing Handzus at C3), Trevor Lewis, maybe Loktionov, and Muzzin (or better yet, Viatcheslav Voynov -- one of the fastest skaters on the planet) is enough to make me giggle with dreams of world domination.

But, again, I get ahead of myself.

Because we also need to know that, if we sign Richards, we can still afford to match an offer sheet for Doughty. Obviously, we can match something in the $7-9MM range; we would just have to get rid of two of Stoll, Penner, Greene and Brown, instead of just one. That would be painful, but doable. The question is, if we sign Richards, does that leave us vulnerable to an offer sheet that's so insane we couldn't match it because doing so would exceed even the summer 110% cap ceiling?

The Kings' summer cap room is $19.9MM. Subtract $7MM for Richards, and $1MM for breathing room with the other qualifying offers (see the above-linked cap post for an explanation of that). That leaves $11.9MM. The max salary for next season is $12.8MM.

So, yes, the Kings could sign Richards and then be hit with a $12.8MM cap hit offer sheet for Doughty which they could not match without FIRST dumping salary on the order of about a million dollars (to get under the summer cap), and then subsequently dumping another $6-7MM (to get under the regular season cap).

Which would mean, really, pick three of Brown, Greene, Stoll and Penner.

Don't forget we have to replace those bodies with minimum wage employees from Manchester, and that adds a couple million to the cap hit. And, worse, having matched Doughty, we would be vulnerable to an offer sheet for Lewis or Martinez, which we might not be able to match. And we would likely not be able to afford all of Martinez, Lewis and Richardson anyway, since the numbers figured into the summer cap hit are the qualifying numbers, not the final contracts, and those guys are going to want raises. Not much, but every penny would count in this, the nightmare scenario.

And in that scenario, what would the team look like? I'll take a stab at it:

Parse - Kopitar - Williams

Richards - Richards - Brown

Clifford - Loktionov - Moller

Clune/Westgarth - Lewis - Richardson

Mitchell - Doughty

Scuderi - Johnson

Martinez - Muzzin

Quick - Bernier

Yeah, I don't know. I would be tempted to take the four first round picks and let Voynov, Thomas Hickey, Martinez and Nicolas Deslauriers duke it out in camp.