The Fabulous Forum - L.A. Sports - latimes.com

Tim Leiweke [...] supports General Manager Dean Lombardi’s stance in negotiations with unsigned defenseman Drew Doughty and emphasized Lombardi’s offer of an average $6.8 million annually is based solely on allocating dollars to improve the team and maintaining a strong nucleus that will allow the Kings to compete for the Stanley Cup for years to come. [...] Leiweke [said the Kings] plan to spend up to the salary cap of $64.3 million. But they want room to upgrade their talent before the trading deadline and maneuver in case of injuries, and paying Doughty the $7 million-plus that he’s seeking would change the allocation and budget and have long-term implications."

Note the "plus".

"[...] we’re going to be a cap team. This is not a matter of the Kings or AEG saving money. [...]" Leiweke said. "This is a matter of allocation of dollars and the fight here is how do we ultimately respect Drew. And we respect the world out of Drew. I think the world of the kid. He is the cornerstone of the franchise long term and we’re not going to let him go anywhere. Dean’s 100% [correct] that a trade solution’s not in the cards."

"The difference of opinion here is that Drew may see this as disrespect, and it’s not at all.

Doughty believes the Kings are disrespecting him. By...? Okay, we'll unpack that one later.

"We have offered to make him the fourth-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL and equal the highest-paid King in our history. When I look at that, I think there either has to be a miscommunication or Drew’s a 21-year-old and probably hasn’t done what he may need to do here, which is stand up and take charge of the decision."

Where have I heard that before? Oh, right. I said that. So, now we have confirmation that either (1) the Kings believe Doughty is being controlled by his agent, or (2) they want him to think that everyone thinks he's being controlled by his agent.

[...] Doughty is believed to be seeking over $7 million per season.

Again, note the "over."

"[...] if our mistake is we offered it too quick, then Drew needs to take a step back and understand it’s not about a lack of negotiation. The fact is we offered it quickly because we didn’t want to negotiate."

I don't think he meant to say that, exactly. If I didn't essentially agree with Leiweke here, I would make fun of the fact that, if you didn't want to negotiate, then it is about a lack of negotiation, because there more or less hasn't been any...negotiation. Clearly what he's trying to say is, the Kings made a great first offer because they wanted to get it done in June. And Camp Doughty clearly mistook the end point for the starting point.

[...] If someone’s whispering in Drew’s ear that ownership is going to get impatient and blink, they’re wrong."

Clearly, Meehan has been telling Doughty for three months that the Kings will increase their offer when push comes to shove. I say "clearly" because, really, what else could he say?

The logical question becomes if the sides are "only" about $300,000 apart, should the Kings bend and increase their offer?

Wait. Where is this $300K figure coming from? Is this a typo? Did Leiweke say something about a $7.1MM demand from Camp Doughty? Is Helene just assuming that if the Doughty counter-offers start at $7MM and go up, the only other one couldn't be $7.05? I suppose that's a safe assumption (though it's kind of funny to imagine Meehan saying, "all right, we'll come down...$50,000!" And Lombardi could respond by saying, "and we'll give you five and a half years"). Still, that's the first time I've heard anyone mention a $300K gap.

"I think it’s the allocation issue and I’m not saying Dean doesn’t have the right to budge here. That’s Dean’s decision and I’ll support it," Leiweke said. "I don’t know if Dean’s going to do that because it gets back to the same problem. We don’t have that much money left in our cap right now and so when you factor in injuries and you factor in February moves at the trade deadline, we’re cutting it tight.

That's wiggle room. Unless Lombardi is actually planning to raise his offer (which would be reason for hope, right?), I would think this sentence from Leiweke would be enough to cause Meehan to stick to his position more resolutely (which would be bad, right?). No, no (NO!), I choose to see this as a good thing. Leiweke wouldn't mention wiggle room if Lombardi wasn't about to use it.

"More importantly, tell me which player we’re now starting to carve this $300,000 or $400,000 out of. [...] we’ve got some restricted and unrestricted free agents that we have to deal with in the next two years. So who is it on this team we go look at and say, ‘We just gave Drew your extra money, because $6.8 [million] wasn’t good enough'? That’s not good for team chemistry."

I would call this "well-played," provided that the Kings actually do add pieces in March to go right up to the tippy-top of the upper-limit. I also see that Leiweke is referencing $300-400K here, so that's likely where Helene is getting it. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Doughty's most reasonable offer is asking for $7.1-7.2MM.

"I support Dean on what he’s trying to do here. [...] It’s an allocation issue here and everyone, including most of the players I’ve run into in the last week, they get that we are desperate to try to keep enough resources to keep this team together long term."

That's two references to the opinions of Doughty's teammates and how they might not be in the pro-Doughty camp. I would so love to know which players (Leiweke said "most", not "all"), didn't toe the line. Also, aren't you picturing Leiweke talking to Kings players, all nodding eagerly and agreeing, and it's Thomas Hickey, Viatcheslav Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Davis Drewiske and Andrew Campbell?

"[...] Please, Drew, come back. We love you," Leiweke said. "Let’s not destroy this relationship or his reputation or our reputation over something like this."

Why does this remind me of that moment in Silence of the Lambs when they keep saying the hostage's name so the psycho will maybe start to think of her as human, instead of as an outfit? But I digress.

I am glad that Leiweke said this. Even though it's a business move, I appreciate it. It works on me. (PROVIDED IT'S BACKED UP WITH A NEW OFFER -- see below.)

"We need to get this done. He needs to get back in here. And we need to get him ready to go to Europe. He should not miss that trip. It would mean that we would begin to move on without him and that’s a bad thing."

So, to sum up

  • Drew thinks he's being disrespected because the Kings won't increase their offer.
  • The Kings think "someone" is whispering in Drew's ear.
  • The Kings think Drew is not able or not yet willing to stand up to this mysterious "someone."
  • They appear to be apart by more than the previously quoted $200K.
  • The number now appears to be $300-400K. Which would put Doughty's desired number at $7.1-7.2MM.
  • Lombardi has the go-ahead to sweeten the pot. Which means, if you ask me, that Lombardi will sweeten the pot (or Leiweke said something he wishes he hadn't said).
  • The Kings are explicitly announcing that they plan to spend to the upper limit of the cap, by adding pieces at the deadline. You can't say, "we're not getting a tree this year because we're going to Hawaii," and then not go to Hawaii.
  • If Doughty gets more, that money comes out of the pockets of Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner, Willie Mitchell or Zach Parise. (Sorry, I had to.)
  • Or Scott Parse.
  • If Doughty doesn't end this, this week, the Kings will possibly maybe kinda sorta "begin" to "move on." Whatever that means. Since they're not trading him, I don't think it means anything at all. It's a threat borrowed from the impotent ex-boyfriend playbook.

How I read the tea leaves

  • Lombardi is about to make an offer, maybe going up to $7MM, which would be halfway to the $7.1-$7.2MM that Leiweke implies Doughty is asking for.
  • Leiweke is publicly advising Doughty to accept this compromise, otherwise his teammates will resent him, per above.
  • It makes no sense for Leiweke to lay the groundwork for Doughty to "come home," if they're not then going to follow that up with an offer he's then primed to accept, to "do what he may have to do here, which is stand up and take charge of this decision."
  • My guess is the offer will be $7MM/6yrs. Lombardi relents on the cash, Doughty relents on the term.
  • I have talked myself into this Leiweke interview being reason for hope. I would be willing to bet that some kind of sweetened offer will go to Doughty this week and -- dammit -- this would be the perfect time (actually the last chance) for Doughty to end the stand-off before we start to have to assess damages.
  • I choose to hold out hope that this actually might end by Friday, and I haven't felt that sanguine about the Doughty mess in months, or ever.
  • I am also pretty sure that if Doughty doesn't sign this week, it will be awhile.