Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake doesn’t anticipate having any problems signing top defenceman Drew Doughty to a contract extension.
“I don’t foresee an issue with it,” Blake said in an interview with The Athletic. “I would say we’re on the same page in terms of the direction we want with this team and where he fits in.
“Believe me, he’s a priority. We’ll get him signed.”
Doughty, 28, is entering the final year of his contract and could become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. He can sign an extension as early as July 1.
In the past, Doughty had hinted he could test the free agent market. But after the Kings were eliminated from the playoffs in April, he said “I always wanted to be an L.A. King and I want to stay an L.A. King.”
Some of the speculation about him leaving the Kings stemmed from the team appearing to be past its window to win, after lifting the Stanley Cup twice in the past six years. Getting swept out of the first round by the Vegas Golden Knights only added to that argument.
But Blake said at the end of the season he presented Doughty with his plan for the team, and told him a rebuild wasn’t in the cards.
“My only conversation with Drew was basically where we are and where we’re headed,” Blake said. “We’re not rebuilding. We’re not throwing guys away. I had to make him understand that part.”
Cap space remains a concern for the Kings, who according to Cap Friendly.com have just under $4 million in space this off-season (with the final salary cap number yet to be announced).
Doughty currently has a $7-million cap hit, but his next salary will likely be at or above the $9 million P.K. Subban makes as the highest-paid defenceman.
To fit that in, the Kings will have to do some manoeuvring to fit Doughty in, while also adding players in other areas to help the team win.
“That’s where the salary cap gets tricky,” Blake said. “This year, we have room. Depending on where Drew fits in, a year from now, and where the cap is going to go, it could be less.”
Whatever the final number is, both Doughty and the Kings seem to want to make things work.