King indeed! Drew Doughty, 21, reportedly agreed to an eight-year, $56M contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Obviously this not only makes Doughty the highest-paid player on the Kings roster, with a cap number of $7M, but it also frames the long-term futures of a few NHL teams.
The annual cost of Doughty’s deal makes him one of the highest-paid players, not only defensemen, in the game.
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at three defensemen. All three needed a new contract this summer, but only two received a long-term commitment from their respective organizations. The ice time for the three is nearly even. These numbers represent combined stats for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
|$alary Cap #||$7.500M||$5.800M||$7.000M|
Obviously, because we’re discussing the 21-year-old Doughty and we’ve already noted that he’s making $7.000M, he’s Player C.
Player A is Nashville’s Shea Weber, who won a biblical award in arbitration but his deal is only one year long.
Player B is only a few months older than Weber, but is making well below the other players in the example. Brent Seabrook, who signed a five-year extension during last season, is coming into his own offensively but has put up more hits and blocked shots than Weber or Doughty.
Obviously the roles played by these three are different on their given rosters.
Weber is the captain of the Predators and is asked to do just about everything in Nashville. Last year, his 48 points were only two behind the team’s leaders. He logs major time on special teams and is needed to provide key offensive production.
Doughty is among the ice-time leaders over the past two seasons, and emerged as a superstar while skating with Seabrook’s partner, Duncan Keith, for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Both Doughty and Weber have been a Norris Finalist; Seabrook skates with a winner on most shifts.
Looking at the length and dollar amount handed to Doughty, it’s safe to say Weber will be the league’s biggest beneficiary of the newest paper in the game.
But looking at what Chicago GM Stan Bowman has done over the last two seasons, it’s becoming clear that the Blackhawks have done a magnificent job of locking up their superstars at a fair, if not discounted price.
Doughty will make almost $1.5M more than Duncan Keith.
Steven Stamkos has a cap number $1.2M more than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Patrick Elias and Danny Briere will make more than Patrick Sharp when his new cap hit begins next summer.
Ilya Bryzgalov has a cap number $2M higher than Corey Crawford.
With a talent pool now ranked among the top ten in the league, and only continuing to improve with additions like Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks are in position to begin bringing elite talent up through the organization while paying their superstars, at least for the next four years, carrying relatively low cap hits.
The point is, as more players get bigger deals, and as the cap continues to move up on an annual basis, the Blackhawks’ position will only continue to improve.
But there is a second level on which this deal impacts the Hawks.
As we’ve already mentioned, Weber is playing on a one-year deal right now. He will certainly look at the deal Doughty just signed as a benchmark for his future negotiations.
There are other defensemen who have seen their market value increase in the last few months as well. Detroit is currently negotiating a new deal with Niklas Kronwall, who is coming to the end of a five-year deal with a $3.000M cap number. Ryan Suter in Nashville and Barrett Jackman in St. Louis could also be looking for a substantial raise.
The fact is, the Blackhawks are in position to compete for a Stanley Cup championship for the next decade, and can financially afford to get better moving forward.