Hey, if this hockey thing ever doesn’t work out for Drew Doughty, he might have a bright future with the Players’ Association.
Being his candid, ever-campaigning self in a chat with Craig Custance of The Athletic this week, the Los Angeles Kings star — who helps lead an incredible class of defensemen scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2019 — admitted that he’s already orchestrating a plan to maximize his earnings on his next contract.
In this very detailed, very direct discussion with Custance, Doughty revealed that he plans to rope perhaps the only defenseman currently with more leverage in future negotiations (and his closest competition for the Norris Trophy over the last several seasons), Erik Karlsson, into those discussions to establish another benchmark beyond the one he’s currently focusing on when visualizing his next deal: P.K. Subban’s.
Naturally, Doughty’s transparency was noted in New York, where the Ottawa Senators have landed on their current road trip, and his hard-line approach to free agency has been echoed — enhanced, even — by Karlsson, a man seeing dollar signs already himself.
“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,” Karlsson said, unequivocally, to the Ottawa Sun on Thursday.
He added: “I think it’s time to realize that when we go to the table, it’s business on both parts, not just (owners).”
Both Doughty and Karlsson — and Oliver Ekman Larsson and Ryan McDonagh, for that matter — are still under contract for another season and two-thirds, but the seismic stress their next contract will put on their current franchises has already been applied.
Each insinuating that Subban’s positional-high $9 million is a slight, and that a hometown discount is a pipe dream for executives and fans alike in their current market, keeping Doughty or Karlsson could require masterful finessing or treacherous concession.
Here’s a look ahead at where Los Angeles and Ottawa stand in two summers time:
Los Angeles has a number of bad, Dean-Lombardi-legacy contracts on the payroll that has prevented the franchise from maximizing the talent on its roster over the past several seasons.
And while each will have inched closer to concluding term, each of these contracts — namely Dustin Brown’s and Marion Gaborik’s — will exist as considerable obstacles to awarding Doughty the raise he’s earned on his current $7 million annual salary.
There will be more than $48 million tied up in nine players — their top six forwards, top two defensemen (aside from Doughty) and netminder Jonathan Quick — by the time Doughty requires a new contract. Under the parameters of a salary cap that should be closer to $80 million by that time, the Kings would have about $30 million to house a new Doughty deal that will presumably exceed Anze Kopitar’s $10 million salary, along with the contracts of 13 others players.
It would be enormously limiting, but under these circumstances the Kings could keep Doughty, with an extra $4-5 million on his contract, in the fold. But will he be satisfied enough with the landscape, knowing the Kings have an aging core and a glut of contract that may prevent them from absolving themselves from the malaise they’ve been trapped in?
There are whispers of ownership issues in Ottawa, and, while not a budget team, this is a franchise without a bottomless pit of money, meaning it must always be mindful of its finances. And the expectation should be that Karlsson will command more than Doughty on the open market, adding to the tricky nature of negotiations with the star rover. But from a strict hockey operations perspective, the Senators have less obstacles than the Kings do in retaining their No. 1 defender.
Seven other contracts will expire — including $11 million between Matt Duchene and Derick Brassard — in concert with Karlsson’s. And while the albatross contracts that belong to Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf will still exist on the Ottawa payroll, beyond that it’s Mike Hoffman’s deal and just a handful more of little consequence.
A restricted free agent this summer, Mark Stone will sign a fairly lucrative contract with the Senators before Karlsson’s current $6.5-million annual salary expires, but that shouldn’t obstruct Karlsson from being able to maximize his earning potential in Ottawa.
That is, assuming the Senators will allow it.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports: