Kings defenseman Drew Doughty could rejoin the team in time to play in their… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The Kings gave in financially to gain a long-term commitment from defenseman Drew Doughty, reaching agreement Thursday on an eight-year, $56-million contract that will make him their highest-paid player by average annual value.
Doughty, 21, is scheduled to undergo a physical at the team's El Segundo training facility Friday and sign the contract that will make him the NHL's third-highest-paid defenseman by average salary.
"Let's go win some Cups," said Tim Leiweke, chief executive of AEG, the Kings' parent company. "We just spent more money this off-season than it cost to buy the team. We are committed."
The Kings' spending spree — Doughty's deal, signing free-agent winger Simon Gagne for $7 million over two years and taking on the $51.6 million left on Mike Richards' contract — totals $114.6 million. AEG bought the Kings out of bankruptcy in 1995 for $113.25 million, and assumed some debt.
"I've been a Kings fan since I was a kid and I was never thinking about going elsewhere," Doughty said by phone from his home in London, Canada. "I knew it was just a matter of time before it got done and I'm just really excited to be a part of that team for eight years. I hope we can win many Stanley Cups in that time and I'm going to do everything I can to help lead us to that."
General Manager Dean Lombardi had vowed he wouldn't exceed an average of $6.8 million, the annual value of center Anze Kopitar's contract. But with training camp nearing an end and the Kings scheduled to leave for Europe on Sunday for an exhibition and the first two regular-season games, Lombardi sweetened the pot for the restricted free agent.
Doughty, who has been working out with the junior-level London Knights, said he is in good enough shape to play in the Kings' exhibition Saturday at Las Vegas. The lure of traveling to Germany and Sweden was a factor in his decision.
"I definitely didn't want to miss that," he said. "This was never in mind to be sitting out for this long. I missed the boys a lot. I missed being in L.A. It was just about time to get it done. I'm really happy and really excited to get it done before the season."
Although the Kings gave away Doughty's seat in their locker room to Slava Voynov, it's safe to say they'll find a spot in their room and their lineup.
"A good day for the L.A. Kings," Coach Terry Murray said. "The focus is back on the team."
Doughty said he knew public sentiment had turned against him, but he hoped to put the dispute and related issues behind him.
"Our team is going to be great this year and I really just can't wait to get there and hopefully everyone can put this in the past," he said. "I know some people are probably pretty angry at me, but things happen and I'm just really happy it's done."