September 17, 2011
As you may already know, contract talks between Drew Doughty(notes) and the Los Angeles Kings haven't been going so well. On Thursday, it was reported that Doughty's camp had rejected the Kings' "best offer", a six-to-eight year deal worth $6.8 million annually. With that, Doughty sitting out part or all of training camp began to look more and more like a distinct possibility.
This morning, it became a reality, as Kings training camp opened without Doughty, who remained at home, unsigned.
Plenty has been written about the egos that may be complicating these negotiations, most notably those of Doughty's agent Don Meehan and Kings GM Dean Lombardi. From Helene Elliott:
[...] Meehan now wants Doughty, who has enormous talent but has had one good season, one extraordinary season and a bumpy season, to be paid more than Kopitar. That would be a coup for Meehan in recruiting future clients and, some in the industry suggest, an in-your-face to Brisson.
Meanwhile, Rich Hammond reminds us that, in 2002, when Lombardi was GM of the San Jose Sharks, RFA Evgeni Nabokov(notes) -- represented by Meehan -- sat out part of training camp without a contract. Lombardi has said that this situation contributed to him losing the job.
In short, between Meehan and Lombardi, there's lot of face-saving and face-losing at stake in Doughty's negotiations.
But, unfortunately, Drew Doughty is the one whose reputation is going to suffer the most, in spite of or perhaps because of the conflict between his GM and his agent that appears to be at the heart of this dispute.
Jewels From the Crown gives us this gem, apparently overheard at the rink today: "If you can't stand up to your agent, you're not a leader, and you aren't ready to be paid like one."
Doughty has to know people are saying some pretty negative things about him, and it must be torture to sit at home, knowing full well he's losing time, respect, fans and being labelled as greedy, selfish, and even spineless. Even if he signs before the regular season gets underway, some fans might never view him the same way again.
And Doughty can only hope the line above didn't come from a teammate, because that's a whole different ball of wax.
But there's still hope for Doughty, both within the franchise and among the fanbase. The last big-name Kings defenseman to pull a stunt like this was named the captain two years later, and honoured by the organization a decade after that.
The Royal Half reminds us that former Kings' captain Mattias Norstrom was once a prominent holdout, missing the entire 1999-2000 preseason over a contractual dispute (while represented, ironically, by Don Meehan). On September 5th, 1999, the LA Times reported on Kings' training camp opening without him, as well as winger Glen Murray:
Neither winger Glen Murray nor defenseman Mattias Norstrom reported for physical evaluations and a team meeting Saturday, but both have been invited to the Kings' training camp, which begins today at Iceoplex at North Hills.
Neither is expected to RSVP in the affirmative.
"I'm going to wait until I sign a contract, and I've talked with [Norstrom] and I don't think he's going either," said Murray. "This is the first time [missing training camp] for me and I don't know how it's going to be. But if they want me, just sign me.
Just days before the regular season opened, Norstrom signed a contract that would pay him $6.6 million over four years. He was in the lineup for game one, and he wound up playing another seven years for the Kings, serving as the captain for five of them.
Last season, the Kings brought Norstrom back for an appreciation night. They made up towels and everything. Towels!
In other words, it's possible to regain all the face one loses from holding out, and it's possible for Doughty to regain his beloved status with the fans that are trashing him now.