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How much would you pay Drew Doughty if you were the Kings?

Now that the Los Angeles Kings' dalliance with Brad Richards(notes) has concluded, the focus shifts to getting 21-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty(notes) under contract. But the devil's in the details for Doughnuts.

From Helene Elliott of the LA Times, in a piece about the Kings signing Simon Gagne(notes) on Saturday:

They have exchanged proposals with Doughty's agent, Don Meehan, but no deal is imminent for the 21-year-old defenseman, who might command an average of $7 million a year. Lombardi was in the offices of Meehan's firm, Newport Sports, Friday but they didn't meet. Although that seems odd, Hextall called the process "normal negotiations back and forth."

Wow. Is Drew Doughty a $7 million-a-year player?

If Doughty were to make $7 million against the cap, he would have the second-highest cap his among defensemen in the NHL behind Brian Campbell's(notes) lamentable contract ($7.14 million).

If he were to make a $7 million base salary next season, he would be tied for sixth-highest wage for a defenseman in the NHL — tied with Brent Seabrook(notes) and James Wisniewski(notes), behind Christian Ehrhoff(notes), Zdeno Chara(notes), Duncan Keith(notes), Chris Pronger(notes), Brian Campbell and Kevin Bieksa(notes).

That's a few Norris Trophies and a lot of unrestricted-free-agent inflation right there. And eight players much older than Doughty as well.

That salary would also make him the highest paid player on the Kings, which is something The Fourth Period reported last week that Doughty is desirous to become. From TFP:

A source close to the situation confirmed to TFP that Doughty is looking for an annual salary worth more than the $6.8 million star center Anze Kopitar(notes) is currently earning.

Doughty, 21, is a restricted free agent. He had a cap hit of $3.475 million last season. It was originally believed that Doughty's salary would hover around the $6 million to $6.5 million, per year, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Doughty may very well make $7 million next season or more on a front-loaded deal ahead of the next CBA negotiation. (One of the most prominent trends in the NHL this summer.) But it's hard to imagine that it'll be a $7 million annual hit under GM Dean Lombardi, who talked with LA Kings Insider about how a contract term can make these types of deals fit better:

"One of the things that allows for flexibility is the term. One of the things that can happen, that can make negotiations tougher, is if you get locked into a certain term, and then it just becomes a numbers issue. At least, in this case — and given the quality of the player — you have more flexibility as far as term."

With Doughty, the most important question isn't "how much?" but "how long?"

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