Since the slowdown of unrestricted free agent signings in recent weeks, Steven Stamkos’ ongoing contract negotiations have dominated NHL headlines. But he’s not the only notable unsigned restricted free agent.
The Los Angeles Times reported defenseman Drew Doughty is apparently waiting for the Kings to make the next move.
Doughty’s agent, Don Meehan, said he hasn’t held talks with Kings management since June 23. The two sides had reportedly exchanged contract offers before then and it’s believed the Kings offered up a nine-year deal worth $6.5 million per season.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi might be awaiting whatever contract Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber receives via negotiated deal or arbitration on August 2, then use that as a possible template with Doughty.
Another factor could be the Doughty camp’s insistence for either a “no-movement” or “no-trade” clause.
Other notable Kings stars, like Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, lack movement clauses in their contracts. Only Mike Richards, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers last month, has a “no-movement” clause, which goes into effect on July 1, 2012.
At first glance, a “no-movement” clause shouldn’t be considered a significant stumbling block for a player of Doughty’s talent.
But if it has become a contentious factor, it’s understandable why Lombardi would be leery of giving one to Doughty, as it could be construed as placing the blueliner above the rest of the roster.
It could also become a potential problem down the road if the situation arose where Doughty would request a trade, or the Kings felt he no longer fit into their plans, as such a clause could considerably limit their trade options.
Whatever the reason, it appears Doughty and the Kings aren’t close to getting a deal done and the longer it drags on, the more his name could start popping up in the rumor mill as a possible offer sheet or trade target.
Kings fans, however, shouldn’t panic. Lombardi has already said he’ll match any offer for Doughty and even if his negotiations drag through the summer, it’s unlikely he’ll be dealt.
BLUE JACKETS BACK IN THE HUNT?
Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Kristian Huselius recently tore a pectoral muscle in off-season training and will require four to six months of recovery.
GM Scott Howson told The Columbus Dispatch Huselius’ injury could thrust the club back into the trade or free agent market in search of a short-term replacement.
The paper suggested Cory Stillman, Vaclav Prospal and Marek Svatos as possible free agent options, and observed there were rumors that the Rangers could buy out the final season of Wojtek Wolski’s contract, which would make him an unrestricted free agent.
Those options, however, aren’t particularly good. Stillman is considered well past his prime, while Svatos and Wolski are inconsistent. Prospal posted good numbers the past two years with the Rangers, but he missed 53 games last season to off-season knee surgery, so there are concerns about his health.
A trade might be a better option, plus Howson could await the outcome of possible upcoming salary arbitration hearings, where it’s possible a player could become available if a team declines to accept the arbiter’s decision.
Howson could also wait until the pre-season, as clubs might be more willing to make deals to address their needs and there might still be clubs looking to shed salary prior to the start of the upcoming season.
WHEELER AND JETS KEEP TALKING
Winnipeg Jets right winger Blake Wheeler is slated for salary arbitration on August 3, but his agent and Jets management continue talks in hopes of reaching an agreement on a new contract before then.
Matt Keator, Wheeler’s agent, told the Winnipeg Free Press the two sides disagree “on some points” but are working hard toward an agreement.
The 24-year-old had 44 points in 81 games last season, split between the Boston Bruins and Atlanta Thrashers, but had 17 points in 23 games with the Thrashers. It’s that production that could be part of the reason for the disagreements.
BRUINS AND MARCHAND LOOK GOOD
Good news for Boston Bruins fans as GM Peter Chiarelli continues contract talks with center Brad Marchand.
The 23-year-old is coming off an impressive rookie campaign, with 21 goals and 41 points in the regular season and 11 goals and 19 points in the Bruins’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
Marchand is also the Bruins only remaining unsigned free agent and is due for a significant raise over the $821,667 he earned last season.
It’s been suggested Marchand could get between $2.5 and $3 million per season. The Bruins presently have more than $8.7 million in available cap space, more than enough to absorb his new salary.
DEVILS KEEP HUNTING FOR BENCH BOSS
Last summer the New Jersey Devils’ efforts to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a long-term contract dominated the off-season news.
This year the focus is about who will be their coach.
Various names have been bandied about in recent months. Former Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau was listed as a potential candidate, as was former Habs assistant coach (and one-time Devils star) Kirk Muller.
Carbonneau, however, has denied he’s in the running, while Muller appears headed to a head coaching gig in the American League.
Former Devils coach Larry Robinson has been running their prospects development camp, leading to talk he could be brought back, but Robinson said GM Lou Lamoriello has not approached him about it.
Other rumored candidates are former NHL bench bosses Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien and Craig MacTavish.
Lamoriello doesn’t appear in a rush. It remains to be seen who he will finally hire, but one reason why it may be taking so long is the Devils high turnover rate for coaches.
The Devils have gone through six head coaches over the past six seasons, so job security and stability is certainly a question mark for potential candidates.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey News.