Who should chase Drew Doughty?
Detroit Red Wings are one of few prime landing spots for the Kings D-man
Drew Doughty just turned 21 last season, his third in the NHL after being selected second overall in the 2008 Draft. In his young career he has already been part of remarkable teams on the international stage, winning gold and silver medals with the Canadian entries at the World Juniors and World Championships, while also winning at the highest possible level as part of the 2010 Olympic gold medalists. He made the NHL's all-rookie team in his debut season, and followed that up by narrowly missing out on a Norris Trophy win as a sophomore. He's acknowledged by virtually all commentators as not just one of the best young defensemen in the NHL, but one of the best defensemen in the NHL, period.
And he remains unsigned by the Los Angeles Kings.
Yet, negotiations with Los Angeles drag on. Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying "unfortunately this could take a while." Doughty's agent, Don Meehan, remarked that communication with the Kings had been limited to date, and that he assumed the Kings' pursuit of Mike Richards via trade and Brad Richards via free agency had been occupying their time.
Naturally, the reason that Doughty hasn't signed elsewhere is because he isn't technically on the free market. As a restricted free agent, the Kings have certain rights. If Doughty were to sign an offer sheet with a rival club, Los Angeles would be given the opportunity to match the offer. If unable or unwilling to do so, they would receive compensation in the form of up to four first-round picks from the successful bidder, depending on the annual cap hit.
Still, even with four top draft picks coming back, Los Angeles would almost certainly match any reasonable offer. It is widely believed that the Kings are offering a contract worth as much as $6.5 million over as long as nine seasons -- which would earn L.A. two first-round picks, one second- and one third-round pick if Doughty signed such an offer sheet with another team. Therefore, any team hoping to land Doughty would need to have both the cap space, sufficient dollars from its owner(s) to overpay, as well as the picks to pay off the Kings. Such a club would also want to be reasonably confident of avoiding the draft lottery -- which in the worst case scenario might see them match the value of Doughty with a single pick.
Those conditions rule out a lot of teams. Seven clubs are within $4.0 million of the league's salary cap, and couldn't possibly outbid the Kings or Lightning. Other teams, like Dallas and Phoenix, have to worry about internal caps. Even the usual suspects, like the Rangers (who signed Brad Richards and have two big RFA's of their own to ink) and Maple Leafs (general manager Brian Burke has repeatedly railed publicly against offer sheets) aren't really in the running.
But we're still left with a few teams that meet those criteria and could pursue an offer sheet for Doughty. Here's a look at the top possibilities, led by the Detroit Red Wings.