More from Tim Leiweke on stalemate with Drew Doughty
Emptying out the digital notebook . . .
I have a few more tidbits from my interview today with Tim Leiweke, the Kings’ biggest fan and the chief executive officer of parent company AEG. I had requested the interview a few days ago and these were Leiweke’s first public comments on the stalled contract negotiations with defenseman Drew Doughty.
I referred to one of Leiweke’s comments in a tweet earlier today but didn’t get the full explanation into my earlier blog report or into the story that will appear in print. Here’s a complete recap, in more than 140 characters.
I asked Leiweke why the Kings don’t just raise their offer and end this dispute if the difference between their proposed $6.8 million average annual salary and Doughty’s demands is $200,000 or $300,000. He repeated that this is an allocation issue, meaning the Kings are willing to spend up to the salary-cap limit but want to leave room to add players at the trade deadline and budget for the future to retain key players. He also said General Manager Dean Lombardi has “the right to budge here,” and that he would support Lombardi’s decision on that.
“But here’s the funny thing that I don’t get in all of this,” Leiweke said. “I look at it and say, boy, there’s a complete miscommunication here. Drew Doughty can step in here tomorrow and from an endorsement standpoint, being a cornerstone and a nucleus of this franchise long term, he can make more money on endorsements than we’re fighting over for whatever he’s asking for and whatever we’ve offered. And the way you protect that is goodwill, being a guy that’s a team player.
“If he burns the bridges with everybody, then he loses that revenue. So what I’m mystified by is, his value to this marketplace is not just his salary, it’s what he’s going to earn being part of a team that has the potential of competing for the Stanley Cup every year now for long term. Instead of fighting over a little bit here and a little bit there, let us save that money to go after the final pieces. He’ll make more on endorsements than he ever would on what we’re fighting over. It makes no sense at all.”
Leiweke repeatedly said the Kings see Doughty as a long-term franchise player and they will not trade him. Doughty has not signed an offer sheet with another team, probably because those teams are aware the Kings have deep pockets financially.
“And we’re comfortable with him being equal to [Anze] Kopitar as the highest-paid player on the team at the age of 21. That’s how much we respect this kid. Drew, I love him. But Drew’s going to have to stand up here and take charge of this decision. And understand I’m 100% supportive of Drew Doughty. I think he’s a great kid and he is a good player and he’s going to be a great player.”
Leiweke also said he doesn’t think Lombardi will follow through on something the general manager said last week about possibly reducing the Kings’ offer to Doughty for every day the defenseman remained unsigned. Lombardi said last week he was considering such a move, though he later backed off because it's simply counterproductive and not worth the increased antgonism it might cause.
“I think Dean’s frustrated. He spent all summer on this,” Leiweke said, noting that Lombardi traveled to Toronto three times for negotiations. “This is not for lack of effort on Dean’s part. Dean loves that kid and I think he’s frustrated that Drew doesn’t realize that and we find ourselves in this position.
“So Dean’s frustrated. We want Drew to come back. I want the animosity to disappear. I want our fans to take a deep breath here. Let us finish this off. It’s just a business decision. If we get Drew done in the next week we should welcome him back with open arms here. And so whether it be Dean or the fans, I don’t think we end up getting to a solution by penalizing the kid.
“Dean’s taken a lot of heat from other GMs. There are a lot of people in the league that look at this offer and go, 'What the heck are you guys thinking about here, making him the fourth-highest paid defenseman in the National Hockey League?’ That’s how much we love Drew. But hearing that maybe he thinks we’re disrespecting him with that offer, I back Dean 100%. Dean’s done not only the fair thing here but Dean has probably been aggressive because that’s how much we believe in this kid.”
Photo: Drew Doughty, a world-class defenseman and Olympic gold medalist, has become a fan favorite. Credit: Noah Graham / NHLI via Getty Images