Leiweke: Kings won't blink in salary stalemate with Doughty
Tim Leiweke, president of the Kings’ parent company, AEG, said Monday he supports General Manager Dean Lombardi’s stance in negotiations with unsigned defenseman Drew Doughty and emphasized Lombardi’s offer of an average $6.8 million annually is based solely on allocating dollars to improve the team and maintaining a strong nucleus that will allow the Kings to compete for the Stanley Cup for years to come.
Doughty, a restricted free agent, remains at home in London, Canada, working out with a junior team while the Kings get deeper into training camp and prepare for their season-opening trip to Sweden and Germany.
Leiweke told The Times on Monday that the Kings are not trying to be cheap with Doughty and, in fact, plan to spend up to the salary cap of $64.3 million. But they want room to upgrade their talent before the trading deadline and maneuver in case of injuries, and paying Doughty the $7 million-plus that he’s seeking would change the allocation and budget and have long-term implications.
“What Dean has said and what I’m going to reiterate on behalf of ownership is that we’re going to be a cap team. This is not a matter of the Kings or AEG saving money. That is zero of the conflict here,” Leiweke said.
“This is a matter of allocation of dollars and the fight here is how do we ultimately respect Drew. And we respect the world out of Drew. I think the world of the kid. He is the cornerstone of the franchise long term and we’re not going to let him go anywhere. Dean’s 100% [correct] that a trade solution’s not in the cards….
“The difference of opinion here is that Drew may see this as disrespect, and it’s not at all. We have offered to make him the fourth-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL and equal the highest-paid King in our history. When I look at that, I think there either has to be a miscommunication or Drew’s a 21-year-old and probably hasn’t done what he may need to do here, which is stand up and take charge of the decision.”
The Kings' offer, believed to be for six to eight years, would put him on par with the team-high salary of center Anze Kopitar. Doughty is believed to be seeking over $7 million per season.
"We love Drew. I love Drew personally. I think he’s a great kid and I think he’s going to be a great player in the league long-term," Leiweke. "That said, what Dean’s offered him we’re 100% supportive and in fact, I think Dean was aggressive. And if our mistake is we offered it too quick, then Drew needs to take a step back and understand it’s not about a lack of negotiation. The fact is we offered it quickly because we didn’t want to negotiate.
The logical question becomes if the sides are “only” about $300,000 apart, should the Kings bend and increase their offer?
“I think it’s the allocation issue and I’m not saying Dean doesn’t have the right to budge here. That’s Dean’s decision and I’ll support it,” Leiweke said.
“I don’t know if Dean’s going to do that because it gets back to the same problem. We don’t have that much money left in our cap right now and so when you factor in injuries and you factor in February moves at the trade deadline, we’re cutting it tight.
“More importantly, tell me which player we’re now starting to carve this $300,000 or $400,000 out of. We’re carving it out of someone’s salary next year and it’s no secret we’ve got some restricted and unrestricted free agents that we have to deal with in the next two years. So who is it on this team we go look at and say, ‘We just gave Drew your extra money, because $6.8 [million] wasn’t good enough'? That’s not good for team chemistry.
“I support Dean on what he’s trying to do here. He’s not trying to be cheap. He’s not trying to be disrespectful. We love Drew. It’s an allocation issue here and everyone, including most of the players I’ve run into in the last week, they get that we are desperate to try to keep enough resources to keep this team together long term.”
Leiweke, though busy with AEG’s many other ventures -- including the proposed downtown NFL stadium -- remains an avid Kings fan, and that was clear in our conversation.
“So from my standpoint I want Drew to come back. Please, Drew, come back. We love you,” Leiweke said. “Let’s not destroy this relationship or his reputation or our reputation over something like this. We need to get this done. He needs to get back in here. And we need to get him ready to go to Europe. He should not miss that trip. It would mean that we would begin to move on without him and that’s a bad thing.”
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Tim Leiweke speaks at a Galaxy news conference last month to introduce Robbie Keane to town. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press