Los Angeles Kings star defenceman Drew Doughty recently hinted the possibility of playing elsewhere when his contract runs up. The Vancouver Canucks should be gearing up for a chance to pursue him in 2019.
Though the Vancouver Canucks have employed a number of quality defencemen throughout their history, none of them have ever been a Norris Trophy candidate nor a candidate to reach the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
Their best defenceman of all-time is probably Mattias Ohlund, who was always a solid top-pairing guy but never quite a superstar. The Canucks are hoping that 2016 first rounder Olli Juolevi will morph into that franchise blueliner, but perhaps they could find a sure-fire superstar defenceman in 2019.
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That man would be Los Angeles Kings standout Drew Doughty. Winner of two Stanley Cups, a pair of Olympic gold medals and the 2016 Norris Trophy.
With two years left on his contract, Doughty recently discussed his future with Matt Larkin of The Hockey News.
The bad news for the Kings is that if they aren’t contenders by the time his contract expires, he hinted that he may have a desire to leave:
"Living in Los Angeles, you can’t beat it. I’d love to re-sign in L.A. But if our team isn’t going in the right direction…I want to win Cups. I don’t give a s— where I play. I just want to win Cups, and that’s the bottom line.”"
The other bad news for the Kings is they probably aren’t a Stanley Cup contender at this point, and it’s hard to believe they will be a playoff team in 2019 and beyond. Anze Kopitar (30), is coming off his worst offensive season. Dustin Brown (32), Marian Gaborik (35), Jeff Carter (32) and Jonathan Quick (31), are among the aging veterans that carry expensive, immovable contracts.
Los Angeles has missed the playoffs in two of the last three years, and 2017 first rounder Gabriel Vilardi is really their only prospect with some promising upside. So don’t expect the Kings to be giving Doughty many chances to win a third Cup in two years.
Enter general manager Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks, who may be able to make a play for Doughty in two years.
They’ll have the cap space
Doughty has two years left on his deal that’ll pay him $7 million a season, according to CapFriendly. He’ll be entering his age-30 season when he signs his next contract, and you can expect him to earn around $7 to 8.5 million a season on a multi-year deal.
There are already rumors linking Doughty to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they’re soon going to be cap-strapped when guys like Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner take up significant cap space.
The Canucks will have $14 million coming off the books when the Sedins contracts expire. Though they’ll probably re-sign with Vancouver, you can expect them to take significant pay cuts. And there’s a decent chance they won’t even be in the NHL beyond 2019.
Alexander Edler has two years left at $5 million a season, and it’s tough to see him with the Canucks when his contract expires. Erik Gudbranson‘s $3.5 million cap hit comes off the books next year, and Derek Dorsett‘s $2.65 hit is off the books in 2019.
Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton are under contract now. Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Troy Stecher and other youngsters will get signed too, but it’s tough to see either of them getting more than $3 million a season.
So Doughty wants to win Cups, and he’s going to want a pay day. Throw in prospects like Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Olli Juolevi, and Vancouver will have a promising core in 2019. They’ll also have the cap space to pay Doughty what he wants, unlike most championship contenders who’ll be hit hard by the salary cap.
Doughty would make Canucks great
A franchise defenceman is extremely rare in today’s NHL. The Ottawa Senators don’t have any elite players outside of Erik Karlsson, yet he got them within one goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
Doughty changes games with his all-around ability. He plays superb defence, hits, blocks shots and controls games with his smooth skating and puck-moving abilities. If he were to join the Canucks today, they’d be a playoff contender.
Imagine Doughty joining a Canucks team that will feature Horvat, Baertschi, Granlund, Hutton, Stecher, Pettersson, Boeser and Juolevi. That should be a true championship contender by around 2020 or 2021.
Doughty said he wants to win Cups. Well, other contenders like the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be able to afford him. Teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins will be fielding aging core players with a championship window closing.
If the Kings aren’t winning and Doughty chooses to leave, the Canucks have to pursue him. He’s a once-in-a-generation blueliner, and could easily be a piece that takes Vancouver from mediocrity to Stanley Cup contention.