LA Kings Drew Doughty

Credit: Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

For the second consecutive season, The Athletic views LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty’s contract as the worst in the NHL.

Drew Doughty signed an eight-year, $88M contract extension ($11M AAV) with the LA Kings in summer 2018 — a well-deserved extension for a player that had just won the Norris Trophy following the 2015-16 season and was repeatedly in consideration for the award.

Prior to the extension, the former second-overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft just finished up a 10-goal, 50-assist campaign, finishing second in Norris Trophy voting and 15th in Hart Trophy voting. The following two seasons, though, saw a regression from Doughty, scoring 45 points in 2018-19 and 35 points in 2019-20 with a combined minus-50 during that stretch.

As such, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic compiled his list of worst contracts in the NHL, with Doughty taking the cake two years in a row.

LA Kings Drew Doughty
Photo Credit: LA Kings PR

“The problem is that the expectation at $11 million is significantly higher than ‘top pair caliber.’ The expectation is elite level play, roughly 2.6 wins on average through the life of the deal. That’s twice as good as Doughty’s return-to-form season. It’s an extremely high bar to clear, one prime Doughty could, but 31-year-old Doughty likely can’t. It’ll be an even bigger problem for 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36-year-old Doughty and that’s the main reason Doughty is here again at the top of this list. The expectation is simply far too high for a defenceman in his 30s who has already shown signs of slowing down. Even a bounce-back season wasn’t enough to get his trajectory back on track to make this deal passable.

Perhaps the team improving around him might help, but it’s hard to ignore that Doughty has also been part of the problem and at five-on-five has really struggled to drive offense. He needs help to be at his best, but the point of earning $11 million per year is that you should be able to do a lot more on your own. Doughty hasn’t been and is signed for six more years at a monumental cap hit he has very little chance of living up to.” – The Athletic

There’s no question that Doughty had somewhat of a bounceback year in the abbreviated 2021 schedule. Prior to the Jeff Carter trade, the London, Ontario, native was just one of five remaining players from the Stanley Cup-winning teams. Doughty’s regression could be linked to Kings’ rebuild with long-time pairing partner Jake Muzzin packaged in a trade back in January 2019. The Kings tried to find success with a Drew Doughty-Ben Hutton pairing but to no avail.

During the 2019-20 offseason, the primary goal for the Kings was to find a legitimate pairing partner for Doughty. They tried this by acquiring Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks in what was effectively a salary cap dump for the latter. Maatta played the first four games before needing a mental reset.

The Kings gave 21-year-old Mikey Anderson a chance to prove himself on the top pairing with Doughty, and the duo had a tremendous amount of success. Anderson, being more of a defensive defenseman, allowed Doughty to drive plays without leaving the defensive zone vulnerable to the odd-man rush.

Doughty finished the year with eight goals and 26 assists with his 34 points 16th best among NHL defensemen. His minus-14 was heavily skewed following the Carter trade when the team took a nosedive, as Doughty accounted for a minus-10 over the final 16 games.

Certainly, Doughty’s extension was leaned more toward his previous play than the future — a good show of faith by the Kings front office for all of his accomplishments during the team’s contending years. The blueliner, however, who turns 32 in December, appears to have some stability in a pairing partner for the first time in a while. The Kings also made several moves this offseason to improve the roster, including the addition of Alex Edler to the back end.

Doughty is under contract for six more seasons. Hopefully, as the Kings trend in the direction, Doughty’s numbers will bounce back further. He’ll likely never post numbers of a player getting paid $11M per season, but Doughty still remains one of the most important pieces on the LA Kings roster.

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