LOS ANGELES — Drew Doughty said he and Los Angeles Kings veterans are “running out of time” to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
Doughty said Friday that the Kings should use their available space under the salary cap, prospects and draft picks to improve the roster through free agency and trades to build around center Anze Kopitar, forward Dustin Brown, goalie Jonathan Quick and himself, the only four players remaining from the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams.
“Me and ‘Kopi,’ ‘Quickie,’ ‘Brownie,’ we’re all getting older,” Doughty said. “We all had, I thought, phenomenal seasons, but we’re running out of time. You got two of the best players at their position (Kopitar and Doughty), both ways, two of the most complete players at the position. And with all this cap room, yeah, we got to bring guys in. That’s it, for sure. There’s no point just waiting for these prospects to develop when you got guys in their prime, guys that are hungry to win and guys that are sick of losing so, yeah, we got to bring guys in.”
Doughty is 31 years old, Kopitar is 33, Quick is 35 and Brown is 36.
The Kings (21-28-7) finished sixth in the eight-team Honda West Division, 14 points behind the fourth-place St. Louis Blues. The top four teams made the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It is the third straight season the Kings have missed the playoffs, and they have won one playoff game since winning the Cup in 2014.
The Kings transitioned into rebuilding mode during the 2018-19 season and began trading players from their championship teams, including defenseman Jake Muzzin and forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter, to acquire draft picks and young players, while also freeing up space under the salary cap.
Doughty said the trade of Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 12 coincided with a loss of confidence that saw Los Angeles fall out of playoff contention this season. The Kings were seventh in the division but five points out of a playoff spot the day of the trade; they were 5-9-1 after it.
“I don’t know if that’s when it did happen, but it kind of seemed like after that happened everything kind of went backwards,” Doughty said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t believe in each other or anything like that. We were playing some good teams. I mean, playing Colorado all those games (four of their final five), one of the best teams in the League, those were tough games, tough pill to swallow. We didn’t even have a chance, like not even close, so those were tough to swallow. But, yeah, I mean we got to get better.”
While team success eluded the Kings this season, Kopitar and Doughty were extremely productive. Kopitar led Los Angeles with 50 points (13 goals, 37 assists) in 56 games, and scored his 1,000th NHL point on May 5. Doughty scored 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 56 games; his 0.61 points per game average was the fourth-highest of his 13-season NHL career.
With Kopitar and Doughty each producing at a high level, Doughty believes this summer is the right time for the Kings to bring in proven NHL players to build around them.
“That’s the bottom line, that’s what we need,” Doughty said. “All the individual players need to get better over the summer, stuff like that, but as a team we just need to be better and get better. That’s not just on the players.”
Kopitar, the Kings captain, was more diplomatic than Doughty in addressing how the organization should approach the offseason.
“I think there’s no secret that this summer is going to be very important for us from all standpoint of views really, whether that’s obviously developing younger guys, maybe bringing some guys in,” Kopitar said. “So it should be very exciting for everybody and we’ll see what happens.”