Dustin BROWN looked at the core of the Los Angeles Kings, and his decision was easy. He wanted to stay long-term, and he wanted to get the deal done himself.
Brown did just that, signing for eight years and US$47 million, ensuring that this Stanley Cup-champion Kings team would have its captain around through the 2021-22 season. The right-winger joined goaltender Jonathan Quick, defencemen Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov and forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter as players signed for at least the next six seasons.
"We weren't built to win the Cup one year and then disappear," Brown said. "Now it's kind of all come into place in the sense that we're all going to be going through this together."
That was Dean Lombardi's goal when he took over as general manager in 2006. He acquired Richards and Carter and their contracts that run through 2020 and 2022, respectively, then tried to build on the first title in franchise history by keeping Quick around through 2023 and Doughty and Voynov through 2019.
Signing Brown to this contract was just "part of the process."
"It wasn't only building it, but trying to keep it together and then fit it under the cap," Lombardi said on a conference call Thursday. "You're never done. It wasn't just about becoming a good team. It was doing these type of things so that you could, in the end, build a culture, have an identity."
Brown is, in many ways, the Kings' identity. The 28-year-old right-winger's aggressive forecheck led the way during the 2012 Stanley Cup run, when he was a point-a-game player.
When Brown dealt with a knee injury and managed just three goals and an assist in 18 playoff games this past spring, the banged-up Kings couldn't get past the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final.
"He freely admits at times during his past season where, as the leader of this team, he's got to do more," Lombardi said. "That's a sign of growth. He's not there looking (like), 'Well, I'm the captain, I should be getting all this money, I'm great.' He's looking at it and saying, 'I've got to be better here if we're going to do this again.' "
With the hope that the Kings could win it all again, Brown decided to represent himself in contract negotiations, citing a comfort level with the only NHL organization he has known. If he had an agent working on it, Brown said, talks probably would still be ongoing.
Instead, Lombardi and Brown spoke in person and on the phone and hammered out a deal that counts $5.875 million against the salary cap beginning in 2014-15.
"I really like the fact that the discussion was as much about the team and the cap and how it works from a team perspective as it was about what he thought he was worth," Lombardi said. "That shows he's working with the team."
Brown did his homework, getting comparables from the NHL Players' Association and analyzing his value. But he also knew full well "there's only so much money to go around."
"Within the cap I think we have an opportunity to keep this team together," Brown said. "That was part of my decision in wanting to stay is I believe we have a chance to win."
The Kings have undergone some changes since they won in 2012, losing defenceman Rob Scuderi and left-winger Dustin Penner in free agency, acquiring defenceman Robyn Regehr and trading backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the bulk of those who hoisted the Cup will be around for the foreseeable future.
-- The Canadian Press