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Leiweke eager for Doughty’s return to Kings but backs GM Lombardi

As a fervent fan, Tim Leiweke is eager to see Drew Doughty wearing a Kings uniform again.

As chief executive of AEG, their parent company, Leiweke said he supports General Manager Dean Lombardi in not exceeding an average annual salary of $6.8 million for the unsigned defenseman because the Kings must save salary cap space for upgrades and allocate money to retain the nucleus of a promising young group.

Doughty’s absence is becoming crucial as the Kings assemble their lineup and prepare for an exhibition game next week and regular-season contests in Germany and Sweden. Leiweke called the 21-year-old “the cornerstone of our organization,” and said the Kings’ offer reflected their high regard for him and his potential.

“From my standpoint, I want Drew to come back. Please, Drew, come back. We love you,” Leiweke said Monday. “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.”

The Kings’ offer, believed to be for six to eight years, would put Doughty and center Anze Kopitar on par atop the team’s salary scale and make Doughty the fourth-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL this season. Compromising on a five-year deal is unlikely because the Kings don’t want Doughty and Kopitar to become unrestricted free agents at the same time.

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“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,” Leiweke said.

Don Meehan, Doughty’s agent, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Leiweke said it’s Lombardi’s call whether to raise the offer but that’s unlikely.

“More importantly, tell me which player we’re now starting to carve this $300,000 or $400,000 out of,” Leiweke said. “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.”

Leiweke said the Kings intend to stand firm. “If someone’s whispering in Drew’s ear that ownership is going to get impatient and blink, they’re wrong,” he said.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen


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