EL SEGUNDO, Calif.
-- A big sigh of relief came over the Los Angeles Kings
on Friday -- depending on who you asked.
While players said they never really were concerned about the absence of star defenseman Drew Doughty
, coach Terry Murray
conceded the obvious when asked about Doughty agreeing to an eight-year contract worth a reported $56 million late Thursday.
"It was in the front of my mind the whole training camp," Murray said. "He's a very important player. You know everybody's working very hard toward getting it resolved and that's the most important thing that you can hope for."
Doughty's contract makes him the team's highest-paid player.
That sticking point was why negotiations lasted all summer and forced Doughty to miss the first week of training camp. His teammates understood.
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"It's nothing anybody's going to hold against him," defenseman Matt Greene
said. "It's something that happens. Everybody's either been in that situation or has known somebody that has gone through it. It's not a distraction. It's nothing against him for not being here. It's just the way it worked out. We'll welcome him with open arms."
That Kings ownership conceded to more money wasn't lost on Murray.
"That shows a commitment that Mr. (Philip) Anschutz is making to this team, that you sign a young guy to that length, that term, that kind of deal," Murray said. "It's tremendous on his part. Now it's our job as a coaching staff and a team to say thank you by being a good team."
, who is signed through 2019-20, said Doughty now can just focus on hockey.
"You're relieved when it's done knowing that you're going to be an NHL player for the 'X' amount of years that you're signed for and you're excited to get started," Richards said. "It's unfortunate that sometimes the business side sometimes gets in the way, but everyone is excited to have him back."
The official signing of Doughty's contract was pending a physical. Doughty was en route to the team's practice facility when the Kings got off the ice for their morning skate and he was not available.
Murray said he won't play Doughty on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche
in Las Vegas, but said he was open to dressing Doughty for the exhibition finale Tuesday in Hamburg, Germany, the first leg of the team's European trip.
Doughty has been skating on his own and Murray doesn't have any reservations about throwing him into the fray.
"It's gas pedal right through to the floorboards out there in practice," Murray said. "You're going to push him right through and get the amount of work that you feel as a coaching staff a player needs to get him pushed up to playing speed as quickly as possible."
Captain Dustin Brown
acknowledged Doughty's absence was "probably the biggest story" of training camp but said they compartmentalized.
"It was a real non-concern from players," Brown said. "I think as a group of players we did a pretty good job with it. … Whatever your opinion of how it went down, he definitely wanted to be here from Day 1."
Brown said he talked or texted Doughty two or three times a week to check in on him.
"When you're in a negotiation like that it's very hard to step outside," Brown said. "Sometimes you need someone to bounce ideas off of or sometimes you ask for ideas and opinions. I tried to be there for him."
Brown didn't elaborate on his conversations with Doughty. Asked if he told Doughty that he was buying lunch, Brown joked, "He's buying more than lunch, that's for sure."