As an end to the Steven Stamkos/Tampa Bay Lightning silent saga reportedly draws near, the RFA microscope shifts focus to Drew Doughty and the L.A. Kings. As Helen Elliott reported on Tuesday afternoon, talks between Doughty’s camp and the Kings do not appear to be coming to a close any time soon.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi on Doughty, via Elliott’s Los Angeles Times blog:

“I am getting the feeling on Drew that unfortunately this could take a while. As we just saw this past week free agency produces a frenzy for players at all levels. We must be judicious about not getting into this market for our own players. Therefore it is critical with Drew that the dollars reflect a fair rate of return regarding the term of the contract. We must be prepared to do what it takes to get it right.”

As Elliott reported on Saturday following the Kings’ signing of Simon Gagne, the Kings have set their sights on locking up their budding superstar defender after coming up empty in the race for Brad Richards:

[Ron, assitant GM] Hextall said the Kings, who have nearly $12.6 million of salary cap space, will consider other moves, but added, “I don’t see anything of impact happening.” He also said management will now zero in on re-signing defenseman Drew Doughty, who became a restricted free agent Friday. Doughty can sign an offer sheet from another team but the Kings have the right to match it.

They have exchanged proposals with Doughty’s agent, Don Meehan, but no deal is imminent for the 21-year-old defenseman, who might command an average of $7 million a year. Lombardi was in the offices of Meehan’s firm, Newport Sports, Friday but they didn’t meet. Although that seems odd, Hextall called the process “normal negotiations back and forth.”

Given Lombardi’s ominous comments today, an offer sheet appears to be the only avenue to speed this process up. For the money that Doughty is rumoured to be seeking, an offer sheet – and the subsequent draft picks it would cost – could prove to be an exorbitant expenditure for any team looking to poach the 21-year old defenseman. Hey, at least it might force the Kings to match (and Lombardi has stated they will) and save us all from a long summer of speculation.