- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Drew Doughty agreed to an eight-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night after the star defenseman skipped the first 13 days of training camp.

TSN reported the deal is worth $56 million, putting the 21-year-old Doughty among the NHL’s highest-paid defensemen.

Doughty has emerged among the elite talents at his position after just three NHL seasons. The Canadian Olympic gold medalist became the second-youngest Norris Trophy finalist in league history in 2010 after scoring 59 points, and he added 40 points last season despite an injury-slowed start.

Doughty was a restricted free agent this summer, and he didn’t report to training camp earlier this month while he lobbied for a lucrative deal from Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.

Negotiations have dragged on until a few days before the Kings‘ departure for a European tour, possibly forcing the Kings to increase their salary offer to avoid leaving without him.

Doughty, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, also signed a longer deal than expected, keeping him with the Kings through 2018-19.

Los Angeles already depends heavily on Doughty, a puck-moving defenseman with an aggressive streak. Doughty was fifth in the NHL last season with more than 25 1/2 minutes of ice time per game, leading all Kings defensemen with 11 goals.

Doughty made the NHL’s all-rookie team in 2009 before producing one of the best seasons by a Kings defenseman in franchise history in 2009-10, scoring 31 power-play points and five game-winning goals.

The London, Ontario, native was the youngest member of Canada’s winning team at the Vancouver Olympics.

Although Doughty’s production declined last year, he held out of training camp for a huge new contract. Lombardi seemed reluctant to make Doughty his highest-paid player after just three seasons, but the GM apparently changed his mind with the regular season coming up quickly.

Los Angeles heads to Europe after its NHL exhibition finale on Saturday. The Kings open the regular season with games against the New York Rangers in Stockholm and the Buffalo Sabres in Berlin next weekend.

After two straight playoff appearances following an eight-year postseason absence, the Kings believe they’re ready to emerge as a Stanley Cup contender.

Los Angeles added high-scoring forwards Mike Richards and Simon Gagne in the offseason, addressing the biggest need for a solid defensive team that struggled to score at times last season.

Doughty is a huge part of the Kings‘ plans, often quarterbacking the power play and playing major minutes.

“We definitely want to get him in here as soon as possible,” center Anze Kopitar, the Kings‘ leading scorer, said last week. “We know he’s got to do what’s best for him, but hopefully we can get our whole team together soon and get ready for a big season.”