The thought has at least crossed Shane Doan’s mind.
With the Phoenix Coyotes’ ownership situation still in limbo and unrestricted free agency staring him in the face, the veteran forward could be playing out his final season in the desert.
“Obviously, I’d be pretty naive to not think that way,” Doan said in a recent interview. “At the same time, everything is kind of focused on waiting to see how our team’s doing and what we’re doing and what’s going on with the ownership and different things. (I’ll) make a decision then I guess.
“But yeah, I’d be stupid not to be looking at (my options) and thinking about everything else.”
It’s the last place the 35-year-old wants to find himself in the twilight of his career.
Doan has been a member of the franchise since Day 1, having made the move from Winnipeg in 1996, and has laid down strong roots in the area. But he’s been unable to negotiate a contract extension with general manager Don Maloney because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation.
The two have met regularly and maintained an open dialogue but are essentially in a holding pattern. Doan is scheduled to become a free agent July 1.
“I have no question in my mind that if we’re playing in Phoenix next season that Shane Doan will be a part of this organization,” Maloney said Wednesday. “None whatsoever.”
At this point, no one can guarantee that will be the case.
Even though NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently said he’s not considering a “Plan B” for the Coyotes—which would be moving the team—there is a growing sense that the league will be forced to do that if a legitimate buyer can’t be found by the end of the season.
If that were to happen, Doan might elect to move on to a different organization in free agency. There’s even a “remote” chance it could happen prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, according to Maloney.
“My preference is to stay here (in Phoenix),” said Doan. “I’ve made that clear. But at the same time, obviously if the team’s not here and we’re not here everything is quite a bit different. It’s been that way for the last two years, but I’ve been kind of blocking it out. But I recognize that in the next three weeks it’s probably going to come to a head.
“If not then, it’s going to come to a head in the summer.”
A recent surge by the Coyotes has them in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race and Maloney hopes to be a buyer at the deadline. However, he won’t make a final assessment on his strategy until seeing how things play out over the next week or two.
If he were ever to seriously consider dealing Doan, the captain would be given a large say in the process.
“The only way something would occur is if both parties are in 100 per cent agreement on what that change would be,” said Maloney.
The NHL is so tight these days that the Coyotes’ current three-game win might have kept him from having to go through that difficult process.
Phoenix is currently tied for eighth in the conference with Minnesota heading into Thursday’s game against the Calgary Flames, who are among the teams chasing close behind.
Doan has 15 goals and 18 assists in 54 games this season—a slight decline in points compared to recent years. However, he remains a key contributor on the Coyotes for reasons that go way beyond the stats sheet.
“He’s really the soul of the franchise in my opinion,” said Maloney. “Everything he does is for the betterment of the team. … Stats mean nothing to him. It’s just: ‘What can we do to make this work?’ ”
On the ownership front, the NHL has been unable to find an answer to that question over the last two-plus seasons.
It’s been a tough slog for Doan and his teammates, who have endured endless questions and speculation about their collective future as a result. But the situation seems to be nearing some finality.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t reallyknow what to say,” said Doan. “I’ve put in a lot of time here and I want to win here and I want to find a way to make this work here.
“At the same time, you have to be a little bit realistic in looking at everything. The days are counting down now.”