During the holidays last December, Rangers broadcaster Dave Maloney and Coyotes general manager Don Maloney were catching up by phone, Dave regaling his brother about one of the Rangers' cast-of-thousands Christmas parties at the Boathouse in Central Park. Then he asked, "How was your party?"
Don replied, "A couple of six-packs and a six-foot sub."
Phoenix's hand-to-mouth NHL-owned team is now trying to re-sign a noncomestible hockey hero, Shane Doan. Doan, 35, is a free agent. Ideally he would like to stay with the Coyotes and finish his career in Glendale. His agent, Terry Bross, and Maloney have discussed parameters of contracts that range in length from three to five years. But before re-upping with the only franchise he has represented (Doan was a rookie in 1995--96, the team's last season in Winnipeg), the right wing, who earned $4.55 million in the final season of a five-year deal in 2011--12, seeks something beyond money and term: clarity. Specifically, Doan wants to know that the club's ownership mess will soon be resolved and the franchise will remain in the desert.
Even as some impediments to the eventual sale of the club seem to be vanishing—it is now unlikely there will be a referendum question on the November ballot in Glendale that could void the team's 20-year, $300 million arena lease deal—prospective buyer Greg Jamison, the former Sharks CEO, has not closed on the $170 million sale. Doan originally said he would wait until July 9 before entertaining other offers, but now, three weeks after the free-agent signing period began, no time line exists. Six teams have made written proposals to Doan (among them, reportedly, are San Jose, the Kings and the Canucks), and another 10 had expressed interest. When asked if Doan would re-sign with Phoenix at a hometown discount, Bross said the Coyotes "would have to be in-line" with the market.
"The thing that makes this so difficult is Shane's not a typical free agent," Bross says. "He's a big cog. His children never have known any other place. He has a ranch here with [Phoenix equipment manager] Stan Wilson. In some ways the franchise is [also] his family."
Doan, who has averaged 24.6 goals during his past 12 NHL seasons, scored five in the playoffs last spring. After carrying a lot of water for the troubled franchise—publicly Doan has always drawn a smiley face on the Coyotes' woebegone saga—he helped carry the team to the conference finals, the first time the franchise had won a playoff series since 1987. "For an organization looking for something to grab on to, Shane epitomized that," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett says. "The thing he wants most is a level playing field. This team has been at such a competitive disadvantage [because of the ownership situation], and he wants that settled."
If the sale to Jamison stalls, a reluctant Doan might be done in the desert.
Including Shane Doan, three of the league's eight longest-tenured veterans became free agents this month: Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, 40, re-upped with New Jersey (for whom he's played for 19 seasons) through 2013--14; Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom (15 seasons), 39, still hasn't made a decision, though he says if he doesn't play for Detroit, he'll retire. Next summer, three more from the group of eight are due to enter free agency, including two of the top scorers in recent NHL history.
416 GOALS, 666 ASSISTS
361 GOALS, 533 ASSISTS
516 GOALS, 557 ASSISTS
DAVID E. KLUTHO (DOAN)
TWILIGHT, ZONA? Doan (above) has very deep roots in the Phoenix community, but his agent says he will not accept a hometown discount.
JIM MCISAAC (ALFREDSSON)
JEROME MIRON/US PRESSWIRE (IGINLA)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (ELIAS)