NHL Free Agency: Losing Shane Doan a Massive Blow to Coyotes on and off Ice

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 27, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 02:  Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes plays against the Nashville Predators in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

After eight years as a team captain, the last vestige of the "old" Winnipeg Jets may finally have had enough in Phoenix. If veteran forward Shane Doan departs the Coyotes in free agency, then it will be a crippling blow to the franchise in every way imaginable.

The 35-year-old two-time all-star, who scored 22 goals and 50 points last season, finally got a taste of playoff success last year, as the Coyotes advanced as far as the Western Conference finals before getting bounced by the Los Angeles Kings.

Don't feel bad, Phoenix. The Kings did a lot of bouncing last year.

That said, that taste of success and the unsettled future of the Coyotes franchise have seemingly inspired Doan to consider what was once thought unthinkable, as the 16-year veteran appears set to test the free-agent waters when the feeding frenzy begins on July 1.

Doan has long indicated that he'd like to remain in Phoenix for the rest of his career and is looking for a four-year deal, telling Vince Marotta of Arizona Sports recently that he'd love for that time to be spent in the same place as the past 15-plus years.

"I'd love for it to be the whole time in Phoenix," he said. "I've made no bones about that. I've really enjoyed my time here and like it here and this is where my family is from and it's what we want to do."

However, the uncertainty that has hung around the neck of the Coyotes franchise for years may choke those hopes out.

The team is presently owned by the National Hockey League itself, which has been trying to find a buyer for the franchise for some time. It may finally have found that buyer in a group headed by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.

However, that sale isn't going to come anywhere close to being finalized before free agency starts. That leaves Coyotes general manager Don Maloney stuck between a rock and a hard place, as he recently relayed to NHL Live via a Yahoo! Sports report.

We feel confident we can re-sign him. It's just a matter of getting a little more clarity, hopefully when Greg Jamison's group may be able to take over the team.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it'll happen by July 1, so now you run the risk of going to July 1 and some of my good friends in the general managers seats saying "Let me just see if I can make it more expensive for the Coyotes" or make a legitimate offer.

In fact, as another Yahoo! Sports report details, a court fight over the deal that Jamison has struck with the city of Glendale (where the Coyotes' arena is located) could lead to a drawn-out battle and possible public referendum that may well kill the Jamison bid altogether no matter which side emerges "victorious".

This type of thing has been going on for a few years and is part and parcel with the insane asylum that is Arizona politics on any level. (I live here, and let me tell you, from the governor right on down the line the inmates are running the joint.) It's hard to blame Doan for just being tired of all the distractions and nonsense.

That said, Maloney needs to pull every rabbit he has out of his hat.

Losing Doan wouldn't just tear the heart and soul out of a team that finally made significant headway in the Western Conference last year—winning their first playoff series since moving to the Valley in 1996—it would also be a swift kick in the teeth to a fan base that finally had something to get excited about after seasons of mediocrity and threats of relocation. Those fans may just throw up their hands and give up.

This may seem overly dramatic, but not only would the departure of Doan kill any chance of the Phoenix Coyotes building on last year's momentum on the ice, but it would probably be one more nail in the coffin of the Phoenix Coyotes, period.

Maybe Winnipeg should have waited a little longer. It could have gotten its real team back.