While the offers were tantalizing, Phoenix captain Shane Doan knew all along where his odyssey would end.
As the last desirable NHL free-agent standing, Doan made the usual rounds to the rumored franchises of the Rangers, Devils, Flyers, Canucks and Kings. While the suitors came hard and heavy, Doan remained resolute and in command of his future.
In reality, there was little thought leaving a franchise that drafted him in the first round, and seventh overall in the 1995 Entry Draft, where he spent his rookie season in Winnipeg and then the next 15 year as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Throughout the entire free-agent process, Doan continued to reiterate that he had little desire to pack up and leave the only NHL franchise he knows.
In the end, the 35-year-old said his decision would be made on the day the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between players ends that is scheduled to expire at midnight Saturday night.
True to his word, Doan opted out for four more years with Phoenix, and the Coyotes announced they locked up their captain for a reported $21.1 million over the course of the new deal. This also includes a $2 million signing bonus.
“It was enticing to hear the offers, but this came down to the job this organization has done over the last few years,” Doan said during a late Friday afternoon news conference at Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes' home rink. “We’re on the verge of being an elite franchise. I want to stay here and rise the banner in the building.”
The reference is to the Stanley Cup, and the Coyotes’ playoff run last spring was a significant factor in Doan’s decision to stay in the desert. Reaching the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, the Coyotes—Doan hinted—left a calling card that the team will be back and stronger.
Plus, the timing of his signing remains noteworthy.
During the negotiating process, Doan said he wanted a deal finalized by the time a group headed by former Sharks’ CEO Greg Jamison acquired the Coyotes from the NHL. At the time of his signing, no deal was in place, and Jamison’s group continues in its bid to secure the Phoenix franchise.
At one point, Jamison’s group was reported $20 million short of the NHL’s asking price of $175. Plus, the city of Glendale, site of the Coyotes rink—while willing to give Jamison’s group $324 million over a 20-year period to manage Jobing.com Arena—has not finalized the transaction.
While the NHL continues to own and operate the franchise, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney had to gain approval of Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, to sign a player for more than one year.
“The league told us how important Doan is to the franchise, and signed off on it,” Maloney said. “Overall, this is a good deal of us and frees some money for future signings.”
While the CBA is set to expire and players are locked out, teams cannot make any contact with any player. So while Maloney had have cap money to spend, no deal can be formulated during the lockout. The Coyotes roster, as is all 30 NHL rosters, remains frozen.
When Doan signed late Friday, the Jamison transition was still outstanding, and Doan admitted he gave “a leap of faith, and everyone I’ve spoken with wants Jamison as the owner.”
For now, Doan really did not have any other option. As the last sands filtered through the hour glass, his family represented the ultimate decision.
“We’re a very close family, and we all were prepared to pack up and go wherever I signed,” he said. “However, my wife was very influential in the final decision, and (the Phoenix area) is the only place my kids know. Their friends are here, this is where they go the school and this is the only home and location they know.”
If Doan would have signed elsewhere, the effect on the franchise would be noteworthy. Not only will the team have lost its captain, but Doan represents the soul and conduit which connects the team with it's fan base and community.
“During the past few years, this organization faced many challenges, including the one which had us moving to Winnipeg,” said coach Dave Tippett.” If this organization lost Doan, that would have been the biggest challenge.”
Doan’s value to the franchise, Tippett added, is substantial.
“First, he is a complete player, a highly competitive player, and does whatever it takes to win,” the coach added. “Plus, he’s the face of the franchise and has great name recognition among Phoenix area sports fans. Also, he epitomizes the kind of player any owner would like to have. He’s invaluable.”
Doan cited the rise of the franchise to the conference finals as a clear step of progress. Going forward, he said, Tippett and Maloney were two important reasons why he wanted to remain in Sedona Red.
Should the lockout take place, Doan said he’s prepared to work on out his own. He cited a number of Coyotes players in the area, and younger players would participate as well. Rookie camp was scheduled to open this weekend, but with the proposed lockout, they will not happen.
For now, Doan, as well as the rest of the hockey world, hopes for a quick resolution in the labor negotiations, so, as he concluded, “we can all get back to do what we love to do.”
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.