Even though the 2011-12 season hasn’t even started yet, the Phoenix Coyotes are already looking towards the future. Shane Doan is still under contract for one more season—but that doesn’t mean the Coyotes haven’t already started thinking about his next contract. Officially, they were permitted to start negotiating with Doan’s camp as of July on a contract extension. GM Don Maloney and the Coyotes would like to get a head start on the process even though he won’t be a free agent until June 30 of next year.
Maloney spoke to USA Today’s Kevin Allen about their intentions for their passionate leader:
“I would like to start dialogue to see where he is at, and what he is thinking,” Maloney said. “He is certainly a guy we would like to re-sign, and I would rather do it now and not next June 30.”
The heart-and-soul captain of the Coyotes has been with the organization since he was drafted 7th overall in 1995. The Alberta native immediately made the team playing 74 games as a 19-year-old for the then-Winnipeg Jets. Now he’s the guy who has played 1,119 games and racked up 738 points in two cities for one franchise. But as anyone around the Coyotes will tell you, his importance to the team goes far beyond the stat sheet.
Doan’s been the captain and emotional leader of the team since 2003. Even though he’s now a 34-year-old veteran on a team with plenty of young prospects, he’s still the go to man on a team that has made back-to-back playoff appearances. GM Maloney went as far as to say that he was the team’s best player for Phoenix during their brief playoff opportunity last April. The year before he provided the spark for the Coyotes against the same Detroit Red Wings before an injury slowed him for the rest of the series. If anyone had doubts about his importance to the team, the Coyotes were a different team without him in the lineup.
GM Maloney isn’t ready to think about post-Doan era just quite yet.
One of the aspects that make Doan’s negotiations different than any other contract conversation is the cloudy ownership situation surrounding the Coyotes. Every single conversation concerning the Coyotes future – whether on the ice or off of it – seemingly comes back to ownership. As most know, the team is currently under the watchful eye of the NHL while they try to sell the team to an investment group or interested buyer. They have to balance putting a good team on the ice to make them appealing to purchasers while still closely watching the bottom line. It’s not every day that Maloney would be willing to commit funds to a player before the last minute—but it’s not every day that Shane Doan is up for unrestricted free agency.
Yes, he’ll be 35-years-old this October. Throw in the wear-and-tear that 1,100+ NHL games can put on a body and usually there’d be a little hesitation to extend an aging veteran. He currently makes $4.55 million per season and is the highest paid forward on the Coyotes roster (3rd highest player overall). But if the Coyotes want to keep their current fans in place and continue to grow their fanbase, extending Doan as soon as possible is a no-brainer. There’s plenty of uncertainty around the team and ownership, so the team will jump at any bit of consistency they can solidify in the meantime.
Besides, nothing says Phoenix Coyotes hockey like Shane Doan. It sounds like the team already knows it.