It’s almost a foregone conclusion that pending unrestricted free agent center Antoine Vermette will be dealt by the Arizona Coyotes, perhaps as early as the new year, and the club will listen on a number of other players over the next few months, potentially including star blueliner Keith Yandle.
They have to. They’re near the bottom of the standings, they’re almost surely going to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, and it’s time to bring in some assets to rebuild.
Which brings us to captain Shane Doan, the face of the franchise since the team moved south from Winnipeg.
He’s got another year left on his contract after this season, so there’s certainly no urgency to the situation. But I was curious this week and asked the 38-year-old winger about his future with the only club he's ever played for.
Not surprisingly, Doan doesn’t see himself wearing another uniform.
"It hasn’t crossed my mind, I’m not thinking about it, it’s not an issue," Doan told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I still believe that our team is capable of crawling back into this."
Well, that’s the leader talking, he doesn’t want his teammates to be giving up on things. Deep down, I can’t imagine Doan doesn’t know like the rest of us that his team is toast.
But I think it’s absolutely how he feels when he says he hasn’t envisioned himself in another uniform.
"When I made the decision a few years ago to stay with the team at 36, I said: 'You know what? This is the bed I’m sleeping in. This is what I want,'" said Doan.
In the summer of 2012, just before the lockout, Doan signed a four-year, $21.2-million deal with the Coyotes, spurning serious interest from other clubs around the league. He was courted at the time by the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers most notably, and also somewhat by the Los Angeles Kings.
He chose to stay put.
Now, Doan may want retire a Coyote; his wife and kids love the Phoenix area and it’s where their going to continue to make their life after hockey.
But not everything is in his control. Let’s say, for example, that general manager Don Maloney comes to him at some point and respectfully paints a picture of a rebuild or re-tooling that doesn’t look great for Doan's final playing days. Perhaps Maloney explains the Coyotes could really use the assets they could get from a contender who would value Doan’s leadership and presence in their lineup.
I think it’s doubtful Maloney would ever do that given everything that Doan has done for the franchise and the area, but I suppose stranger things have happened.
I think that’s where it gets interesting. Even though Doan says he has not given the possibility of leaving a single thought (and if he’s being honest about it), you still can never say never in this business.
Who knows for sure how things will play out with Arizona over the next year and a half?
One of the reasons I suspect Doan isn’t knocking on Maloney’s door to go join a contender before his career ends is that he has seen that chasing a Cup can be a fleeting experience. He can simply look at his pal Jarome Iginla, who exited rebuilding Calgary after all those years and hand-picked Pittsburgh, then Boston and now Colorado (the Avs are currently below the Flames in the standings).
My guess is what’s transpired with Iginla has impacted Doan greatly, just as remembering how Marian Hossa left Pittsburgh to chase a Cup with Detroit only to see those Penguins beat Hossa’s Red Wings the following season.
Just because it worked for Ray Bourque years ago, doesn’t mean it’s that easy to hand-pick a Cup winner.
I also think that Doan feels like the fortunes of a team can change in a hurry. The Islanders were nowhere a year ago, now they’re chasing first place. The Predators were a patsy a year ago and now are vying for the Central Division title. There are many other examples in a salary-cap era where the fine line between winning and losing has never been more thin.
Who’s to say once ownership is finally solidified in Arizona (Andrew Barroway’s majority purchase is expected to go through over the next month or so) that the Coyotes can’t make some offseason moves that will improve the team.
I think that’s firmly in Doan’s mind.
Either way, I would imagine that Doan’s future will be figured out this offseason as he enters the final year of his contract.