You can count on two paws the number of players like Shane Doan of the Coyotes currently playing in the NHL. A 16-season veteran with over 300 goals (318) who gets his fingernails dirty, throws the body, leads by example and has a higher points-per-game average in his last three playoff years (0.70) than he does for his career in the regular season (0.66).
He's an unrestricted free agent whose addition to the right roster elevates its standing as a Stanley Cup contender — not only because of his prowess, but because unlike a Rick Nash or a Bobby Ryan, Doan won't cost roster players to acquire his services. Just money and a multi-year deal.
Doan's camp has set a Monday deadline for a free-agency decision regarding his future with the Phoenix Coyotes. In a League where loyalty can be an alien concept in the summer months, Doan wants nothing more than to be loyal. But that's being put to a regrettable test.
Back in Feb. 2007, Doan signed a five-year contract that GM Mike Barnett said he "trusted and hoped" would keep Shane Doan "for the rest of his career, with the same organization that drafted him."
"I have confidence in the group of people that are here that we can win. And will win. Until we do, I feel like my job isn't finished here."
Barnett was fired that April. The Coyotes would miss the playoffs for the next three seasons.
Then came Don Maloney and Dave Tippett, and fortunes changed. The Coyotes became a team that could win, making the Western Conference Final last season. But this happened right as the franchise fell into bankruptcy, into ownership turmoil, into uncertainty in its potential relocation and ability to bring in and retain talent.
Now, Doan's part of that uncertainty.
Eleven teams have inquired about the player, his agent, Terry Bross, said Friday. New York, Detroit and Montreal are among the group, according to various reports.
Doan deserves better. "It's heartbreaking for him," Bross said. "Heartbreaking."
Bross reiterated Doan wants to stay with the Coyotes. He loves it here, his family loves it here and he has developed a profound connection with the organization. "He's such a loyal guy," Bross said. "He views the team like it's his own franchise, from the equipment manager to the trainer to the people taking tickets."
Boivin throws the Los Angeles Kings into the mix, too; their needs are on the left side, but Doan can play both wings well.
She's right: Doan deserves better than this.
Better than the Coyotes' future being clouded for yet another summer but local politics. Better than having to make this decision between the team he wants to retire with, and an NHL franchise other than the only one with whom he's played.
When Doan signed that 5-year deal back in 2007, there was no inkling the NHL was going to own and operate the team in 2012. The notion that Doan would have three straight years of playoff hockey and a conference finals appearance and still might need to leave … one imagines he couldn't fathom it.
From the outside, there's a silver lining for Doan: He could became Ray Bourque, 2013.
He could become the final puzzle piece for a team like the Detroit Red Wings — who are already being sold on him — or the Vancouver Canucks, for whom we've often said a Doan-type player would be a game-changing edition. If he leaves, he'll make bank and gain stability and potentially win a Cup.
But one look at his playing history in the NHL tells you he doesn't belong on another team. He belongs with the Coyotes, until the end of his playing days. Like so many other dilemmas in the last few years, Coyotes fans can only sit, wait, watch and hope that their captain decides to ride this out with them. If not, he'll ride off.