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Coyotes lose leading scorer

The SportsXchange

Ray Whitney is an NHL vagabond. Five of the seven teams he has played for in his 20-year NHL career -- San Jose, Florida, Columbus, Carolina and San Jose -- weren't in the league when he was a stick boy as a teenager in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room.

So despite two great seasons on the ice in Phoenix and a 77-point, second-team All-Star year in which he reached both 1,000 NHL points and his 40th birthday, playing on a team owned by the league and one with an uncertain future in Arizona wasn't pulling at "The Wizard" to stay in town. Add in general manager Don Maloney's unwillingness to offer a multi-year deal and the two-year, $9 million waved at him by the Dallas Stars, and the Coyotes were steeled to the idea of losing their leading scorer.

The Coyotes also fully expected to lose veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin after three seasons. Phoenix has strong organizational depth on the blue line, and re-acquiring Zbynek Michalek on draft day left no room on the roster for the 38-year-old Aucoin and free agent Michal Rozsival.

But the prospect of losing captain Shane Doan, the original Phoenix Coyote and heartbeat of the dressing room, is another matter. Doan wants to stay in Arizona and the Coyotes want him to end his career in a Phoenix uniform, but he's a 36-year-old free agent coming off a strong season and about to sign his last long-term deal. And he won't sign a long-term deal with Phoenix unless the franchise's future is secure and the path is clear for Greg Jamison to complete his purchase from the NHL.

Doan's agent, Terry Bross, said Doan won't entertain offers from other teams at this time and is willing to give Phoenix more time to settle its ownership issue. He hasn't ruled out the idea of a one-year deal, but it is obviously not ideal and wouldn't offer the type of security he could command from the 7-9 teams who have made their interest known to Bross.

Doan will be as patient as he can. And the uncertain future will keep Maloney from moving forward with any large free agent decisions or from pulling the trigger on trades he is contemplating to replace Whitney and add more scorers to the wing positions. Free agents like Taylor Pyatt and Daymond Langkow will remain in limbo as well unless they decide the chance to re-up with a conference finalist isn't worth the possibility of a franchise move.
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