Despite being one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents on the market, Shane Doan made it clear he never really wanted to leave the Phoenix Coyotes - and now he doesn't have to.
Doan followed through - just barely - on his promise to sign before the expiration of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, agreeing to terms with the Coyotes on a four-year deal worth $21.2 million. The contract includes $2 million in bonus money.
The pact will allow Doan to remain with the only franchise he has ever played for, covering the veteran forward through his age-40 season. Doan had narrowed down the list of contenders to the Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, who pushed hard to land the 35-year-old but had to settle Friday for re-signing forward Alex Burrows to a four-year contract.
Doan repeatedly said his first choice was to remain with the Coyotes, who made him the seventh overall pick in the 1995 draft when the franchise was still based in Winnipeg. Doan is the longest-serving member of the club, having racked up 318 goals and 470 assists in 1,198 career games.
As difficult as it can be for a player to exude excitement in a press release, Doan pulled it off as he shared his thoughts with the team's official website.
"I’m very excited about our team, our coaching staff and our management and am confident about our future in Arizona. I chose to stay with the Coyotes because I am committed to winning here, not anywhere else and I love living and playing in the Valley. This is my home and this is my team."
Coyotes GM Don Maloney made it clear the franchise values Doan's leadership as much or more than his offensive contributions:
"He is the consummate professional and one of the best leaders in the NHL. His loyalty, commitment, integrity and passion for the game epitomize everything you’d want in a player. It was a priority for us to sign him to a long-term deal so that he can play for the Coyotes for the remainder of his career."
Reports out of Arizona suggest more than half the league inquired about signing the 35-year-old, with six presenting formal offers. Buffalo was rumoured to have made the most lucrative proposal, dangling a four-year contract worth a reported $30 million.
In the end, not even the Coyotes' perpetual franchise instability was enough to sway Doan, who will earn a decent-sized raise over the $4.55 million he earned annually in his last deal. Doan still has something left in the tank - his 50 points ranked third on the team last season - and his leadership is critical for young Phoenix team that reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history last May.
Doan's contract signing comes just one day before the collective bargaining agreement runs out, with NHL owners planning to lock out the players midnight Saturday.