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June 29, 2012 | 6:19pm ET
On the free-agent prowl
 Shane Doan might have played his last season as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.

CHICAGO, IL -- There have only been three men to wear the "C" in the desert since hockey moved to Arizona in 1996. Keith Tkachuk did it from 1996-2001, Teppo Numminen from 2001-2003, and Shane Doan from 2003 to the present.

Despite having suitors all over the league, mediocre support in the arena and an ownership situation that's made even the most logical fan feel criminally insane, Doan has always been the face of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise.

Until Sunday.

Doan will test the free agent market, and will undoubtedly receive a great deal of attention once his phone can "officially" begin ringing. One of the longest-standing captains in the NHL entering a market lacking legitimate power forwards is the perfect recipe for change in Glendale.

Consider this past season, which ended for the Coyotes beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Doan was right in the middle of it all, posting 50 points and hitting everything he could reach (or, in the case of Jamie Benn, couldn't reach).

Over the last 12 seasons, Doan has reached 50 points 11 times. And over that same time frame, he's reached the 20-goal plateau 11 times as well. He's also rarely missed time, playing in more than 70 games on an annual basis; last year he only missed two games because of the suspension from the Benn hit.

So it's no wonder his name has already started percolating around the league as a popular target for teams in need of another piece.

In fact, the recruiting apparently hasn't waited for the "official" beginning of free agency. When the Players' Association meetings closed shop in Chicago on Wednesday, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told the media that he lobbied Doan.

What a striking marriage that would be: after the contentious series that was played between the Coyotes and Blackhawks in April, moving Doan onto the Hawks' roster would take some getting used to. Yet, if the Hawks truly consider Patrick Kane to be a center moving forward, there may not be a better fit among free agent forwards this summer for Chicago than a physical top-six wing like Doan.

But Chicago won't be alone in expressing their interest in Doan.

Detroit, whose captain just retired, has plenty of cap space to make him comfortable in the winged wheel. Pittsburgh, who just moved a top-six forward, could use a physical player like Doan. Vancouver could use a big body up front that they lacked last season.

And the list will only continue to grow between now and Sunday.

From Doan's perspective, he can now chase the game's ultimate prize as much as his next paycheck. And, for a fun change of pace, he can shake hands with an owner. With a list of interested parties likely including most playoff teams and those that were close last season, he might become one of the more intriguing names to watch.

What is perhaps more intriguing than the possibilities opening to Doan is what his (potential) departure means to a Coyotes franchise that is still fighting an uphill battle to be accepted in Arizona. The one player that was a constant through the years could be leaving the desert. Is that a precursor for the rest of the organization?

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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