On Tuesday night, ESPN anchor John Buccigross relit a smoldering fire by stating that the Buffalo Sabres had indeed offered Phoenix Coyotes’ free agent Shane Doan a four year, $30 million dollar contract.
It has been no secret that Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has coveted Doan since free agency opened on July 1, but this substantial of a courtship may be surprising to many Sabres fans.
Doan is an excellent player, arguably with Hall of Fame credentials for what he has done for the Phoenix franchise since their move from Winnipeg in 1996. He scores, he leads, he plays in all of the dirty areas of the ice.
So why shouldn’t Regier be banging on his door on his knees, begging him to come play for the Sabres?
There are three major reasons.
The first two are very simple: Age and money.
The age debate has been raging in the NHL for years, with players like Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Mark Recchi, Doug Weight, and Nicklas Lidstrom leading their teams in recent years. So it’s certainly not to say that Doan cannot play at a high level because he’s 35. Instead, it has everything to do with his playing style.
Doan, as stated above, is not a finesse player. He’s quick to take the body or to scrap when the time comes. That type of play takes a toll on a body. The worry is not that he won’t be able to compete at the level he’s played at for his entire career; it’s that he won’t be the same player that he’s been for his entire career.
Doan needs to be that agitating, physical presence he’s perfected for so many years to be useful to the Sabres. The wing cupboards are pretty stocked right now, with Drew Stafford, Marcus Foligno, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville forming a formidable top-six wing lineup.
Sure, having Doan would push one of them to the third line and help the team in that sense, but it’s not what the team needs right now. It’s certainly not what the team needs to pay $7.5 million a season for.
That leads into the second reason of money.
Does Doan deserve $7.5 million a year in a pure market driven world? Probably not. But the reality is that anyone who signs him other than Phoenix needs to pay him a certain “premium” to leave Arizona, no matter what the ownership situation ends up being.
But in a cap-driven world, $7.5 million could cripple the Sabres’ growth options. Especially given the fact that signing Doan to a contract over the age of 35 would prevent the Sabres from ever burying him in the AHL to save cap room (assuming he’s signed under the current CBA and/or nothing changes in the next one).
In other words, they’ll be paying him his $30 million unless they trade him or he retires.
The last reason is a bit more subjective, but it’s especially valid for Darcy and coach Lindy Ruff.
It’s simply the fact that Regier and Ruff’s reputation could not survive a Doan failure. Regier and owner Terry Pegula showed the willingness to spend money last season to improve the team, and hit on Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr and missed big on Ville Leino, which is what resonates in the fans’ eyes.
If Doan were to pull in that kind of money and not improve the team, probably in a drastic way, it may be the last failure of the Regier and Ruff era.
So, while Doan is (and should be) a hot commodity in the eyes of Darcy, he should not be willing to give up what he’s apparently willing to in order to land him because it would likely not end well.