By Stu Hackel
The sale of the Coyotes by the NHL to Greg Jamison apparently has no time frame, but Shane Doan does and these two processes aren't in synch. As a result, it's starting to look more and more like Doan will depart the only NHL franchise he's known.
The report over the weekend from Mike Sunnucks of The Phoenix Business Journal that Jamison has raised $20 million less than the league's asking price means that the deal is not done. Sunnucks noted last week that he'd heard rumors that one of Jamison's smaller investors had backed away from the deal. Jamison's camp and the NHL discounted them, but something happened because sources had previously indicated to Sunnucks that Jamison had the funds available -- unless those sources were wrong and he's never had the full amount needed.
The NHL -- that is, the owners -- bought the Coyotes out of bankruptcy in 2009 for $140 million. (You remember that, right? Jim Balsillie and Hamilton, Ontario, Jerry Moyes and Judge Redfield Baum? Seems like just yesterday.) They are asking Jamison to fork over $170 million and probably aren't going to budge off that number. They've got to make up for the money they've lost operating the club.
So Jamison now must resume cruising the wealthy to make up the difference. Finding partners for this enterprise has been a challenge. The team loses money and lots of it, in large part because of its remote location in suburban Glendale, west of Phoenix, which is a too far from a good chunk of the club's fan base in the suburbs that lie east of Phoenix.
On top of that, the team's publicly funded arena and lease have been the subject of non-stop controversy. There will be more of it this week as a court hearing is scheduled for Monday on a petition that would give Glendale citizens a chance to in November to vote on repealing a sales tax increase that's designed to help the city pay for Jamison's management of Jobbing.com Arena. Even if opponents can't get the measure on the ballot, things may not die down as a number of candidates for the Glendale City Council are against the lease.
This doesn't seem like the kind of environment into which even a billionaire wants to sink too much pocket change, although I must admit to not being a billionaire (you're shocked, I know), so I can't really understand their mindset on most things.
As a result, the sale could remain stalled for a while, and the NHL doesn't have too much problem with that as long as the league eventually gets its money. There is no desire to abandon Phoenix, the 12th largest TV market in the US. But if the NHL doesn't get paid by Jamison, who seems to be the league's last hope, chances are it will start exploring options elsewhere: Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City -- c'mon down!
None of this does Shane Doan any good. As everyone in hockey knows, Doan wants to remain with the club where he's captain and has played his entire 16-season career. He's lived in the Phoenix area for all but one year of that time, his children were born there, he's loyal to the organization, and he's committed to making the Coyotes a success on and off the ice. (That latter goal remains a precarious undertaking.)
Doan is also an unrestricted free agent and if the Jamison-Coyotes marriage doesn't take place, he figures along with most people that this team will almost certainly be moved elsewhere for the 2013-14 season. As Doan told Jean-Francois Chaumont of Le Journal de Montreal last week, "If the team ever had to move, it would dictate my next town." In that event, he said, if there was "no hope for the Coyotes in Phoenix, I want to choose my next city."
So Doan and his agent Terry Bross have been trying to figure out when enough is enough, when to cut the cord. Each week, it seems, another Doan deadline comes and goes. One almost came about last week, after Jamison had been too uncommunicative with Doan and Bross and they apparently gave him an ultimatum. As a result, Doan and Jamison did talk on Saturday. Just what was said hasn't come to light, but you can be sure that the $20 million shortfall and Jamison's efforts to make it up were part of the conversation.
If Doan decides to leave the Coyotes, where might he go? Lots of clubs want him. Probably half the league has expressed interest and Bross told David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail last week that six teams have submitted offers. Doan took advantage of his East Coast trip to participate in CBA talks earlier this month and visited with the Rangers and Flyers. Last week, Louis-André Larivière of TVA reported that a source close to Doan said the Coyotes' captain would visit the Canadiens this week.
"Yes, I can say that the Canadiens interest me," Doan confirmed to Chaumont in Le Journal, while acknowledging that staying with the Coyotes remained his first choice. "I love the Canadiens' great history and I have enormous respect for (new general manager) Marc Bergevin. I've spoken to Marc several times during my career and he's a very good person. I honestly do not know a single person who does not like Marc."
While other clubs have said they’d like Doan to visit them, there have been no other reports of him scheduling meetings elsewhere, which doesn’t mean he hasn’t or won’t. Twitter was alive Monday morning with unconfirmed rumors that Doan was in Buffalo to visit the Sabres.
One factor that could instantly narrow the field of suitors is how much Doan might command in salary. He made $4.55 million last season with the Coyotes, but, as we've noted before, John Gambadoroa, a radio reporter in Phoenix, tweeted earlier this month that one unnamed Eastern Conference team supposedly offered a four-year, $30 million deal.
That figure and term have been bandied about freely and seem to be rather high. Yes, Alexander Semin got $7 million from Carolina last week, but that was for just one year and he’s 27. Doan will be 36 in October and even though at any age he might be a better player to have in your dressing room than Semin in his prime, the fact is that even the most productive older players don’t get that kind of money. (See Adam Gretz’s CBSSports.com very good blog post on Doan’s value for those figures.) A main reason for that is the current CBA’s Over-35 Rule: If a team signs a multi-year deal with a player who will be 35 or older starting in the second year of the contract, the full amount of that deal counts against the team’s salary cap regardless of whether the player is on the active roster or not. We can't know whether this will change in the next CBA, but GMs probably have to operate as if it will remain part of the new agreement. Regardless, it's still a very large number for an aging player who has produced around 50 points per season in recent years.
Nevertheless, that four-year, $30 million deal became the subject of lots of discussion last week, especially when TSN’s Aaron Ward tweeted, “All indications Detroit #RedWings out of Shane Doan sweepstakes. Asking price too high.” No one from the Wings confirmed that they had dropped out, although most assumed that GM Ken Holland would find better things to do with that kind of money, if that's what Doan wants.
Not long after Ward's tweet came Shoalts' Globe and Mail story linked above in which he reported, “A source familiar with Doan’s talks with other NHL teams said it is thought it will take a four-year contract worth a total of $30-million (all currency U.S.) to get him.”
But Shoalts was quick to add in the next paragraph that, “Terry Bross, Doan’s agent, said they have not made any specific demands although they are in possession of offers from six teams.”
Shoalts concluded that, “There are teams willing to pay Doan between $7-million and $7.5-million because of his leadership and two-way play but only for one or perhaps two years. However, the source said there will probably be at least one team willing to cough up that much for four years.”
This doesn't mean Doan would go automatically go for the long green. It should be obvious from his loyalty to the Coyotes that we're talking about a special person and player here and it's quite possible that he'd forgo the four-year megadeal if he's more interested playing for a club where he feels comfortable compared to one that may be less to his liking but will throw a huge contract at him.
In this very interesting offseason, we’ve already seen players decide to not take the biggest dollar amount on the table in order to play where they feel some sort of emotional attachment. Doan could make that sort of decision, too.
For now, he's still a Coyote, which is really all he wants. However, that clock is ticking. So is Jamison's, although perhaps not as fast. Only the NHL has time on its side in this situation.
That's the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, with the original vocal version from 1964. It was actually a "B"-side on one of her singles. She's still singing it, here with some other legendary NOLA musicians, including Dave Bartholomew on trumpet and Allen Toussaint on piano.
But here's the very first version, an instrumental (mostly) done by jazz trombonist Kai Winding from 1963, before the full lyrics had been written for Irma. The vocals on this version are by three gospel singers from Newark, the Drinkard Singers, who had been doing some pop session work in New York at the time: Dionne Warwick, her sister Dee Dee Warwick and their cousin Cissy Houston, Whitney's mom.
The best-known version came out later in 1964 sounding like this:
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