The Arizona Coyotes had to do it. As painful and emotional as it is, they couldn't wait any longer to part ways with the most important player in franchise history.
The Coyotes on Monday made the smart decision to announce they will not re-sign forward Shane Doan, 40, to a new contract. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 He has also reportedly been offered a job in the front office, according to ArizonaSports.com.
"The time has come for us to move on and to focus on our young, talented group of players and our very bright future," Coyotes owner, chairman and governor Andrew Barroway said. "This was a very difficult decision given what Shane has done for the Coyotes and his unparalleled importance to the organization."
Doan has given everything to the Coyotes and to building hockey in the desert since arriving with the team from Winnipeg in 1996. He has been a terrific player, captain, face of the franchise and ambassador. He deserves a jersey retirement night, maybe even a statue.
But he could not continue playing for the Coyotes. They could not continue to put him in the lineup instead of a younger player with potential, a player who needs ice time to prove himself in the NHL, to show he should be part of the young core that is supposed to help Arizona become a Stanley Cup contender soon.
Video: Johnson on Coyotes parting ways with Shane Doan
If Doan wants to continue playing hopefully there is a team willing to employ him. Hopefully that team is a Stanley Cup contender. Doan deserves as much, but that wasn't likely to happen with the Coyotes, whose growth would continue to be stunted if they kept employing Doan.
This isn't a knock on Doan the person. There are few, if any, better people in the game than Doan. He's a leader off the ice and by example on the ice.
This is about Doan the 40-year-old player turning 41 on Oct. 10. This is about a player coming off his least productive season since 1998-99.
Doan had 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 74 games this season. He scored his 400th career goal on Dec. 23, but scored only two more the rest of the way.
On a team that is trying to grow with a homegrown young core, Doan was out of place this season and would have been again next season.
Again, this isn't a knock on Doan as much as it is reality. The Coyotes have a surplus of young forwards who have to get playing time to find out if they're for real.
It's time for Dylan Strome, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, to get a chance, a longer look than the seven games he got with the Coyotes this season.
He had one point in those seven games, was a healthy scratch for 10 more and was sent to back to Erie of the Ontario Hockey League on Nov. 20. Strome then had 75 points in 35 games in the OHL and helped Erie get to the Memorial Cup final, where it lost to Windsor.
Strome has graduated from junior hockey. He has to be given every possible chance to become an NHL player this season.
Maybe he takes Doan's roster spot.
The Coyotes need to see if Clayton Keller, the No. 7 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is going to be part of their core. He looked promising late this season with two assists in three games after signing following the conclusion of his season at Boston University.
Maybe Keller takes Doan's roster spot.
Then there is 21-year-old Anthony Duclair (turns 22 on Aug. 26). He struggled last season and was demoted to the American Hockey League. He was stronger upon his return to Arizona in early March, but the Coyotes need Duclair to have a rebound season and to be the scorer he showed he could be last season when he had 20 goals and 44 points in 81 games.
Duclair should already have a roster spot, but maybe he gets more ice time with Doan gone.
The Coyotes acquired 23-year-old forward Nick Cousins (turns 24 on June 20) in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. They then made him one of the eight skaters they protected from selection by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
Cousins had 27 points in 107 games across three seasons with the Flyers. Coyotes general manager John Chayka said he likes him because he's a playmaker. He should be given a chance to play a significant role in Arizona. Doan won't be in his way.
They also have Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse, Nicholas Merkley and Christian Fischer, all 22 or younger, all growing with a franchise that needs to continue to grow.
That's the point of the Coyotes decision to let Doan walk.
It's not that Doan can't play anymore. He probably still can. Hopefully he gets the chance if he wants it. But another season with the Coyotes would mean taking a roster spot away from a young player who could be part of something bigger in a few years.
The Coyotes had to make the tough decision with Doan. They did the right thing.