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Veteran Coyotes not worried about what future holds

by Corey Masisak

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There has been plenty of uncertainty for the Phoenix Coyotes around this time of year in recent seasons. When the Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in each of the past two postseasons, they've had to answer questions about the future whereabouts of the franchise.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who came to the desert with the organization from Winnipeg after his rookie season, has had to answer those types of questions more than anyone. As the Coyotes face elimination from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, there is a different kind of uncertainty for Doan.


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The 35-year-old Doan does not have a contract for next season. His five-year deal expires at the end of this campaign and he will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 if he doesn't sign a new deal with the Coyotes before then.

For two years, he had to answer questions about whether or not he had played his last game with Phoenix, but that was a team thing. This time around, it is a personal matter.

"I haven't really given a second thought to it," Doan said. "Other than [with the media], this is the only time it really crosses my mind, is when you have to answer questions about it. Other than that, it will be fine. Everything will be fine."

Doan is not alone in that situation. The Coyotes will likely have six guys in the lineup Sunday can become unrestricted free agents in six weeks, including veterans Ray Whitney, Daymond Langkow, Michal Rozsival and Adrian Aucoin.

Because Doan has played his entire career with the franchise, this is his first trip to the conference finals. For all five of these guys who are at least 33 years old, there is no guarantee there will be another run this deep into the postseason.

Whitney is the oldest of the bunch at 40, but he has already stated he wants to keep playing. He told Pierre LeBrun of last week that he wants to play at least two more seasons. After collecting a team-high 72 points this season, he won't have trouble finding work if that is the case.

Still, he perceived a question Saturday about his uncertain future to be one about retirement, not about his UFA status.

"You mean as in being old?" Whitney said, eliciting a chorus of laughter from the assembled media. "No, I don't think [this game will be any different]. You play for the season. You focus for the season. You worry about the other stuff when it's over. I haven't really thought too much about that past tomorrow. But obviously there's a few free agents. With the uncertainty with the team, where it's going to be, may be a concern. We've heard good things as of late, but we certainly don't concentrate on that. As a group, we've done a good job all year long making sure we leave the outside business to the people who deal with that. Inside the locker room, we've been pretty good all year of focusing on that."

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