BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 19: Boyd Gordon #15 and Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrate Doan's goal in the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on November 19, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
You may have heard the reports on Friday that an Eastern Conference team offered Shane Doan a four year, $30 million contract to come play for them. Since the Sabres have said that they are interested in Doan, naturally some thought had come that the Sabres might have been the team that offered that contract. The contract, and it's $7.5 million cap hit, would handcuff the Sabres in terms of salary cap space, but it would give the Sabres the veteran presence they have been looking for. Does the contract make sense for Buffalo?
Doan is currently 35 years old, has played in a total of 16 seasons, 1,198 career games, and has 788 career points. All of those games have come with the current Phoenix Coyotes franchise as he is the last holdover from the original Winnipeg Jets days. Doan has said all along that he would like to return to Phoenix and has set a target date of July 16th to see if the Coyotes ownership situation starts to work itself out. That deadline has already been pushed back once If that situation appears to be settling, then I would wholeheartedly expect Doan to stay in Phoenix.
If Doan does decide to move on, then that's where the situation gets interesting. Doan is a highly coveted player because of his scoring prowess and experience in the league. Also, the lack of high quality scoring wingers means that there is a severe shortage in supply on the market. There have been reports that up to 20 teams have inquired about his services, with Buffalo being one of those teams. Doan's last contract with the Coyotes was for five years and $22.75 million dollars. The four year, $30 million deal would be a significant yearly upgrade from $4.55 million a year to $7.5 million a year.
It would make sense for the Sabres to offer a contract like that to Doan entice him to play in Buffalo. While the team is trying to create the sense of Hockey Heaven, one year of upgrades to the facilities isn't going to make that happen. Creating a winning culture that is going to draw high quality free agents is going to take time. For the Sabres to try and bring him in, they would have to overpay him by a few million to become a major player.
That type of deal would severely handicap the Sabres though in trying to resign their restricted free agents. According to Cap Geek, the team has $10.5 million in cap space with 21 players on the roster, including eight defensemen. If Doan were to sign the deal, that would leave roughly three million dollars for Ennis and Kaleta to get the team right to the top of the cap and less if the team wanted to give itself some breathing room for roster moves. Ennis' last entry level deal saw him earn $875,000 a year while Kaleta's last contract was worth $907,000 a year. Both are expected to get decent pay raises, somewhere in the $1-1.5 million range, which is just enough for the Sabres to get both under contract.
There is one more concern though with offering Doan a contract of that size. Since Doan is 35 years old, the new contract would fall under the 35+ rules. That means that there would be no cap relief if Doan retired, so the team would have to expect that Doan would fulfill the full length of his contract. That would mean Doan would be playing until he is 39 years old. Paying a 39 year old forward $7.5 million for declining production might be tough to swallow for a fan base.