Shane Doan’s exit signals beginning of Coyotes’ youth movement

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By Alexis Ramanjulu, Cronkite News

PHOENIX (CRONKITE) — The Arizona Coyotes are looking to the future. To the disappointment of fans, that means breaking away from the past.

“They’re going in a different direction,” agent Terry Bross said. “They’re cleaning out the old and bringing in the new, and they have every right to do so as owners of the franchise.”

The Coyotes’ recent moves show that even the goaltender who led the team during its longest playoff run, or the captain who is the only player connecting Arizona to its Winnipeg origins, are not safe from the changing course of the franchise.

Arizona made two controversial moves Saturday when it traded veteran goalie Mike Smith to Calgary and informed Bross’ client, captain Shane Doan, that he would not be receiving a contract for the upcoming season.

“The time has come for us to move on and to focus on our young, talented group of players and our very bright future,” Andrew Barroway, who recently became the sole owner of the Coyotes, said in a statement on Monday.

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Last season, the Coyotes were the youngest team in the NHL, with an average age of 26. With the exits of Doan and Smith, that average has dropped to 25, four years younger than the average age of the oldest team, San Jose.

In exchange for Smith, the Coyotes received Brandon Hickey, a 21-year-old defenseman (who will play for Boston University next season), a conditional third-round draft pick and the rights to goaltender Chad Johnson.

“This move wasn’t made in isolation, it was made to set up other moves and improve our club,” Coyote General Manager John Chayka said. “Look, we think we have a good young group here, who has a chance to be a good team next year, but the reality is, Mike Smith is a 35-year-old goaltender.”

Johnson, 31, is protected from the expansion draft on Wednesday but could land with a different team since he is an unrestricted free agent. The expansion draft, which allows the Las Vegas Golden Knights to select players from current NHL rosters who are not protected, has opened up opportunities for other teams.

“Vegas doesn’t need 10, they only need a couple, and there are opportunity for trades from that perspective,” Chayka said. “I think there are some good goalies in the USA market potentially and we’ll see what that holds once we get to the free-agency period.”

Although the Coyotes are looking for deals and assets, not re-signing Doan leaves them without a captain, one less experienced veteran and no assets in return.

[READ MORE: Coyotes won't offer captain Shane Doan a contract]

“If there has ever been a time for one of my athletes … to vent to me and be mad and say nasty things about an organization, I think that yesterday was the opportunity to do that and he never showed that side,” Bross said. “ It was, ‘Hey, no hard feelings, I’ll always be a Coyote. It’s time to move on. I’m upset. I don’t like the decision. I don’t agree with it but it is what it is.’ ”

Doan will enter the free agency market on July 1, looking to join a team in contention for the Stanley Cup.

“We’re trying to talk to everybody and see where the best fit is,” Bross said. “I think he just wants to play right now and go out and see if he wants to win a Cup.”

If two trades in two days and the release of their captain was not enough, the Coyotes are still looking to fill their roster.

“We got about two weeks here where there’s opportunity to make some moves and I think we can cover a lot of ground in that time,” Chayka said. “I’d say we’re still hopeful to find a center iceman and some right shots across the roster, but there are a lot of options out there.

“Whether it’s through trade or free agency, now we have more flexibility to pursue those options.”

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