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It's almost July 1.

For NHL fans like me, that means it's time to get giddy. A flurry of contracts will be agreed on this Sunday, filling my need for gossip (sure beats talking about Bill 'round the water cooler) and nearly blowing up my Twitter timeline. Phone calls will be made, contracts will be signed and writers like me will have deals to dissect.

Normally, this is one of my favorite times of year. It's fast-paced, fun to watch and exciting for teams like the Coyotes, who seem to add a surprise every year (Mike Smith, anyone?).

But this year I'm nervous. Captain Coyote himself, Shane Doan, will test the free agency market to see what kind of offers come his way. He may be older, but the list of suitors will be long. Numerous NHL teams will want his leadership and hard play on their roster next season. While I don't think Doan will leave, he could.

As a long-time fan of the Coyotes, the idea of Doan leaving is impossible. He's been the face of the team since the likes of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk left the desert. As a member of the media, he was the first major athlete I interviewed in my career. He treated me like a seasoned vet, something other athletes refused to do (here's looking at you, Thierry Henry).

But, when I really think about it, I'm glad Doan is testing free agency. He hasn't come out and said it, but it's essentially been stated that he's tired of the ownership saga and may finally want to recuse himself from it. I can't blame him. Who would want to be in constant doubt of being relocated or changes in coworkers every single year? I'd leave that company in a heartbeat.

The thing is, though Doan can leave if he so chooses, he's not the type to jump at the largest contract and get paid (Whitney might, but that's another column). Doan will go where he feels like he can contribute and where he'll enjoy his hockey. He deserves that after all these years. But I know his loyalties lie with his current franchise. He wants to stay, but he could go. If he does leave, I know he'll have made the right decision -- for him and the Coyotes.

I'll be watching the beginning of the NHL free agency period on Sunday a little more eagerly than I normally would. I doubt, should Doan leave, that he signs somewhere on Sunday. He'll take his time, consider his offers and see where the chips fall after the flurry of signings. I hope, as both a fan and writer, that he stays. Doan's the heart and soul of the Coyotes. He's a legend in the NHL, like it or not.

If Doan leaves, all I can offer is a tip of the hat and a handshake. He's done his time and put in more work than any of us could stand for a franchise that has been faltering more often than not. And if he does leave and finishes his career elsewhere, I hope to see the Coyotes sign him to a one-day deal before he retires, so his name can go up in the Ring of Honor, where it so rightfully deserves to be.

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