Whitney’s return reminder of Coyotes’ dilemma

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The news that Greg Jamison would not make his deadline to purchase the Coyotes had barely settled over the Valley when another reminder of this lengthy ownership saga’s impact slipped quietly into the press elevator on Saturday at Jobing.com Arena.

Ray Whitney’s return to the Valley wasn’t as poetic as it was supposed to be. Whitney, now with the Stars, went on injured reserve Saturday with a broken foot and is expected to miss at least four weeks. But he’ll be back in Dallas. His two-year run in Phoenix, though, ended for the same reason many careers with this franchise come to an end: The Coyotes couldn’t pay him enough money when he became a free agent at the end of the best season in franchise history.

“I wasn’t asking for something I didn’t think I had already earned,” said Whitney, who signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Stars after leading the Coyotes with 77 points in 82 games. “I talked to some other teams, not just Dallas. The money wasn’t a problem for them. For a couple teams, the term was, and for a couple teams, the term wasn’t.

“But not having an owner and trying to go to the NHL for approval of a contract — it’s not necessarily (general manager) Don (Maloney) saying no. It’s Don fighting to get the dollars to where he wanted, but it’s the league saying, ‘We’re not giving a 40-year-old a two-year contract.'”

Whitney signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Coyotes in 2010. He said he would have likely returned to Phoenix for “somewhat” of a hometown discount, but that wasn’t what he was offered.

“The discount they wanted me to take was a lot bigger than what people might think,” he said. “It was basically the same contract I had played under. Money-wise, it was the same. It was structured differently, but there was no raise.”

Whitney was also a bit miffed when he was told it was club policy not to offer bonuses before Shane Doan got one (deferred) later in the summer.

Maloney was not available for comment Saturday night.

Whitney said Dallas called him on the first day of free agency and Tampa Bay GM Steve
Yzerman called him about 10 minutes later. Whitney didn’t wait long to accept the Stars’ offer, reasoning that their style was similar to the Coyotes’ and a good fit for him.

He insists the ownership uncertainty wasn’t a factor in his decision — other than the money he was offered, of course.

“I didn’t see the team leaving in the two years that I was asking for,” he said. “I was pretty confident with Mr. Jamison. I’ve known him since my days in San Jose.”

Whitney believes Jamison lost a couple investors recently and that if the lockout had ended one month earlier, Jamison might have been able to complete his purchase of the club. Regardless of the Coyotes’ ongoing state of limbo, Whitney is convinced the franchise won’t relocate.

“Personally, I think as long as Gary Bettman is still the commissioner of the National Hockey League, there’s going to be a team here,” he said. “I think there’s probably been some arrangements with the other owners that there’s got to be a certain price tag that comes with this team after footing the bill for so long. But this team isn’t going anywhere.”

That suits Whitney well since he just bought a home in the same neighborhood as Shane Doan, Derek Morris and former Coyote Adrian Aucoin.

“I got out today and went for a walk with my dad. It was hot out and sunny, and it just reminded you how nice it is here,” said Whitney, who watched Saturday’s game in a suite with his parents. “I think it’s a good place and I’m going to retire here, so obviously I would like (hockey) to stay.”

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