Once Over Lightly, But Not Politely — Free Agent Frenzy


• DOAN DO THAT: It’s hard to believe that a player who has devoted his entire career to one franchise would allow a political referendum to signal whether he stays with or leaves that team.

But that’s what it comes down to with Shane Doan and Phoenix. The Coyotes captain is dutifully eyeing an anti-hockey-club referendum in Glendale, Arizona which essentially would put the NHL team’s fate on a November ballot.

If the referendum fails — which, so far appears to be the case — it not only would clear the way for a successful sale to Greg Jamison but also allow GM Don Maloney to negotiate with Doan’s agent Terry Bross. But if the  anti-hockey residents prevail then Doan will do what he claims he does not want to do; field offers and sign with another team; and there are a bunch of clubs who’d love this competitor.

You also should know that a pro-Coyotes group has been feverishly working to prevent signatures that would turn the referendum into the Coyotes demise. Meanwhile, Doan waits, wonders and — either way — will be a heckuva lot wealthier in a month than he is right now.

Ironically, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley offers this succinct bit of advice for the captain: “RUN BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”

The Maven’s has another thought: What’s the rush?

• RYAN — BOBBY-ING AND WEAVING: With all the fuss and fanfare over the respective fates of Doan, Rick Nash and Alexander Semin, the best player who appears eminently trade-able is ‘way, ‘way out West in Anaheim. Barring a major rift-healing between the Ducks sniper and the club’s high command, Ryan should have a “Best Buy” sign pasted on his jersey. While Doan clearly is on the down side of his career, Ryan, at 25, has his best years ahead of him.

The Cherry Hill, New Jersey product also features the best collection of assets in terms of leadership and production potential among all the names still being bruited about as trade or free agent signings. Meanwhile, some media types suggest that because Ryan was reared in South Jersey and close to Philadelphia, he might be a prime target for either the Flyers, Devils or Rangers.

Sounds good but in this case, geography and family roots are irrelevant. Ryan will go to the team that makes Anaheim the best offer; same as Nash in Columbus! Philly, New Jersey and New York may want Bobby but not because he’s from Cherry Hill where there are fewer hills than High Point and not as many cherries as Oregon.

• WOULD YOU TAKE THESE BROTHERS? Some general managers should keep a pole in the corner of their office, preferably ten-feet long. Then, when they’re tempted to make a foolish move for a potentially effective scorer, they could grab the pole and recall the maxim, “I wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole.”

That could explain why a pair of gifted Belorussian forwards remain untouched in the NHL’s Used Star Lot. After all, Andrei, 27, and Sergei, 25, Kostitsyn are like some of those high-end “previously-owned cars” with the best mileage still to come. Right now they are being regarded as if they require a new clutch job.

Hey, the mechanics could be all wrong because we’re talking about a couple of shooters who each have proven they can excel the 20-goal mark and, together, might find the magic that didn’t happen in Nashville. In other words there’s a lot of talent for a coach who likes a challenge.

The Brothers K are not the kind you’ll find in a five-and-dime store but they won’t break any team’s bank either. Or, to put it in a Devil-ish way, how’s this arithmetic: two Kostitsyns are worth one Zach Parise!

• WON’T YOU COME HOME, JOSH BAILEY? If any team has exercised patience and fortitude over a still-undeveloped player, it is the Islanders and Josh Bailey. The ninth overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, Josh finished the season with 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points.

The numbers are deceptive because Bailey played most of the season at his natural position, center. But during the homestretch coach Jack Capuano switched him to wing on a line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo and, suddenly, Bailey got hot with six goals and 11 assists.

Whether the outburst has any carry-over into 2012-2013 will determine Bailey’s NHL future. After all, the kid is only 22, owns an exemplary attitude and appears to be the perfect teammate. Then again, his boss Garth Snow has just so much patience and Bailey knows that.

In an interview with Newsday’s Michael Gavin, Josh made it evident that he’s aware that he’s at a hockey crossroads.

“I have something to prove,” Josh told Gavin. “I haven’t hit my stride yet but I got to show myself with the finish and I want to continue that next season. I’m confident in myself and I know the organization believes in me. I just have to take it to the next level.”

Bailey is fortunate in having a patient boss who believes that Josh is evolving through a “natural maturity.” Snow considers Bailey an asset because of his smarts and ability to play all three forward positions.”

it looks good on paper but next season Bailey has to translate his promise to the ice — and he knows it better than anybody, except maybe Snow.

• A NICE JEWISH HOCKEY PLAYER: Ever since the franchise was born in 1926, the Rangers have enjoyed the support of a large number of Jewish fans. That explains why the signing of Jeff Halpern enthuses many in Rangerville and puts Jeff alongside a number of Jewish players in Blueshirts history. One of the most colorful was Syracuse-born defenseman Alex Levinsky who wore New York livery in the 1934-1935 season. During his nine-year big-league career Levinsky also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks. Among his other accomplishments, Levinsky was unusual among Rangers in that he boasted not one but two nicknames — Kingfish and Mine Boy!

Another excellent Jewish defenseman was Montreal-born Hyman (Hy) Buller who had starred in the American League for the Cleveland Barons. Buller became a Ranger in 1951 and was named to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team the following year. Others include Max Labovitch, Steve Richmond, Mike Hartman and, not that long ago, Matty Schneider, currently Donald Fehr’s right-hand-man with the NHL Players’ Association.