Shane Doan continues to trek around North America, meeting friends, downing Italian food and listening to the ever inflating offers for the biggest remaining fish in a very small offseason free agent pond.

Doan had a conversation with prospective Phoenix Coyotes owner Greg Jamison on July 29, but it wasn't enough to prevent him from adding Montreal and Vancouver to his list of face-to-face meetings, which began with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia. And as much as Doan wants to end the suspense and sign the final long-term deal of his career, Phoenix general manager Don Maloney has work to do as well.

Even if Doan returns, the Coyotes needed an upgrade in firepower, and replacing Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt with Steve Sullivan and David Moss doesn't even get them back to status quo. Maloney was never impressed by the summer free agent class -- as evidenced by his quick trigger in trading for Zbynek Michalek on draft day -- and he's willing to take on salary in a trade to upgrade his offense. But with the Doan issue unresolved, not to mention Jamison's deal to buy the team, what Maloney has to work with is a moving target.

It any other year, under any other circumstance, Doan would probably be gone. But after leading his team to the Western Conference final and feeling the needle move noticeably when it comes to hockey's place in the Arizona sports scene, to walk away after all he has been through there is especially hard. The opportunity to be a Steve Yzerman, a Niklas Lidstrom, a guy who played and stayed and retired in one city does hold a lot of meaning.

Does Doan want to play with buddy Danny Briere -- and far-from-friend Ilya Bryzgalov -- in Philadelphia? Does the Alberta pig farmer who has always had a ranch outside his window want to play and live in New York? Is he going to play in the heart of French Canada, where he had a long and painful controversy involving a French referee that had members of government speaking out against him?

With a possible lockout looming and a new city council set to take over in November, this long, strange saga is guaranteed to end one way or the other.