Monday, December 15, 2008

My Thoughts on Mats Sundin

I am taking a short break from studying for finals to offer up my thoughts on Mats Sundin.
As many of you know, the NHL rosters freeze on December 19th, this Friday, for the Xmas Roster Freeze. No transactions can be made after that date until a later date. 
As many of you also know, Mats Sundin is still a free agent. If you didn't then I would love to know where you have been these past 6 months or so. However, Mats is close to a decision....finally. His goal is to start playing in January and while he has been working out, it might take a little while to get back into the swing of the NHL game. 
Today it was reported in the Philadelphia Daily News that the Flyers are out of the running for Sundin. They really don't need him at this point anyway. It would be too hard for them to move salary. With the elimination of Chicago plus any team below 6th place in either conference, a picture is finally starting to form here. 
The top 3 teams are believed to be the Vancouver Canucks, Les Canadiens de Montreal, and the New York Rangers. Personally, I think Mike Gillis should start looking elsewhere. Mats doesn't want to be in a place where travel is crazy and the Northwest division is not the place to go if that is the case. Despite the fact a 2 year $20 million contract offer is still on the table in Vancouver, Mats won't go there. Supposedly he isn't in it for the money.
So that leaves the Habs and the Rangers. Both are near the top of the Eastern Conference with the Canadiens having games in hand on the Rangers. But more importantly, both teams would like to be doing better. 
After a hot start, the Rangers are 6-4 in their last 10 while the Canadiens are 5-3-2. Both of them would love to be scoring more goals. The Rangers have 88 goals in 33 games while Montreal has 85 in 29 games. It seems like both are identical but there is one advantage, if you want to call it that, that the Rangers have in this sweepstakes.
The Rangers, despite cap issues, can come up with the money for Sundin easier than the Habs can. By simply sending Lauri Korpikoski down to Hartford and waiving Petr Prucha, the Rangers could free up more than $2 million. Heck, trading Rozsival would free up $5 million. Now whether Sather can convince some team to take Rozsival or Redden or whoever else is another story. 
Montreal doesn't have players it can just dump to make room. Moving pieces for them would require big names to be moved such as Andrei Markov, Alex Kovalev and so on. They will not trade players like Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, or Mike Komisarek because they want to retain them in the offseason. 
Also, the Rangers have the Swedish factor. Whether this actually plays into the decision Mats will make is one thing but it is present. Obviously Henrik Lundqvist is a huge plus as he is regarded as a world class goaltender. Markus Naslund is one of Sundin's best friends as they have played together many times over the course of their hockey careers. Markus has been scoring but maybe Sundin is the guy who can get Naslund back to that high level of offense. 
Where will Mats ultimately end up? Nobody knows. However, this week is a huge week in his decision making process. Maybe the Rangers will be have a nice gift waiting for them in New York when they return from California...

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