I'm sure every hockey fan in Canada is getting tired of the Mats Sundin saga by now, but it goes to show how passionate we are about the sport as we just can't stop talking about him.
It seems amazing to me that the free agency of a player who will be 38 years old in 2 months and has never won a Stanley Cup or a major NHL individual award has garnered so much attention, but I guess with the parity in the league and so many teams that just need a nudge to become Stanley Cup contenders it is little wonder that Sundin has had so many suitors over the past 6+ months.
Yes, it has been more than 6 months since the rumors surrounding the signing of Mats Sundin began. As many as 10 teams have been reported to be in the mix, and as much as $10 million a season has been put on the table (by the Vancouver Canucks). So where will Mats Sundin wind up? Thankfully, we should find out in a couple of days.
Sundin is in the process of meeting with Glen Sather, the general manager of the New York Rangers. Sather will do his best to lure Sundin to the Big Apple, but he does have some roadblocks to clear before he can make a deal happen. The biggest problem in this new NHL is cap space. Before the Rangers, much like the Yankees in baseball, would just keep throwing money around, landing all the stars they could. Now they have to adhere to a strict salary ceiling, and with big money players like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Henrik Lundqvist already committed to, one has to wonder just where Slats will get the cap room.
Vancouver, out of all the teams that are rumored to be in the mix for Sundin's services, are arguably in the best position to land the prized free agent. They have the cap space (this season anyways), and with Sundin and a healthy Roberto Luongo they would have to be considered a cup contender. One roadblock keeping Sundin from Vancouver was the travel issue that all teams in the West face. However, with a front-loaded road schedule Vancouver has already embarked upon the majority of their long road trips, so that issue should be a non-factor (again, for this season). Next season is a bit of a sticking point, however. The Canucks have another $10 million on the table next season with Sundin's name on it. However they still have to worry about signing the Sedin twins, and several other players will be up for contract negotiation as well. With the salary cap very likely lowering next season they could be putting themselves in a very difficult financial situation by signing Sundin for the kind of money they have offered.
The 3rd option that Sundin is reportedly considering is the Montreal Canadiens. At one time following the signing of Robert Lang is seemed that any chance of Sundin coming to Montreal was gone. However, rumors have begun to resurface that there may just be some smoke there. Montreal has a creative, dynamic core of forwards that Sundin could easily fit into and enjoy immediate offensive success with. They are well coached and have a young star goalie with a strong defensive core in front of him. All these ingredients form the recipe for a Stanley Cup contender, and this is reported to be the biggest motivation behind Sundin's decision.
The Habs, however, have the same problem faced by the Rangers: cap space. They virtually exhausted their cap room with the Robert Lang signing, and would be forced to make moves to dump salary before they could bring Sundin in.
For the next few days we'll have to sit tight and wait. Sundin and whatever team he ultimately chooses will put us out of our misery shortly. After that we'll have to find some other free agent rumor to keep us talking around the water cooler. When is Peter Forsberg coming back, by the way?