Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Elusive, the Patient, the Enigmatic... Mats Sundin

Its been about a week, and there's a few things that have popped up on my radar in the hockey world, but I'm going to focus on one in particular.

To beat a dead horse, TSN reported that the ever-choosy Mats Sundin met with Brian Burke of the Anaheim Ducks, (or is it the Toronto Maple Leafs, no, no, that's next year) to talk about Mats pre-conditions before he re-enters the league. Reports are that Sundin has been on the ice attempting to get back into game-shape in the Southern California area.

One of Mats desires regarding a return is seeking anonymity, understandable from a former Leaf Captain in hockey-mad Toronto. That is obviously a possibility in the greater Los Angeles area, making both the Ducks, and the Kings viable options. Although, lets be honest, Mats is in his last years, he's not going to want to try to help build a winner, he wants to be the missing piece. The anonymity issue is also quelled in a city like New York, where the Rangers have also expressed desire to sign Sundin. But, depending on how much of a deal-breaker this is for Sundin, it could potentially rule out all of the Canadian teams like Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa, not to mention Toronto. Whoever thought the lack of a crazed fan base would be a draw for certain players.

If Burke could somehow lure Sundin in, he would have to clear approximately $6.5 mil off the current payroll, (Mats is likely seeking somewhere around $7 mil/yr). Two obvious options to me are to deal free-agent bust Brendan Morrison ($2.75 mil for just this year), and Chris Kunitz ($3.725 for the next four years) who's had trouble finding the back of the net with one goal in 15 games, but is still chipping in with 10 assists. Morrison will be tough to move given his current play, but Burke is likely to find another home for Kunitz. Where Mats fits in in that lineup is another story. The Ducks powerplay is already humming with Pronger and Getzlaf on the point, while they move Niedermayer down low to work in tight with Selanne and Perry.

Having said that, a part of me can't help but think Burke is attempting to lay some groundwork for a foundation he's laying in Toronto. I know, I know, its "illegal" in the National Hockey League, but its not like Burke and Sundin have a chaperone from the NHL when they go out to lunch to discuss business. On the other hand, if Burke is really trying to land the big fish to put in his tank in Anaheim, and Sundin signs there, it could be the jewel that keeps Burke from bolting. If you think about it, he's already put together a winner in Anaheim, most of the pieces are still there, throw Sundin in that mix, and you've got an even stronger contender.

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