There are two big fish - Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan -- swimming in the unrestricted free agent waters of the NHL and now that it has become apparent both veteran forwards are preparing for a return, a lot more lines are being dropped into the water.
Smart money suggests Shanahan will be the first of the two to surface, as Sundin looks as though he's probably, at the earliest, on a Dec. 1 timetable.
But now that Shanahan has instructed his agent Rick Curran to explore options beyond the New York Rangers, all that stands between Shanahan and getting back on the ice is him deciding where he wants to play.
The St. Louis Blues are one of a number of teams that have made it clear they would be interested in Shanahan. But Blues' president John Davidson aptly outlined the big issue being whether Shanahan wants to pull up stakes, move his family and take his kids out of school in New York or whether there are any other options that would allow him to stay in the New York area.
And that decision-making process has apparently begun for Shanahan. Sources tell TSN Shanahan is in Philadelphia today to meet with Flyers' GM Paul Holmgren. It is far too early in the process to declare this a good fit. Philadelphia is close to New York but it's not New York so if Shanahan were to play there and maintain his existing residence, there would still be some significant commuting involved. On the flip side, the Flyers are top heavy with forwards - many believe their most pressing need is on defence - and in order to sign anyone (Shanahan or Sundin), the Flyers would have to do some major wheeling and dealing.
New Jersey is probably the only other option that would make sense in terms of Shanahan being able to remain in New York, but, so far anyway, the Devils are not believed to have shown a high degree of interest. That, especially given New Jersey's injury situation, could change at a moment's notice. And Shanahan, who started his career with the Devils, is well aware of the pros and cons of playing in New Jersey and has a relationship with GM Lou Lamoriello.
The Islanders are not believed to be a viable option because they are a rebuilding team.
Outside of those possibilities, any team that Shanahan might end up with would require him to move his family. So the process would appear to be pretty simple here - Shanahan will first investigate the close-to-home possibilities and if there's a fit, great, he'll pursue that. But failing that, assuming his desire to play remains strong, he can expand his search to include the Blues and other teams that have expressed solid, significant interest.