If all goes according to plan, the Mats Sundin Sweepstakes is entering its final week.
The unrestricted free agent and his agent J.P. Barry have set December 15th as a "soft" deadline to make a decision on where Sundin will play the balance of this season.
Could the process stretch out longer than one week?
Possibly, but the goal for Barry is to try to process enough information this week to be able to make a decision by next week. Sundin's expectation is that he will begin playing NHL regular season games with his new team immediately after Christmas but before New Year's, so long as that is amenable to the team that signs him.
Sundin and Barry are in the midst of "whittling" down the number of interested teams from 10 or so to no more than four or five legitimate candidates.
To that end, Barry is drilling down in detail to find out what precisely the finalists would be prepared and able to pay Sundin and how they would make that happen within the constraints of the salary cap.
It's believed the four prime candidates with great interest in Sundin that is mutual are the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens.
Of that group, only the Canucks currently have the ability to sign Sundin to a market-value contract - the Canucks have a standing offer of $10 million per year on a two-year deal - without having to make significant moves to accommodate the contract under the $56.7 million salary cap.
So Barry is clearly focusing on what the Rangers, Blackhawks and Canadiens could offer Sundin and what they would have to do to fit Sundin under the cap. Sundin has told a number of NHL clubs he's not interested in money so much as a chance to win the Stanley Cup, but he's not looking to re-gain his amateur status either. It's not enough for Sundin to just know how much money he would get from the teams; he needs some idea what elements of their team they may have to give up in order to fit him in because that may affect their standing as contenders.
Once Barry has all that information in hand, he and Sundin are expected to make a decision.
One supposes it could drag out longer than December 15th but that is the "soft" deadline they are trying to work to.
Anyone, outside of Sundin and Barry, who professes to know who the front-runners actually are is likely playing mostly a guessing game because Sundin has played all his cards tight to his vest.
There is a sense, and it's only that, the Canucks and the Rangers would be bi-coastal favorites, with the Canadiens and Blackhawks perhaps meriting consideration as well.
Sundin is scheduled to be in New York on Friday for a promotional visit for his venture with PokerStars.
The Rangers haven't formally requested another meeting, however in light of the fact Sundin will be in town, its expected the Rangers may reach out in an effort to gauge his interest in joining the team after Christmas.
Sundin has been skating in Los Angeles for about a week and will continue to do so throughout the selection process.
Another unrestricted free agent looking for employment, Brendan Shanahan, is quite likely waiting to see where Sundin lands before he decides which venue suits him best.