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Dreger: Breaking down the teams interested in Sundin

Darren Dreger
12/9/2008 6:25:05 PM
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Mats Sundin will be in New York on Friday for a promotional obligation he has with PokerStars.

Although nothing has been finalized, it's likely Sundin will meet with the New York Rangers to discuss interest the Rangers have in the 37-year-old unrestricted free agent.

The Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks are the four teams believed to be in the final mix - a dynamic that isn't expected to change unless another team enters the sweepstakes in the eleventh hour.

Provided things stay the same, and no "dark-horse" teams emerge, here is the believed order of ranking among the four teams vying for Sundin's services:

1) Vancouver Canucks

2) Chicago Blackhawks

3) Montreal Canadiens

4) New York Rangers

There are no salary cap issues in Vancouver, and a two-year, $20 million offer remains on the table.  Sundin could simply sign a contract and resume his career with no strings attached, or very few.

However, Sundin isn't expected to agree to a contract beyond this season, which will allow him to reassess his motivation to return next season at the end of the year.

The Blackhawks have cap problems and, like the Canadiens and Rangers, Chicago would have to move players to make room.  However, with ongoing speculation the Hawks may be willing to trade or move big name players like Nikolai Khabibulin or Martin Havlat, Chicago ranks high.

The Montreal Canadiens remain in contention.  General manager Bob Gainey's ongoing interest proves a willingness to make the necessary moves to clear space, but the idea of Sundin - a longtime Maple Leaf and former Leafs captain - playing for the rival Canadiens is something that some say is an issue for the veteran player.  However, Sundin has been impressed with Gainey's approach and, more importantly, how Gainey has managed Montreal into a contender.

The New York Rangers could move from fourth to first, but to do that New York will have to get a lot more aggressive....and soon.

The market shows, even on a pro-rated basis, that Sundin will command between seven and 10 million dollars.

If the Rangers can't find a way to match the offers expected from the other three teams, or aren't comfortable disrupting their roster to make room for what could be a rental player, then Sundin will likely lean towards either Vancouver or Chicago.

Darren Dreger

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