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Sundin appears to be headed for free agency

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Bob McKenzie
6/24/2008 12:59:31 PM
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It's beginning to look more and more like Mats Sundin is going to unrestricted free agency on July 1.

The Montreal Canadiens currently own Sundin's exclusive negotiating rights until July 1 and Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey is prepared to go to Sweden to talk to Sundin directly, but so far the Toronto Maple Leaf captain has not agreed to any face-to-face sessions or encouraged Gainey to make the trip.

Could that change? Yes, perhaps, but sources close to Sundin say the big Swede has waited this long to become an unrestricted free agent that he appears inclined to wait another week and explore all options available to him.

There has been much confusion over who has been permitted to speak and/or negotiate with Sundin and when that happened.

Sources tell TSN the timeline is as follows:

- The Maple Leafs met with Sundin and his agent J.P. Barry to indicate the club has interest in bringing Sundin back to Toronto. While no formal contract offer was made, Leafs' GM Cliff Fletcher conveyed to Sundin that the team was prepared to pay him around $7 million on a one-year deal and that they wanted him back.

- The Maple Leafs contacted Sundin's representatives last week to indicate that they were contemplating the transferring of Sundin's exclusive negotiating rights to the Montreal Canadiens.

- Sundin's representatives sought clarification on whether they would be limited to speak only to Montreal and were told that was indeed the case.

- Sundin's representatives asked the Leafs for permission to talk to the New York Rangers before any negotiating rights changed hands and were granted that permission.

- Sundin's representatives spoke to the Rangers to find out if they would be interested in acquiring Sundin's exclusive negotiating rights but were told that was not something the club intended to do. No substantive talks with the Rangers were conducted after that.

- Sundin's exclusive negotiating rights were then transferred to the Canadiens last week, which brings us to where we are at today.

Gainey would dearly love the opportunity to meet with Sundin, but the player is currently deciding whether he wants to play next season in the NHL or retire.

Those who know Sundin find it hard to believe he'll actually retire, but this is an exercise he goes through each and every off-season.

While Sundin could conceivably give Gainey the green light to travel to Sweden, at this particular point in time, the sense is Sundin will exercise his right to go to unrestricted free agency on July 1.

Clearly, the Sundin camp has interest in what the New York Rangers may be prepared to offer on July 1, just as they have interest in what Montreal may be prepared to do and while it may seem a longshot, the door has not been entirely closed on a return to the Maple Leafs.

Anything and everything is still a possibility.

Stay tuned.

Mats Sundin (Photo: Getty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          )

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(Photo: Getty )
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