Canadiens get permission to talk to Sundin

Darren Dreger

6/20/2008 11:54:51 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to encourage Mats Sundin to decide his playing future before July 1.

The Montreal Canadiens have been granted permission by the Maple Leafs to speak to Sundin's agent J.P. Barry about the possibility of the 37-year-old centre signing in Montreal.

"We have given Montreal the exclusive rights to talk to him up until 12 noon on July 1 when he becomes a free agent," said Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher. "I have nothing to say about it at all. That's the only thing I'll say. It's not in my best interest to say anything else, it's not in Montreal's best interest and not in Mats' best interest."

The Leafs would have to trade Sundin's negotiating rights to the Canadiens to facilitate an early signing. Montreal general manager Bob Gainey spoke with Sundin on Thursday and it's expected Gainey will continue discussions with Barry on Saturday.

It's too early to say whether or not the two Canadian teams will make that move, as the Canadiens' reluctance to give up any assets for the privilege to get to the Leafs' captain may be based on his willingness to speed up his decision making.

At this point, Sundin remains uncertain as to whether he or not he will play at all, so the Canadiens' attempt to get a head-start may turn out to be a fruitless exercise.

The Canadiens believed they were close to a deal to acquire Sundin at the trade deadline, but Sundin refused to waive his no-trade to accomodate that deal, or the potential for any other.

According to Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, no deal is imminent.

"At this point Mats still hasn't decided if he wants to play, let alone where," Barry told THE CANADIAN PRESS. "But obviously the Leafs are trying to facilitate a decision."

Sundin finished with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 74 games last season, leading Toronto in scoring for the fourth straight year.

The franchise leader in goals and points, he has played 13 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, who acquired him from the Quebec Nordiques in 1994.

Sundin has 555 goals and 1,321 points in 1,305 career NHL games since he was drafted first overall by Quebec in 1989.