So much has happened, hockey fans. Let’s recap.
• As per last Friday’s post, it turns out the Leafs are so determined not to let Mats skate into the sunset without compensation they dealt “negotiating” rights to him to Bob Gainey and the Habs before the July 1 free-agent signing deadline. Huh? Without a copy of the National Hockey League’s 17,000-page CBA at our fingertips—not to mention legal counsel and six hours to blow—we can only assume this is permitted.
• Essentially, the two teams have a deal in place that would be triggered should Sundin sign with les glorieux before Canada Day. What kind of deal? Good question. But pointier heads suggest it could involve a second-round pick, and/or speedy Habs centre Mikhail Grabovski. Either (or both) represents decent return for a player who has clearly had enough of the Leafs Alternate Dimension—sorry, Nation. It would however mean one of the best -nicknamed lines in history, will never play together again. That would be Alex Kovalev, Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn—or, as Habs fans knew them for their brief time together, Kovy-Grabs-Tits.
• Bob Gainey has reportedly flown himself and his owlish visage to Sweden to talk to Shrek. Could be the least photogenic summit of all time. Small children: avert your gaze.
• The dastardly New York Rangers are now in the picture, mischievously letting it slip they’d be in interested in signing Mats should he still be in play after July 1. The Habs might have hoped to get him for two years at $7.5 million per, but the big boy is still, you know, thinking about it. In short, whatever the price was, it just went up.
• The Canadiens may have to shed a roster player just to sign Sundin. They picked up Alex Tanguay from Calgary on Friday for their 25th overall pick, plus odds and sods. Tanguay commands $5.3 million a year, and the Canadiens have slew of restricted free agents (the above-noted Tits chief among them) to cram in under the cap, which should be about $55 million. This means they’ll let UFA Mark Streit, arguably the league’s most versatile player, go free on Canada Day regardless of whether they land Sundin.
• Oh yeah. The draft happened. Steve Stamkos went first overall, as expected, while the Leafs made a nice little move, picking up the Isles’ 5th overall choice and selecting blue chipper Luke Schenn. Nice one, Fletch! We thought you were nodding off at that table!
For Habs fans, things are getting really interesting. They are an upgraded team, which is to say, they’ve upgraded from a contending regular season team to a potentially dangerous playoff team—especially if the Sundin thing happens. I’m more curious to know whether Leaf fans care about losing their captain. As Maich has sagely noted, the only thing to talk about here is symbolism. What will it mean to Leaf fans for Sundin to come three or four times a year to the ACC wearing the CH? Are they mad at him? Are they glad they might get something for him?
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sundin shrugged off Gainey and tested the free agent market—just to shaft Toronto. He wished to be one of those special players who is identified with one team, whose number gets raised to the rafters when he quits. But the Leafs thought he should peddle himself last February for draft picks. So there’s bad blood, and if he really wants to screw them, he’ll program Glen Sather’s number into his cell phone and wait for July 1.
UPDATE: It turns out Sundin isn’t waiting for July 1 to talk to the Rangers. Not, at least, according to this report. Interesting, because it suggests the Leafs have separate deals in place with Montreal and New York; whichever lands the big boy presumably pays up in draft picks. The plot, as they say, thickens.