Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sundin's choice down to two teams

Mats Sundin, late of the Toronto Maple Leafs, hopes to make a decision on his playing day before the roster freeze this Friday. According to TSN, barring a last minute bid, Sundin will join the New York Rangers or the Vancouver Canucks.

This past weekend, Sundin met with New York general manager Glen Sather about playing for the team. His agent has a meeting today with the Canucks to discuss other clients, although Sundin's situation will be sure to come up.

Either team would be a good choice for Sundin. As of this writing, the Rangers are atop the Atlantic Division by four points and are second in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Canucks hold a two point lead in the Northwest Division, and third in the Western Conference.

It's hard to say what might factor into this decision for Sundin. As he proved last season with his decision to stay with the Leafs instead of go to a playoff contender, anything could happen. If it's money, the Canucks have the most to offer. They offered him a two year, $20 million contract at the beginning of the off-season, and have not taken that offer off the table. They have enough cap space to make the prorated value of the contract fit under their cap.

The Rangers are right up on the cap wall, holding less than $300,000 at this point. It will likely require some skillful maneuvering, as well as at least one trade, for Sather to create cap room to sign Sundin.

The move makes more sense for Vancouver, seeing as how they need Sundin to help boost their offense. Sundin would likely be teamed with veteran Pavol Demitra and youngster Alex Burrows, and the Sedin twins would be reunited on the top line. The bonus is they will not have to make a trade for Sundin.

The Rangers do need to make a move for a Sundin signing to go through. What I think would be the best chance is for them to trade one of their two centers signed last season- Scott Gomez or Chris Drury, both of whom are making about $7 million per season. What would make this work for the Rangers is replacing one of those with Sundin, who would only be in New York for one or two seasons. With the possibility of a decrease in the cap in two seasons, the Rangers could take this opportunity to rid themselves of one of their highest salaries and be ready for that cap decrease.

In the end, it can work out for both teams. In looking at it, the Rangers, unless they find another way to make this work, make a lateral move for the now, but can improve their cap outlook in the future. The Canucks make a move that strengthens their team now, and make them a team that will make some noise in the playoffs.

My personal feeling is that Sundin is going to pick Vancouver. They have the most money to offer, and I think they are the best fit for him to play with. I'm not sure New York ends up with the money in the end to satisfy Sundin, though one might argue the Rangers are the team that stands a better shot at going further in the playoffs.

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