I’ve said all along the worst thing the Rangers could do would be to play just well enough to mask some of their flaws, thus eliminating the urgent need to try to upgrade.
With that in mind, this most recent rocky stretch could be coming at the ideal time.
According to TSN’s ever-plugged in Bob McKenzie, “Mats Sundin has set Dec. 15 as a soft deadline for deciding where he wants to play this season”:http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/bob_mckenzie/?id=259021. McKenzie lists the Rangers as one of four teams that are believed to be in the mix for Sundin’s services.
It’s believed the four prime candidates with great interest in Sundin that is mutual are the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens.
Of that group, only the Canucks currently have the ability to sign Sundin to a market-value contract – the Canucks have a standing offer of $10 million per year on a two-year deal – without having to make significant moves to accommodate the contract under the $56.7 million salary cap.
So (agent J.P.) Barry is clearly focusing on what the Rangers, Blackhawks and Canadiens could offer Sundin and what they would have to do to fit Sundin under the cap. Sundin has told a number of NHL clubs he’s not interested in money so much as a chance to win the Stanley Cup, but he’s not looking to re-gain his amateur status either. It’s not enough for Sundin to just know how much money he would get from the teams; he needs some idea what elements of their team they may have to give up in order to fit him in because that may affect their standing as contenders.
In monitoring this story for several months now, I’ve always been given the sense that if Sundin really wanted to play for the Canucks, he would have jumped at the chance by now. Clearly financially it’s the best offer he’s going to get, but there are other considerations at work, one being that at his advanced age he might not want to subject himself to Western Conference travel.
That could eliminate the Blackhawks, too, although the travel isn’t nearly as bad with Chicago, and if the Hawks do succeed in unloading one of their high-priced goalies, they will have a lot more cap room to work with.
Then there’s the Canadiens and the Rangers. Both teams would have to clear up more cap space, and in the Rangers’ case, it could be as simple as finding a taker for Michal Rozsival or Petr Prucha (like it or not, I don’t think Glen Sather could move Wade Redden at this point). As for where Sundin would play, you would think this would mean Chris Drury would have to permanently take a spot at wing (the Rangers could always trade one of their centers, but I don’t see that happening).
Adding to the intrigue is that Sundin will be in town on Friday for a promotional visit. The Rangers haven’t yet requested a meeting, but there’s still time.