This merry go round continues with the major question still being: Who will be able to land Mats Sundin? Considered to be the top player in this years free agent pool, Mats Sundin has had not only his agent in a tangle, but the media coming up with all different types of headlines and stories about if and where he might play. In recent rumors that have been stated by TSNs Darren Dregger, he was strongly told that Mats Sundin will most likely wind up in the Atlantic Division. While he had the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers leading the options of the Swedish forward, he said that Garth Snow and the New York Islanders were dark horses in this competition, and that Snow was making a hard push for the services of Sundin. In this blog, I will discuss whether or not I believe Sundin would benefit or hurt each of three teams he is listed as going to by Dregger.
First, and of course our heated rivals, the New York Rangers seem to be a front runner for his services. When we take a look at the Rangers line up, we can see that their center position consists of names such as Drury, Gomez, Dubinsky, Betts, and Fritsche, with players such as Anisimov competing for a spot out of the A.H.L as well. If we were to throw Sundin into the mix, that would mean that there would be seven N.H.L ready centers competing for a spot in September. While this is a great problem to have, it is also costly financially when related to the salary cap, and it will also most likely cost Artem Anisimov a position with the big club, something that could further hinder his development. In relation to the cap, it only makes sense that someone would need to moved, and obviously that someone would be a center. Rumors continue to circulate about the possible movement of Scott Gomez to the Vancouver Canucks in order to free up cap space for the import of Sundin. While we can all agree that Sundin is a more dominant center for the time being, his future plans only include another year or two at most in the National Hockey League. Scott Gomez, who I am a huge fan of, will continue to be a great top line center in the N.H.L for at least another seven to eight years. (I would love to see Scott Gomez in an Islanders uniform). I feel that this is evidence alone that the Rangers should sit still and wait to see what unfolds from a largely revamped roster. I feel the acquisition of Sundin would only mirror old fashioned Ranger ideology of going after the big fish rather than the latest Rangers methodology of raising the youth (Anisimov) and watching them play their way into the N.H.L. In short, I truly believe the Rangers would be making a big mistake in bringing in Sundin for a year or two at the expense of Scott Gomez. If that two year window passes and the Rangers lack a Stanley Cup, it would have been a wasteful move, and they would have nothing to show for it. The best method for the Rangers would be to sit tight, and allow the current roster to play itself into form. It underwent significant changes in personnel and leadership this offseason, and that alone is enough to rattle some players.
The second frontrunner in this sweepstakes seems to be the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers, who were the worst team overall in the 2006 to 2007 season, turned it around tremendously in the 2007 to 2008 season after adding some key players that include Daniel Briere and Kimmo Timonen. While I have already made my opinion about Briere being an underachiever for his contractual price, I feel that he has helped usher in a new breath of fresh air for the Flyers. They play a winning style of hockey now, thanks in large part to a nice amount of balanced scoring, better than average defense, and extremely over achieving goaltending. However, I must look at the impact a player like Sundin would have on a roster like this. Currently, the Flyers have Briere, Carter, Metropolit and Richards listed as their centers going into this upcoming season with Steve Downie trying to make an impression as well. Briere is the lock to take the top line center position, however, that leaves Jeff Carter and Mike Richards fighting for second line minutes. Obviously not a bad problem to have, however, we must now include the fact that the Flyers want to bring in Sundin. Rumors have circulated that if Sundin were to be brought in, it could come at the expense of either Jeff Carter or Daniel Briere. I must be honest; I am a big Jeff Carter fan. He is a powerful player, and he is so young that he will only become even better as the years pass by. Daniel Briere on the other hand, I am not so supportive of. If I were general manager Paul Holmgren and I had to choose one of the two to go, it would most likely be Daniel Briere, as his points could be replaced by Sundin and his leadership would be dwarfed by a player of Sundin’s caliber. However, with a no trade clause in his contract, Briere would be the one who has to make the choice about moving and to where, if at all. The Flyers are built to win, and in my opinion, to win now. Sundin could help that to become a reality. Last year vs. the Penguins, the Flyers could have used a player of Sundins capabilities in order to take on Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa. If I were Holmgren, I would look into moving Briere for the largest possible package possible, and I am sure there are teams out there who would give up a large package includes prospects and picks in order to grab the services of Daniel Briere for the next few seasons. If Holmgren could land a number one draft pick, along with two top prospects, he might not only have brightened the present with the acquisition of Mats Sundin, but also brightened the future through the pick and prospects. The one side note I must add, and this is imperative in my opinion, is that Mats Sundin signs a two year contract. I feel that if Briere is to be removed from the roster, the only fair way for the fans and the organization would be to have Sundin around for at least two years.
Lastly, and definitely onto the most ridiculous scenario of them all, is the movement of Sundin to the New York Islanders. The season has yet to begin and most critics have the Islanders labeled as the team to finish 15th overall in the Eastern Conference, and possibly last overall in the National Hockey League. While this may worry some, I am actually very enthused by these predictions. Entering camp this season, the Islanders will have Weight, Comrie, Sillinger, Nielsen, Bailey, Colliton, and Walter all seriously competing for rosters spots as the four center-men on this team. Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger, although I believe still extremely talented, will be used as tremendous mentors this season to the kids such as Nielsen, Bailey, Walter and Colliton. The knowledge they can pass on will be invaluable and hopefully help the Islanders find their winning ways in a few short years. However, I believe the last thing we need is Mats Sundin coming to the Islanders. The way I see it, by bringing in Mats Sundin, we are no better than the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is the kind of player that can truly carry a team on is back through the worst of times, and he would most likely give us some credibility as a team. However, my question to you is, is it really worth bringing him in to finish in 8th or 9th place in the conference, only to lose in the first round if we sneak in? I am going to have to say Id rather finish 15th overall in the conference rather than ninth place, or even eighth place and lose in the first round. To be as clear as possible, the Islanders do not need Mats Sundin, and Mats Sundin definitely does not need the New York Islanders. If he is looking to win a Stanley Cup in the next two years, this is most likely not the place he is going to do so. Although it is plainly obvious I disagree with him coming here, I do have two points to bring up that a colleague of mine said to me. The Islanders have a lot of trouble bringing in big name free agents. Imagine if the biggest one in recent memory chose to come to the Islanders by himself? It could be a nice start, and an eye opener for any free agents in the future to take a look at the island. Secondly, he definitely would sell some tickets, something the Islanders could use even further to promote the Lighthouse Project. Those are the only supportive arguments I will present for bringing Sundin in to the Islanders. I feel the way we are heading into the season is just fine in most Islander fans eyes. We have a young team, ready and willing to compete regardless of the outcome of each and every game, and we also have a nice solid core of veterans who will help to guide all the young guns on the team in the right direction. Regardless of the leadership he could bring to the team, I would much rather have Mats Sundin playing for the opposition than for the Islanders. Finishing at the bottom this season is fine with me as long as the kids show some true growth throughout the season, and as long as the veterans pass on their knowledge.
These are the opinions I hold in regard to the three horse sweepstakes that this Sundin saga has turned into. Although they aren’t listed as a front runner anymore due to their interest in Mathieu Schneider, I believe the Canadiens could still be a player in this sweepstakes, and might even be the best fit for Mats Sundin. The Canadiens are an exceptionally well built team, featuring great defense with great depth on all their scoring lines. Bringing in Mats Sundin as a top center would truly make them the favorites coming out of the Eastern Conference. However, out of these three teams listed above, I believe the best option for Sundin and for the team he would be heading to would be the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers need to sit back and see how their revamped roster players before going out and adding a big name free agent that might not work out as well as planned. As for the Islanders, Snow should stick to his plan of youth and development of prospects rather than rushing to sprinkle in the free agents he feels that would make the team better. There is plenty of time in the future for the Islanders to go after that big fish when they are truly ready to go after Lord Stanleys Cup.