February 22, 2009
Sedins, tempting twinsBurke may have designs on an encore coup with the Sedins
By LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA
Try repeating this hypothetical headline three times quickly: "Sundin's Sun Sets, Super Swedes Sedins Sign 'n' Shine at ACC."
You can bet Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke will be rolling around that tongue-twister in his head if July 1 rolls around with Daniel and Henrik Sedin still free agents.
League chatter since Burke got the Toronto gig has been about a bold attempt by the boss to get the twins to Toronto. It would repeat, to a degree, the coup Burke pulled off at the 1999 draft when he manoeuvred his Canucks into the second and third draft positions to grab the teen Sedins when they were resigned to being split up in the NHL.
He might also be seeking defenceman Mattias Ohlund, another of his favourites in Vancouver, also a candidate to go on the block.
"I'm sure Brian is sitting there with his fingers crossed," one NHL team exec said yesterday. "They're great players that he is familiar with. But a lot would have to happen first."
Indeed, such a master plan carries no guarantees of fulfilment. The Canucks could make the playoffs, do quite well and re-up their key players with a hometown discount. Losing all three would be unnerving to the fans, the team and club MVP Roberto Luongo in particular as he approaches free agency a year later.
The Sedins also might decide that a move to another pressure-packed hockey town with no immediate Stanley Cup prospects is folly, compared to some rising teams in a glamourous American city. Burke also might have other free agents in mind.
At 32, Ohlund is four years older than the Sedins and said to be happy in Vancouver. But if it's a question of money and he's looking for a deal to take him to retirement, the Leafs could clear enough cap space. The Leafs now are $9 million under the cap and could double that room if unrestricted free agent Nik Antropov isn't re-signed, and one or more of Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina or Jason Blake is moved at the March 4 trade deadline.
Right now, the Sedins are both at $3.5 million US. Henrik ranks fifth in league assists since the end of the lockout, but at half the salary of some of the leaders.
"The hope here is that we all stay together," said Alex Burrows, the Sedins' right winger.
Burke might go after the trio if for no other reason than to cause some grief for the team that fired he and successor Dave Nonis. Burke did not survive long enough in Vancouver to see the Sedins blossom.
In 140 games since the start of last season, the brothers have not been separated by more than a few points, 30 seconds of ice time and a hair on shooting percentage, though Daniel had 13 more goals on 107 extra shots before last night.
They have become less joined at the hip since starting their own families, but on the road, they eat together, room together and spend much of their down time at hotels in the business centre, side-by-side on computers. They also know what hoops Burke jumped through to keep them united.
Like mentor Pat Quinn, Burke is loyal where his ex-players are concerned. With Anaheim, he re-acquired both Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May from the Canucks after they were pilloried for their respective roles in the Steve Moore incident.
He brought Nonis with him to Anaheim and then to Toronto. When he detected a lack of spirit among Leafs players, he brought in May from the Ducks.
"He has tough decisions to make. But as a player, you know where you stand with him," May said. "If you're playing like crap, he tells you. He gives you the rope, no matter what the role is, and sometimes tells you things you don't want to hear. And if you're doing something good, he tells you to keep it up.
"In hockey, lots of relationships are built. He values character and my experience with him has obviously been favourable for me."