End in sight for saga

It finally appears there will be a winner in the Mats Sundin sweepstakes. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

It finally appears there will be a winner in the Mats Sundin sweepstakes. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Mats Sundin's D-Day is fast approaching. For the 37-year-old Swedish superstar, that means Dec. 1.

There's a strong belief that's when he'll be back skating with an NHL club, ending months of endless speculation.

Don't count on it being with the Maple Leafs. While there's been talk of a return to the club where he spent most of his storied career, if Sundin had any intention of re-signing with the Leafs, he probably would have already accepted their one-year, $7-million offer.

It's almost a certainty Sundin will restart his NHL career elsewhere. Whether the naysayers like it or not, he has the right to choose his destination as an unrestricted free agent.

Several teams are interested -- so interested they'd clear cap space through trades, even demotions, to make room for Sundin.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray have both indicated to Sundin and his agent, J.P. Barry, in separate conversations, that the club would find a way to put Sundin on the payroll if he wants the chance to win a Stanley Cup in Ottawa.

The Senators aren't alone in their pursuit. The Flyers, Rangers, Habs, Leafs, Canucks, Ducks, Bolts and Blackhawks are among teams that have held discussions with Barry to see what route Sundin could take back to the NHL.

With an eye toward making a return and working out in the Los Angeles area this week, Sundin is scheduled to resume skating in the near future and once he's ready to decide, he'll sit down with Barry to weigh his many options.

The interesting part of this story is there really isn't a frontrunner. Sundin hasn't even confirmed he's going to return and while he's met with officials from the Canucks, Habs, Leafs, Rangers and Senators in the last couple of months, nobody really has a clue where he's going.

The conventional thinking is Sundin would have a tough time accepting a deal with the Habs or Senators because they're both bitter rivals of the Leafs and he still has an affinity for Toronto. Peter Forsberg faced a similar dilemma last season when the Red Wings -- bitter rivals of the Avalanche -- came calling before he returned to Colorado.

While many have dismissed the West Coast Canucks and Ducks as destinations for Sundin because of their travel schedules, it's believed both teams have stressed the point to Barry and Sundin that by the time he comes back to the NHL, they won't have a lot of miles left on the road.

The teams that make the most sense are simple: The Rangers and Flyers. Both have a chance to contend this year, their travel schedules are light and both have worked hard to sell themselves to Sundin.

The 'Hawks have an outside shot -- a better shot if Sundin's looking for a team with youth, talent and upside. Scotty Bowman in the front office and coach Joel Quenneville is further enticement.

There are no guarantees, but it finally appears there will be a winner in the Sundin sweepstakes. That can't come soon enough for one league executive.

"I just want this to come to an end," the executive said yesterday. "Make a decision so everybody can move on and do other business."

Shanny to take Flyer?

The Flyers are considered a frontrunner for free-agent LW Brendan Shanahan and there's a belief he might be the club's best option. While the 'Hawks were mentioned yesterday, the word is Shanahan is determined to stay in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers don't want him back, the Devils can't afford him, yet he wants to stay close to his family in New York. The indications are the Flyers believe they can get Shanahan for less than $1 million, which means they'll have no issue fitting him under the cap. It could mean sending RW Andreas Nodl to the AHL.


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