Habs still in Sundin hunt

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Bob Gainey is not ruling out the chance of landing prized free agent Mats Sundin by the end of the summer.

But not for the whopping $10 million US per season the Vancouver Canucks were offering the longtime Maple Leafs captain earlier this week.

"It's still possible he could come to Montreal but not for (that price)," the Montreal Canadiens general manager said during a news conference in Montreal last night.

Just one day after Sundin politely informed those handful of teams willing to throw gobs of money at him that he is not yet ready to make a decision concerning his future, Gainey told reporters that he very much understood the stance being taken by the veteran Swede.

"We had almost a two-week window to negotiate exclusively with him and it became obvious that he wants and needs to be 100% if he wants to go through 100 games, if you include playoffs," Gainey said.

"Having been a player, I respect that."

Asked if he was bitter at not being able to come to an agreement with Sundin despite his best efforts, Gainey said no.

"I would be a lot more disappointed if he had came to Montreal and would not have been ready to sacrifice 100%" Gainey said.

The addition of Sundin would have been the icing on the birthday cake for the Habs, who had hoped the big Swede would have been the centrepiece for the team's 100th anniversary season of 2008-09.

That has not stopped Gainey from tweaking the roster of a team that surprised many by finishing first in the Eastern Conference a year ago.

After acquiring enigmatic sniper Alex Tanguay from the Calgary Flames during the 2008 entry draft in Ottawa almost two weeks ago, the Canadiens, looking for some much-needed muscle, inked Montreal native Georges Laraque to a three-year deal worth $4.5 million yesterday.

"With his physical play and determination, we are convinced that he will add valuable energy to our group of players," Gainey said.

The Canadiens also announced the signing of goaltender Marc Denis to a one-year, two-way contract. Denis was recently bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning after playing just 10 games in 2007-08.

Montreal did lose a couple of players in free agency.

Valuable swing man Mark Streit, who can play both defence and forward, was snapped up by the New York Islanders while forward Michael Ryder, who spent much of last season in the doghouse of coach Guy Carbonneau, was signed by the Boston Bruins.

Gainey also came up short in his attempts to land free-agent sniper Marian Hossa, who signed a one-year, $7.4-million deal with the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.


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