Gainey still has Sundin at top of wish list

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens want to celebrate the 100th anniversary of hockey in style with another Stanley Cup banner at the Bell Centre.

League sources say that's why Habs GM Bob Gainey went clear across the country last week to Los Angeles to try to convince unrestricted free agent centre Mats Sundin to choose Montreal as his new home if he does decide to return to the NHL this season.

The talk amongst NHL executives is Gainey is under huge pressure to bring a title to Montreal this season. Not only because it's a big year with the celebration, but the club also realizes it has 10 UFAs at the end of the season.

"The window of opportunity could close on the Habs pretty quickly because we've seen with Ottawa, you're not going to get that kind of opportunity every year. Sure, the Habs can build around Carey Price, but he's not going to be able to do it himself," said a league executive.

"You look at the Eastern Conference and it's wide open right now. Who do you have to get by to win? Gainey sees this as an opportunity. He wants a big player. He couldn't get Marian Hossa or Vinny Lecavalier. The Habs feel like Sundin could go in there and make an impact."

Since the Habs are loathe to trade captain Saku Koivu -- even though he'll be a UFA as well next July -- the club might be willing to part with winger Alexei Kovalev. Last year, he was the straw that stirred the drink and, this year, he has left a bad taste in everybody's mouth.

The Habs have had trouble with consistency. The belief is Sundin, 37, might be the one player who can help put Montreal over the top. Ideally, the Habs would like to hold a Stanley Cup parade down St. Catherine Street in June just before the NHL entry draft is held.

AROUND THE BOARDS

The Dallas Stars are looking for help after losing LW Brendan Morrow a knee injury that could keep him out for six months. The Stars were already struggling with him in the lineup and it could only get worse ... The Wings are holding talks with C Henrik Zetterberg about a long-term contract. Don't be surprised if he signs an 8-to-10 year deal soon. He is making $2.7 million this season ... Free agent F Brendan Shanahan won't be going to Philadelphia. The club has only $200,000 in cap space. Not all hope has been lost, but it's looking doubtful. The reality exists that Shanahan may not play this year.

RUMOURS DU JOUR

Anaheim D Francois Beauchemin, who is out for the balance of the regular season because of knee surgery, avoided getting a change of address card as a result of the injury. Scheduled to become a UFA July 1, league executives insist Beachemin was being shopped by newly-hired GM Bob Murray. He would have been a nice fit for the host of teams looking for a defenceman, including the Habs, Senators, Bruins, Blues and Flyers. The good news: All those teams can make a pitch in the summer and not have to give up a player to get him ... The Flames are willing to move D Adrian Aucoin. Making $4 million and scheduled to become a UFA at the end of the season, the talk is Calgary has been quietly offering him around ... The talk is the Hawks will have a revolt in their room if they decide to move G Nikolai Khabibulin. But, they've been discussing the possibility because the club wants to clear off the $6.75 million salary to bring in Washington C Michael Nylander. There were whispers the Hawks had a deal done to send Khabibulin to the New Jersey Devils, but decided to hold off because G Cristobal Huet has been less than spectacular.


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