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' general manager 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 UFA's 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," a league executive said.
"Sure, the Habs can build around Carey Price, but he's not going to be able to do it himself. 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.
AROUND THE BOARDS
The Dallas Stars are looking for help after losing LW Brendan Morrow to a knee injury that could keep him out for six months. The Stars already were 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 eight- to 10-year deal soon. He is making $2.7 million US this season ... Free agent F Brendan Shanahan won't be going to Philadelphia. The reality exists that Shanahan may not play this year.
OFF THE GLASS
There is a lot of action in the Sunshine State. Florida GM Jacques Martin is scouring the NHL for a centre, but the asking price usually is D Jay Bouwmeester and the Panthers haven't given up hope they can sign him. Many are wondering why the Panthers didn't insist on getting back either C Martin Hanzal, RW Peter Mueller or C Kyle Turris in the deal that sent C Olli Jokinen to Phoenix last summer. Instead, the Panthers got back D Keith Ballard and D Nick Boynton as part of the trade. Martin's No. 1 concern is the present, but nobody wants what he's offering: D Wade Belak, RW Radek Dvorak and LW Rostislav Olesz. Belak was waived yesterday ... The talk is Tampa C Vinny Lecavalier was so upset with former coach Barry Melrose the Bolts captain asked him to leave the room following a fiery meeting at the BankAtlantic Center a few days before Melrose was fired. The next coach to get back in the NHL: Former Atlanta bench boss Bob Hartley will emerge somewhere.
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 on July 1, league executives insist Beauchemin 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 ... Vancouver GM Mike Gillis is holding out for Sundin. The Canucks have the cap room and Gillis really wants Sundin to play with RW Pavol Demitra. If Vancouver can't get Sundin, the talk is the club might make a pitch to Ottawa for C Jason Spezza. Doubtful he's going anywhere, but the Senators have a lot of balls in the air ... The talk is the Hawks will have a revolt in their room if they decide to move G Nikolai Khabibulin. 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.