Sens to woo Mats again

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

The Mats Sundin saga will move to its final stage a week from today and the Senators will be making another pitch for the unrestricted free-agent centre.

"I don't know if they're still considering us, but they should be," Senators GM Bryan Murray said yesterday.

The Senators have coveted Sundin since he made it clear he would shop his services after refusing a trade deadline deal while a member of the Maple Leafs last season and becoming a UFA agent July 1. Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, said they would like to narrow the field to three or four teams within the week.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has been enthusiastic in his pursuit of Sundin, pitching the Senators to the former Leafs captain when they crossed paths in Sweden at the beginning of the season when the Senators were in Stockholm to open the regular season against the Penguins. Melnyk then lunched with Sundin in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago when Melnyk was in California to sell Ottawa as a destination for a Major League Soccer franchise.

With the courtship now entering its final few days, the Senators will take one last shot at wooing Sundin.

"We are going to talk to them again," said Murray.

The Senators will have to get in line. With the season closing in on the halfway point by the time Sundin might be ready to play, teams won't need to ante up as much either in real dollars or salary cap room to sign him. It's believed that has brought even more teams into the competition for his services.

The rumour is the Sundin camp is giving priority to the teams which showed interest from the start and not those who have come late to the party.

The Canucks apparently still have a two-year, $20-million (all terms US) offer on the table and are expected to be on Barry's short list. The Rangers are still viewed as a strong contender, as well. The Flyers, Blackhawks and the Canadiens have all been among the teams showing interest in Sundin from the beginning of this process.

The Canucks look like the team positioned to most easily incorporate Sundin's salary request, whatever that might be. The Canucks are about $7 million under the approximately $56-million salary cap right now and wouldn't have to make a move to add Sundin.

All of the other teams linked to Sundin are pretty much up against the cap at this point and would have to make some kind of roster adjustment to make room to sign him. The Rangers and Canadiens are both over the $55-million mark and the Flyers and Blackhawks are pretty much up against the cap.

The Senators are just over $53 million in payroll right now, which means they could afford about a pro-rated $6-million salary. They would likely have to move somebody off the current roster since teams like to keep money free as a buffer for injuries.

"We would make room," said Murray yesterday.

Two things are likely hurting the Senators' chances: Despite some improved play of late, there's no hiding the fact they are 26th in a 30-team league and hardly qualify at this point as a contender; and it is not known how Sundin would feel about signing with the Leafs' biggest, most-hated rival over the last few years.


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