Leafs GM has a plan

Mats Sundin will make his intentions known when he meets with Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher next week....

Mats Sundin will make his intentions known when he meets with Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher next week. SUN MEDIA/Dave Abel

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

When Cliff Fletcher sits down with Mats Sundin next week to convince him to return to the Maple Leafs, one of the selling points will be Nikolai Kulemin.

The Leafs have high hopes for their second rounder from 2006 and former linemate of Evgeni Malkin in the Russian League, to the extent he and his wife are in Toronto this week finalizing visas and looking for a home. And Fletcher doesn't mean an address near Ricoh Coliseum.

"He won't be going to the Marlies," the interim general manager said yesterday. "He'll be in this (Leafs') market."

Kulemin had 21 goals and and 33 points for Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League and was one of three finalists for RSL playoff MVP.

"He'll take it step by step, but he's a strong, intelligent young man and he's ready to fit in," said agent Gary Greenstin. "He can play left or right wing, he's tough, but he's not dirty."

Kulemin won a gold medal for academics in high school and was doing well in a metallurgy course in university. His wife will attend university in Toronto and Greenstin said both will adapt well.

"Give him two months and he'll do English interviews on his own," Greenstin predicted.

Captain Sundin is supposed to let Fletcher know his intentions at next week's meeting so the club can make appropriate plans for July free agency. Fletcher has been confident Sundin will return, despite the lack of a full-time GM and team direction unchanged from the end of a regular season, with no playoffs.

"After I sit down and tell him what we have in mind -- which isn't for public consumption now -- I think a clear picture will emerge for him," Fletcher said. "I think he'll be comfortable."

With Fletcher likely to be in office to start the season, the focus is on a new coach.

He refused to narrow the field, but toss in the likes of Ron Wilson, Joel Quenneville, the runner-up in Ottawa between Craig Hartsburg and Bob Hartley, ex-Leaf coach Pat Burns, Kevin Dineen, John Anderson, Don Lever and Marlies' Greg Gilbert.

As for the GM search, Doug Armstrong remains interested and has an interview upcoming, but a job in St. Louis is shaping up quickly. David Nonis has been interviewed in a non-GM capacity, but hasn't yet ruled out another gig as GM elsewhere.

Fletcher says he's concentrating his efforts on trades until around June 15, when a two-week buyout period begins. If he can't swing a deal at the draft in Ottawa, June 20-21, he'll look seriously at buyouts and take the salary cap hit.


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