You can't rush greatness

Mats Sundin's friends say there is no reason the Leafs captain should rush any decision relating to...

Mats Sundin's friends say there is no reason the Leafs captain should rush any decision relating to where he plays next season. SUN MEDIA/Mark O'Neill

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Why rush things?

According to friends of Mats Sundin, that is a very relevant question in the mind of the long-time Maple Leafs captain right now.

From the moment it became public Friday that the Leafs had granted the Montreal Canadiens exclusive negotiating rights with Sundin, there has been a misguided notion floating around that there is a sense of urgency for an agreement to be reached by July 1.

For the Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, there is.

But not for Sundin.

Those close to him doubt he will retire, let alone come back to the Leafs. He is said to still be miffed at Toronto management for simply not coming out and saying: "Mats does not want to be traded and will not be traded" weeks before the Feb. 26 trade deadline instead of allowing the speculation to drag out in public as it did.

STILL TICKED

Keeping that in mind, why would he now want to do the Leafs any favours by coming to terms with the Canadiens prior to the opening of the unrestricted free agent period one week from tomorrow?

Were he to do that, the Leafs would receive compensation from the Habs as part of a conditional deal that already is in place.

Why not, instead, wait to go on the open market July 1?

If he really wants to become a member of the bleu blanc et rouge, he can sign on that day. Or he might sit back and see who the highest bidder is, with the New York Rangers expected to join the Canadiens in the Sundin auction.

Either way, the Leafs will get nothing for him no matter where he goes.

That, understandably, is why Leafs officials likely are hoping behind closed doors that he inks with the Habs in the coming days. It is the only way they will fetch some kind of return for the career leading scorer in franchise history.

As for the Canadiens, they don't want the Rangers or anyone else to come into play, a situation that will come up the second Sundin becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In order to avoid that possibility, Habs general manager Bob Gainey has no choice but to embark on a recruiting trip to Sweden as early as Wednesday, a concept a member of the Sundin camp calls "a good idea."

Gainey will have to do a good selling job if he wants to seal the deal quickly. Some insiders close to the Habs are suggesting Canadiens owner George Gilette should accompany Gainey to Scandinavia to help woo Sundin.

Sun Media columnist Scott Morrison has heard rumblings the Habs might consider a two-year offer for Sundin worth $7.25-$7.5 million US per season. You can count on a no-movement clause being part of the package.

The Rangers, meanwhile, certainly hope Sundin preaches patience and waits for free agency. Their interest in Sundin is said to be serious.

Sundin is seen as the perfect fit for a Rangers roster that just might end up finding the needed cap space to squeeze him in.

A report in the New York Daily News yesterday quoted Sean Avery's agent, Pat Morris, as saying "it's highly likely" free agency is in store for his client. Neither side would confirm reports that Avery is seeking $4 million per season, although the newspaper reported the Rangers were looking more at an annual salary of $2.75 million for three or four seasons.

RANGERS IN PLAY?

There also remain questions about the return of Jaromir Jagr. While the veteran Czech has publicly stated he would like to remain a Ranger, he is said to still be a target of the foreign-based Russian Continental League.

Whatever happens, don't expect Sundin to be in any rush to get something done. Not unless he can be convinced otherwise.

Your play, Mr. Gainey.


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