Welcome to twin sweeps

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

During a pre-lockout game between the visiting Maple Leafs and host Vancouver Canucks earlier this decade, a veteran left coast hockey scribe could only shake his head after watching Vancouver's promising Swedish twins grind through a couple of lunchpail shifts.

"The Canucks should be playing in a Velodrome," he wisecracked, "because all the Sedins ever do is cycle."

Now, years later, it appears Daniel and Henrik likely will be pedalling right out of B.C. and into a free agent market where a financial winfall awaits.

Unless the Canucks drastically alter their stance in negotiations with agent J.P. Barry, the Sedins will test the waters when the NHL's free agent frenzy kicks off Wednesday.

And it could be a situation in which the rival Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will be bidding against each other in this Super Swede Sweepstakes, a recruiting battle that also could feature teams like the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.

Talks between the Canucks and the Sedin camp went nowhere in Montreal Friday night, igniting subsequent chatter on the Bell Centre draft floor concerning potential destinations for the twins.

Some close to the Canadiens insist general manager Bob Gainey must make a big off-season splash, especially with new owners poised to take over the team. The Sedins are a logical target, especially if efforts to get local boy Vinny Lecavalier out of Tampa Bay are scuttled.

Five hours to the west, Toronto general manager Brian Burke, whose history with the twins is well documented, also is expected to kick tires on the twins.

Back in 1999, Burke, then the GM of the Canucks, stickhanded his way into position to draft both Sedins, arming Vancouver with a pair of cornerstones up front for the next decade.

In the past three seasons, the Sedins rank No. 11 and 12 in total points among NHLers, with Daniel slightly ahead of Henrik. Of those ten players ahead of them, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk carries the lowest average annual salary, earning $6.389 million US.

Early in the process, the Twins made it clear they are a package deal. You take both or neither. There is no middle ground here.

Recent reports indicated the Sedins are seeking identical 12-year deals worth $63 million each, an average of $5.25 million per season. Cue the debate.

Number crunchers will argue the Twins are a relative bargain at that cost, pointing out their annual salaries would be more than $1 million less than that of Kovalchuk. Detractors, meanwhile, quiver at the prospect of shelling out $126 million for just two commodities, a hefty chunk of the always-ominous salary cap.

Tenure almost certainly will be a haggling point.

Even if Burke opts to dive in headfirst, he is not about to make a commitment that runs more than a decade. But if the years come down and the money gets a bump up, well, things might get interesting.

Sedin's backers claim the double investment instantly would add two first-line players for teams in need of top-end forward talent like the Leafs, Canadiens, Wild and Kings. And the numbers show the Sedins are the most durable of a free agent class that also includes names like Mike Cammalleri, another intriguing option for the Leafs.

Burke isn't about to name names but makes it quite clear he will be a buyer once the market opens.

"When the bell rings at noon Wednesday, we will be players," Burke proclaimed this weekend.

One area he vows to address through free agency is toughness. With Chris Neil recently turning down a four-year deal averaging $1.7 million per season from the Ottawa Senators, he is one pest that could be in play.

With the no-trade clauses of defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina moot through Aug. 15, Burke has plenty of cards to play in the coming days. Come Wednesday, the game begins.


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