Same New Song and Dance
More on Mats Sundin. The endless carousel goes ’round and ’round, with still no end in sight.
“This is the song that never ends,
As it goes on and on my friends.
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
And they’ll continue singing it forever just because…”
While Sundin sits on his sofa and mulls over his options, teams are getting anxious, reports Bruce Garrioch. Sundin is going to be the first domino to fall – once he decides what to do, there will be a flurry of moves as teams move to their Plan Bs. Others are waiting to see where he signs, because some players on the block, like Mathieu Schneider, are of interest to team(s) who are in the Sundin sweepstakes as well. I think that team’s the Habs, and here’s why.
The Rangers sit only $2m below the cap ceiling, and wth Sundin they’ll have to clear at least $7-8m (assuming that Sundin signs for $7m/year) to accomodate him. Only 3 Rangers are making more than $7m, and two of them are, you guessed it, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers’ big spendings last summer. Getting Sundin will give them arguably the strongest group down the middle (perhaps Dallas can challenge), but to accomodate Sundin one of them has to go. It seems a little strange that Glen Sather would deal away a younger player on a long-term contract for a short-term, one-year fix like Sundin – but then again, it is Sather, and he’s known for bold moves. Once Sundin retires, the Rangers will once again have money to play with, and once again in search of another scoring centre. Gomez can be moved to the wing since Drury is better at face-offs, but in actuality it was Drury who spent more time on the wing last year than Gomez. Not including this year, Gomez has 4 years remaining on his contract while Drury has 3. Gomez’s cap hit is slightly higher than Drury’s, but he is 3 years younger. I don’t think either player will be too pleased with the Rangers if they get traded, but they will give the “it’s part of the business” speech regardless, even though both sides had publicly stated that they’re committed long-term and the contract was signed in good will.
If the Rangers are ready to go to such drastic lengths to accomodate Sundin, then I would think that they’d be ready to accomodate Schneider as well. Schneider’s $5.625m cap hit is smaller, but the Rangers will still have to clear some $6m of cap space, and that’s harder than accommodating Sundin. Even with a package of Paul Mara and Petr Prucha that’s not enough. I’m not too sure who would be sent away should Schneider end up a blueshirt, but I would think that both Gomez and Drury would stay. I would rule Wade Redden, Dmitri Kalinin, and Michal Rozsival out of the question, considering they’ve just signed this summer. It does not speak well of the Rangers organization if they do trade either of them, after all, they’ve finally clawed their way back to respectability with “proper” team building. Paul Mara would be an interesting option, but with his $1.95m salary he’d have to be packaged with someone else. Added to that speculation is the fact that Schneider is a native of New York City.
The Habs have $6m in cap space. Without moving anyone, they can accomodate Schneider, but for the sake of having emergency cap space, they’d only have to deal away one player, and considering that their player salary structure isn’t as extreme as the Rangers, they have a lot of mid-salary players they can part with, including Francois Bouillon and Mathieu Dandenault, who are going to be UFAs next summer. Simply put, I think the Habs will have a much easier time accomodating Schneider’s salary than the Rangers, and they do have plenty of youngsters to offer Anaheim. Tack on the fact that Bob Gainey has made it known that he’s less than optimistic about Sundin going to Montreal, he may have had enough of the waiting game and elected to bolster his blueline instead.
Toronto and Vancouer are long-shots to land Schneider, and I would think that Vancouver has little to zero interest in the veteran blueliner considering their current defensive corps. Toronto could make a pitch to replace the soon-to-be-Panther Bryan McCabe, but I don’t think adding more salary, especially with a 39-year old, is in the team’s best interests going forward.
While the Habs and Rangers are fine without either Sundin or Schneider, there’s no doubt that the addition of either would help, it just all depends on who’s going out the door.