Mats Sundin or Alex Kovalev? Decisions for the Montreal Canadiens

Tim ParentSenior Writer INovember 22, 2008

Like the groundhog that pops up every Feb. 2 to see if it'll be startled by its shadow, Mats Sundin popped up again this week.

On Wednesday, Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey had a meeting with the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain and the current unrestricted free agent. You can bet they didn't talk about tourist hot spots in Sweden.

There are still 11 teams vying for the services of Sundin, and it appears Montreal is still in that mix, despite opting for Robert Lang after the team's exclusive rights to chat with Sundin expired.

Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, says Mats has always been a serious contender for the Habs and he plans to sit down with him in December to whittle down the list to two or three teams, presumably those with a good chance of winning a Stanley Cup.

As it stands, Montreal doesn't look at all prepared to go all the way. It's still early in the season, but when you can only manage seven goals in five games, just winning the next game supercedes the desire the win a Cup.

The timing of this meeting between Montreal and Mats is interesting but should come as no shock to any one, particularly those following the dreadful performances by the Canadiens, who have managed to steal points away from games they should have outright won.

Bob Gainey is a man always thinking several moves ahead, which is good in chess and as a GM. He has to be looking at the big picture, witnessing captain Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Lang rack up points while Alex Kovalev has had dismal numbers.

To secure the service of Sundin, the Habs will have to clear some salary room.  Currently, the Canadiens have about $2 million to fiddle with which isn't enough to land Mats, considering the two-year, $20 million offer from the Vancouver Canucks is still on the table.

Unloading Kovalev's $4.5 million salary and shoddy work ethic might be a option for Gainey at this point, although, as the man has proven before, no one knows how the mind of Gainey operates.

It still may not be enough to secure Sundin, if he should choose money over team.  Vancouver is no slouch this season and may offer the best chance for Mats to win a Cup or, more likely, allow him to be part of an organization well on its way to being a Cup contender.

With all these meeting and discussions, however, it's clear Sundin is getting ready to make his move and not crawl back in to his burrow for another six weeks.