In the End Mats Sundin Would Be Thanked

In the End Mats Sundin Would Be Thanked

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    Former Maple Leafs captain, Mats Sundin may have inadvertently helped the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuilding effort. In signing with the Vancouver Canucks, Sundin may have already given Toronto the inside track at a piece Vancouver lacks to make them a contender in the West. That player presently wears blue and white. Tomas Kaberle.

    Vancouver General Manager, Mike Gillis, take note.

    Right now, the Canucks are missing a true power play quarterback, with a middling power play (17th, 29-for-160 18.1%), and sitting in 10th overall in scoring (102). Not bad for a defensive team. And in the postseason, every power play counts. It’s the one function of the game that can elevate a team’s chances of winning a series, especially in light of face offs being in the defending team’s zone off the bat.

    Mats will help in the face off circle, and Kaberle on the blueline. At what cost to the Canucks? We’ll get to that …

    The tight defensive system – which coach Alan Vigneault has loosened this season – needs a slight enhancement with a flowing, superb skating defenseman, capable of moving the puck up ice in quick transition with a good first pass, or skating it out and finding outlets; that, in addition to power play quarterback duties.

    Players of Kaberle’s class are rare in the NHL and Vancouver is missing that element. The 30-year-old Czech rearguard ranks third overall (heading into the game versus Dallas) in power play production (33-1-15-16) and tied for fifth (six others) in scoring (33-2-21-23).

    Contrast that to Kevin Bieksa (25th overall; 25-2-7-9), and Alexander Edler (28th; 32-2-6-8), the highest ranking Canucks, with injury prone Sami Salo in 52nd spot (25-2-3-5).

    Despite Mattias Ohlund’s stellar all-round game, he has only penetrated the 20-point mark with the man-advantage once in his career, 20 assists in the dead puck era of 2003-03.

    Clearly, a pressing need exists for a puck rushing defenseman. And Toronto has the player.

    Enter, Burke

    An advantage in this situation doesn’t really exist, except maybe for Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke. He holds an asset the league covets, and sees a worthwhile fit in Western Canada. A trade usually pits wits between two willing swappers until they reach a clearly identifiable value for both and pull the trigger.

    Current elite blueliners encompassing Kaberle’s skill set are likely locked up and too valuable to their own clubs to be made available for a swap, and/or too expensive to acquire – especially in a cap world where assets are gold.

    Kaberle’s $4.25 million contract (for another two seasons after 2008-09) is dirt cheap in comparison to contemporaries of his stature, and in a tight market it gives his value a slight boost.

    In adding the ‘cheaper’ contract, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis has the opportunity to address any other vital position to get over the hump and compete with added cap space.

    In addition it also shows the Sedin twins the commitment to winning required to sign them for the following season, or longer term, despite the status of country man Sundin heading into next season.

    TSN’s Darren Dreger indicated in his blog after the Sundin signing that Vancouver has room for yet another big move. The details of Sundin’s contract could render a bonus for Gillis with about $2.5 million in cap space and a bonanza on the trade front.

    “The expectation is the Vancouver Canucks will still have approximately $2.5 million in cap space remaining, which means the team will be able to potentially take on a player earning around $6 million at some point in the New Year using the prorated formula”

    Darren Dreger’s Blog, TSN

    The economics therefore, makes sense for both parties. With Kaberle’s contract, a cap savings still exists for Gillis to airlift more depth talent for a deep run. They can always throw back some salary in a dump to Toronto, or move another player for more cap space for a deeper impact.

    It’s a win-win situation.

    Return to Toronto

    And the moment we’ve been waiting for, what, exactly is in it for the Buds?

    Considering the plethora of suitors likely coveting the likes of Kaberle, hopefully Burke understands the power he has at the moment (forget the rhetoric about him not asking players to waive their no-trade-clauses, that’s just career suicide for a gruff forward-thinking GM that must jettison assets for a rebuilding club) and shoots for the moon.

    Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers purportedly offered the sizzling hot, Jeff Carter and a 1st round draft pick for Kaberle (in an offer that still makes me cringe and cry) in a market just as tight for puck moving blueliners. As a bench mark – with a year eaten away from Kaberle’s contract – if I am GM, I automatically set the bar at Team Canada World Junior Championships forward, Cody Hodgson and a first round draft pick.

    Too much? Might be just right considering the precedent with Carter and other team’s propensity to overpay at the deadline for a shot at Hockey’s Holy Grail.

    There is room for negotiation. If they want to move some salary around, I am almost positive Burke wouldn’t balk. There are ways to make this deal work. There are ways to talk Gillis into understanding the opportunity put forth to him, and the cost/benefit of such a transaction.

    In the end, the catalyst to this situation, inadvertently – or premeditated and never admitted to *wink *wink – would have been the player some Torontonians believe left the fold under shady circumstances and greedy, self-centered intentions.

    Mats Sundin.

    Gus Katsaros is an amateur scout and NHL fantasy hockey expert for scouting service, McKeen’s Hockey Prospects. He scouts NHL draft-eligible prospects and up and comers in NHL feeder leagues. His fantasy coverage appears on McKeenshockey.com and Yahoo! Sports. Other works includes AHL for CP, and has appeared on thehockeynews.com, XM Hockey Hour, hockeyology.com and DobberHockey.com.

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