The Canucks who have traditionally been rather passive when it comes to major deadlines like the trade deadline, and free agency, were the center of attention last year as they pursued the most coveted free agent of the 2008 summer – Mats Sundin. This year he’s a free agent again, less coveted and hyped, but equally as important to the Canucks now that he has had a chance to play on the team and prove his value.
Now I know I was one of his hardest critics, but one thing people told me all through his season’s ups and downs was that if I waited till the playoffs I would really see the worth of Mats Sundin. To all those that had faith in him I commend you because I certainly didn’t believe in him at first, and it took a while but after the way he stepped up in the series against Chicago, and the way he impacted the team intangibly during the regular season, he’s on my list of Canucks Free Agents to give a second look and try and resign if the price is right.
At the beginning of last season there was a 2 year deal on the table for Mats. He waited until December to decide to come back, and he took a one year deal for 7 million dollars. He’s indicated he wants to play another year and Gillis has implied that he would like to have Sundin back.
Last season Sundin did something no one has been able to do for the Canucks and that is open up the ice for the Sedins. His presence and ability on the ice has given Vancouver enough depth to roll 4 lines and have at least two different lines that pose a threat. He opens up the ice for whomever he’s with which is the reason we saw career numbers from Kesler and better play from Demitra. When playing on the power play with the Sedins he draws opposing players away from the Sedins and is the big presence in front of the net we had hoped would have been Pyatt but which has been missing since Bertuzzi patrolled the opposition’s crease.
While he might not be at a physically ideal level, his hockey sense and vision is still amongst the best, and when it comes to clutch, he’s still got it. (Just have to work on keeping him out of the penalty box).
Is he worth 7 million? Certainly not. The Canucks had cap room, all it cost them was cash, it was a lure. It worked, and now Sundin has found a team he thinks is a legitimate contender and a few right moves away from the cup (pending the X-Factor Sedins). Should Sundin be back? Certainly. His intangible benefit is similar to that of what the Sedins have. He seems to have clicked with Kesler and skates well with Demitra. On top of that, if Hodgson joins the big leagues next year Sundin would be an excellent veteran to teach him the way of the game.
Sundin is the big body center we need and on a year to year basis I think he’s a steal. While he has his stretches of inconsistency on the score sheet, he’s solid in the face-off dot. The reason he took the first half of the season off was because he didn’t think he could handle the grind of travel, and it’s not something I expect of him because if we want a healthy, clutch Sundin down the stretch, we will have to make sacrifices. I would like to see the Canucks bring back Sundin in the role they had for Trevor Linden in his last year. Linden was a healthy scratch many nights (although for different reasons) but when it mattered most he was leading the Canucks on the score sheet. Sundin won’t last 82 games, and I don’t expect him to. If he’d like to prove me wrong I would be ecstatic.
Sign him for 2 million dollars MAX for one year (preferably less – 1.5). Have him center a solid second and mentor a future superstar. Give him another shot (which may be his last) at a cup.