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It's official: Sundin to Vancouver

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
It’s official. Mats Sundin is a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

Months of speculation came to a screeching halt on Thursday as Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis announced that Sundin has been signed to a free-agent contract.

Not many details are available at this time, although it was made clear that Sundin will arrive in Vancouver on December 27. Having not yet played this season, Sundin will dictate his own timeline from there.

When Sundin makes his debut isn’t the issue right now, all the focus is on the fact that it'll be in a Canucks uniform.

Sundin is the total package, said Gillis, and the Canucks are elated to add him to the team.

“He’s a point a game guy, he’s been a captain in a huge hockey media market, he speaks very well, he’s very honorable, great integrity; you can’t say enough about him.”

In Sundin the Canucks acquire an offensive juggernaut that will immediately bolster the team up front.

The line combinations are seemingly endless, put the 17-year NHL veteran with top guns Daniel and Henrik Sedin or on the second line alongside the likes of Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier or Mason Raymond.

A bevy of options are now available to the Canucks as adding Sundin revamps Vancouver’s second scoring quite drastically.

“He’s very happy,” Gillis said of Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.

“It’s with great anticipation when you add a player of this quality to your group and they’re already talking about what they’re going to do with him and what happens to our power play and different things. They’re very excited about this.”

The 6-foot-5, 230 pound Swedish-born centre, who was snagged first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, will provide instant offence for the Canucks.

Sundin, 37, had 78 points (32-46-78) in 74 games with the Maple Leafs last season and has averaged better than a point a game for his career with 1,321 points (555-766-1321) in 1,305 games. He is currently the Maple Leafs franchise leader in both goals and points.

Sundin’s career numbers easily usurp those of Markus Naslund, the most prolific offensive player ever to land in Vancouver, and not just by a hair. Naslund currently has 848 career points (he finished with 756 as a Canuck) – that’s 473 less than Sundin.

There aren’t many players who compare to Sundin, that’s why Gillis targeted him right from day one.

“As we approached July 1 and we formulated our plan moving forward, it became our priority free agent signing,” said Gillis.

“We’ve been very patient, but it wasn’t up until about 10 days ago to two weeks that Mats actually indicated that he was mentally and physically ready to decide to play and once we got that indication we felt pretty good about where we sat all the way through.

“He had made it clear that we were a priority for him and we had made it clear that he was a priority for us, so we felt pretty confident that we would get this done.

In addition to a scoring touch that has him 30th on the NHL’s all time scoring list, Sundin also possesses legendary leadership, an asset Kyle Wellwood is well aware of.

Wellwood spent more than three seasons playing with the nine-time all-star in Toronto so he knows first hand what a force Sundin is.

“He is a great teammate,” said Wellwood earlier this week. “He is a consistent 30-goal scorer.

“He is a monster, defensively, at the end of the game. There is a lot of things he can do for our team.”

Fellow countrymen Mattias Ohlund and Daniel and Henrik Sedin are also familiar with Sundin having played with him in the past. All four were members of Team Sweden’s gold medal winning team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver’s Swedish contingent was a factor in luring Sundin to the West Coast.

“He spoke to Mattias this morning and went through just confirming all the things we had talked about,” said Gillis.

“Mattias stepped up and spoke to him about the culture here that we’re working hard on every day and the types of teammates he would have. Then he called me right after and told me that he had been thinking this way all the way along and was prepared to come.”

It takes patience and lots of it to build a Stanley Cup contender and Gillis demonstrated that in never rushing Sundin to make a decision on where he wanted to play.

Instead the rookie GM let things play out and the Canucks now have substantially more firepower on offence because of it.

“We put a major league offer on the table for him and the fact that he didn’t select it right away, his esteem grew in my eyes because the easiest thing to do would be to accept it and not be committed for the money.

“The fact that he refused to do that, I knew we had identified the right person and the right person to become part of this organization and this team.”

Sundin can score, he’s a natural leader, he’s got unparalleled experience, he’s durable, dedicated and passionate; he’s unquestionably the right person for the job.

Official press release
Canucks report

1 - First overall pick of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft

17 - Seasons in the NHL split between Quebec and Toronto

  555 - Career goals (22nd all-time)

766 - Career assists (34th all-time)

1321 - Career points (30th all-time)

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