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J.P. Barry: Sundin decision will come this week

by Dan Rosen

"I've been talking to him all last night and all today and I will again tonight. It could come any time today or tomorrow."
-- J.P. Barry, Mats Sundin's agent

Mats Sundin will decide where he wants to continue his NHL career by the end of this week, preferably before the NHL's holiday roster freeze at midnight ET Friday, his North American-based agent, J.P. Barry, told Thursday afternoon.

Barry confirmed that Sundin, 37, will choose between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers and an announcement will come in "cooperation with the team we select," Barry said.

"I've been talking to him all last night and all today and I will again tonight," the agent added. "It could come any time today or tomorrow."

Barry said Sundin, who flew back to Sweden on Monday and does not plan to return to North America until Dec. 27, had been waiting to make a decision until he learned exactly what the Rangers' plans were and what their offer was going to be.

"It's my duty in order to have Mats make the decision that I provide him the information," Barry said. "It wasn't entirely clear, based on their salary cap situation, what the offer would be. But, I talked to them several times and by (Wednesday) got a clear message on what they could do."

The Canucks, who reportedly offered two years at $10 million per on July 1, have the salary cap room to sign Sundin without making any roster adjustments, but the Rangers have to clear space via roster moves in order to fit Sundin in under the cap at an even lower amount than Vancouver can offer.

The Canucks have around $7 million left under the cap, but the Rangers have around $1 million remaining and Sundin, who made $5.5 million last season in Toronto, is reportedly seeking in the $5-6 million pro-rated range from the Rangers.

Barry would not say what the Rangers are offering.

"I think the process is for them to make an offer," he said. "We want them to tell us exactly what they're comfortable with.

"They had some discussion on what they could do, but they have variations on that. They let us know what they could clear in order to sign Mats and that's what resulted in the last couple of days."

Barry did say Sundin is not looking for a multi-year deal. So, Vancouver's initial offer is not a factor any longer.

"No, we made it pretty clear that we're not looking at a multi-year deal," Barry said. "(Vancouver's) original deal was two years, but we let them know some time ago that one year was all we're looking at."

Even if Sundin picks his team before the roster freeze, he may not sign until the freeze is lifted at midnight ET Dec. 27. Chances are he wouldn't sign with the Rangers until the freeze is lifted because of all the moves they would have to make to fit him in under the cap.

Barry said if Sundin chooses the Rangers this week, the announcement would likely include the terminology that the Rangers and Sundin have "agreed to terms" on a contract.

"He could get all the paper work in order, but not sign until the 28th in order for them to make moves," Barry said.

The Rangers could try to make a trade or two to get themselves the necessary cap space, but they would have to do so without taking on salary in return.

They do have other options to get Sundin in under the cap without making a trade, but they involve a plethora of roster moves, all hypothetical right now, that could leave the team with only 20 or 21 players on the NHL roster and little wiggle room left under the cap to guard against injuries.

The Rangers could operate without flexibility for now, but, of course, it's all contingent on what type of money Sundin is actually looking for and what they're offering.

"The ceiling was hit on July 1. Obviously that was an incredible offer (from Vancouver), especially when you consider it was a two-year offer (for $10 million per)," Barry said. "Mats' process is looking at the situation, how good the team, the personnel is and how he would fit in, the chances for success and compensation. They're all intertwined and the reality of the business is all these things become a factor, but he wants to come to a good team that has a chance to win, a team he could succeed with and have a strong role with."

Barry said travel will not factor into Sundin's decision. The Canucks' travel is much more arduous than the Rangers'.

"With half a season left it's not an issue," Barry said.

Barry didn't want to put a timetable on when Sundin would be ready to play in a game, but he said he's in excellent shape because he has been training with a pro team in Sweden.

"He went through 10 weeks of the Swedish Olympic program (training)," Barry said. "He's in fantastic shape. He's been skating every day this month and will everyday through this week and next. He and the (coaching) staff will decide when he's ready."

Contrary to reports that Sundin has let self-imposed soft deadlines to make a decision pass this season, Barry said it was always their intention for Sundin to make his decision "around this week."

"Even back in the summer," Barry said. "For everybody else it's long, but for us it's only two or three days away from what we (targeted)."

Sundin has 1,321 points, including 555 goals in 1,305 career regular season games. He's Toronto's all-time leader with 987 points during his 13 seasons wearing a Maple Leafs' uniform. He also has 74 points in 83 playoff games.

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