By Ian Mendes,
OTTAWA — The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed on terms for a trade involving Mats Sundin. Now all Bob Gainey has to do is convince the superstar to come and play for his team.
The Canadiens general manager spoke to Sundin by telephone late Thursday night, after Montreal was granted permission to work out a deal with him by June 30.
“Really it was just an introduction type of conversation. This is who we are and this is why we think you could help us,” said Gainey on Friday night at the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa. “It was contact to confirm that we are interested in him and we will be in contact again.”
Gainey would not reveal what his club would be willing to give up in return if Sundin does sign a contract with Montreal, but said that both parties have already agreed on the terms.
“We’ve agreed with something with the Leafs that if we come to an agreement with Mats, then at that point, we would exchange the things we’ve agreed upon,” said Gainey, who was granted exclusive rights to speak with Sundin by Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher.
Ironically, Fletcher acquired Sundin from Quebec 14 years ago at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in his first stint as Leafs general manager.
The 37-year-old Sundin is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and there is some belief that he may retire. But Gainey is of the opinion that Sundin can help a Canadiens team that finished first overall in the Eastern Conference in the regular season in 2007-08.
“He’s a veteran player who is still a capable in our view,” added Gainey. “He’s a dependable player when it comes to injuries and he’s able to compete. We’ve made it pretty open that we’re looking for forwards who fit that.”
Gainey was also well-aware that Sundin may face backlash from Toronto fans, bitter that the face of their franchise might choose to play for their longtime, bitter rival.
“I think that may or may not be something that is attractive to Mats,” he concluded. “But there are some other great former Leafs who have played in Montreal and vice versa.”
The Leafs gave Sundin the option of staying with the club with a substantial offer on Friday. Sources say the offer — which would include another no-movement clause — would be in the range of $7 million.
Toronto would like a decision well before July 1, but Sundin and his agent J.P. Barry have not given any indication on his intentions to play next season as of yet.