Mats Sundin signs contract with Vancouver Canucks
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:32PM EST
VANCOUVER - Mats Sundin has chosen the West Coast over the Big Apple.
The free-agent centre signed with the Canucks on Thursday, ending months of speculation about where he would end up -- or if he would even return to the NHL.
Sundin had considered retirement following the end of last season, but a number of teams still expressed interest in the 37-year-old's services. He had narrowed down his choices in recent weeks to the Canucks and New York Rangers.
He said Vancouver was the best move for him.
"I am truly excited to be joining the Canucks," Sundin said in a statement. "Once I made the decision to return to play a few weeks ago, the Vancouver opportunity was simply the best overall fit.
"I want to thank (Canucks general manager) Mike Gillis and the entire Canucks organization for their professionalism throughout this entire process."
Terms of the deal were not immediately available but Sundin's agent J.P. Barry told Rogers Sportsnet that it was a one-year deal. In the summer, the Canucks had offered the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain US$10 million a year, which when pro-rated for the this season, would be around $5 million.
He earned $5.5 million with Toronto last season.
"We are very excited to have Mats join the Vancouver Canucks," Gillis said in a statement. "Playing previously in two Canadian markets and consistently being among team and league leaders in scoring, Mats has proven that he can excel under pressure."
Sundin brings experience and a scoring touch to the team. The six-foot-five, 231-pound forward has spent 17 seasons in the NHL with Quebec and Toronto, having registered 555 goals and 766 assists over his career.
The nine-time all-star had 32 goals last season with Toronto. He's also the Maple Leafs' all-time leading scorer with 987 points (420 goals, 567 assists) and served as the club's captain in 10 of his 13 seasons in Toronto.
Due to the NHL's holiday roster freeze, the earliest Sundin can join the team is Dec. 27. Barry, says he probably won't be ready to play until January.
"He has been training for several months off ice and skating almost every day this month," he said. "I think the team (who signs him) will have to decide when he's exactly ready and that would be anywhere from one to two weeks."
The New York Post had reported that Sundin was waiting for the Rangers to clear enough cap space to offer him a US$6-million contract.
But Barry said earlier Thursday that Sundin had been taking as much time as he needed to make an informed decision about where he would spend the rest of the season.