Sundin's signing with the Habs would really burn the Leafs
OTTAWA -- You can already picture the scene: Mats Sundin in a Montreal Canadiens jersey, tormenting the Toronto Maple Leafs and their long-suffering fans eight times a year. And worse, perhaps next spring hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time in his career.All of this may come to pass as the Montreal Canadiens have been given permission to talk to Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, about a possible deal for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. The Leafs had tried to deal Sundin to the Habs before the trade deadline, but were rebuffed by Sundin, who refused to waive his no-trade clause. Not that this is a done deal by any stretch of the imagination -- indeed, there remains some question about whether Sundin even wants to continue his career. But if the Canadiens are successful in working a deal with Sundin and can come up with adequate compensation for the Leafs to obtain his signing rights, they would have to be considered one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
We have taken more than a few shots at Atlanta GM Don Waddell in recent months, but we applaud his hiring of longtime minor league head coach John Anderson to fill the vacancy created early last season when Bob Hartley was fired. No doubt Anderson came more cheaply than established NHL head coaches Joel Quenneville, Pat Burns and Paul Maurice, who are all on the market. But the move could pay dividends for the Thrashers, who have made the playoffs just once in their history and have yet to win a single postseason game. Anderson, who played 814 regular-season games in the NHL, has been coaching since 1991-92, when he was an assistant with the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL. For the past 11 seasons he has been behind the bench of the Chicago Wolves, first in the International Hockey League and then in the AHL. He won five championships with the Wolves, including one earlier this month. But in all that time, Anderson had just one interview for an NHL head coaching job, in Anaheim, and two shots at an assistant post in Toronto and Boston. Until Friday, that is. "I went back to my room and I cried. I'm pretty excited," Anderson said Friday afternoon in Ottawa, where he made his first official appearance as an NHL head coach. Anderson, a native of Toronto, follows his good friend Bruce Boudreau into the NHL coaching ranks after serving considerable time in the minors. Boudreau took a moribund Washington Capitals team to the playoffs after taking over for Glen Hanlon around Thanksgiving time. The two talk pretty much every day and now they'll face each other eight times a season as Southeast Division rivals. "When we golf together, we want to kill each other," Anderson said. He figures it'll be the same when the Caps and the Thrashers meet.
The long-awaited departure of Olli Jokinen from Florida took place Friday as the talented Finnish center, who has never played in a single playoff game in his decade-long NHL career, was sent to Phoenix in exchange for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a second-round pick. The deal will put pressure on a young but emerging defensive corps in Phoenix but will give it much-needed scoring punch up front. Phoenix GM Don Maloney explained that this will take pressure off Kyle Turris, the team's third overall pick a year ago. It will also help the Coyotes match up better down the middle against San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas, Maloney said. As for the Panthers, Jokinen has been rumored to be on the move for a couple of seasons and his departure will open the door for young players Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton to take on a more significant role in terms of production and leadership.
"That's an area we have to develop as well, the leadership," GM and former head coach Jacques Martin said.Martin insisted there was nothing personal in dealing Jokinen. The acquisition of the gritty, hard-skating Ballard brings into question whether the Panthers fear they might have trouble re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Rumors are circulating that Bouwmeester would rather play in a better hockey market and isn't interested in re-signing with the Panthers.
Another player whose departure has been a long time coming is Alex Tanguay, who on Friday night joined the Montreal Canadiens, who acquired him and the Flames' fifth-round pick for their 25th overall pick and a second-round pick in 2009. Although Tanguay hasn't always put up big numbers in the playoffs, he is a 75- to 80-point player and should thrive in a more up-tempo system in Montreal as opposed to the more stifling style imposed by Mike Keenan in Calgary. If the Habs are successful in landing Sundin, they will ice a dynamic offensive lineup next season. The Flames filled the offensive gap in their lineup by acquiring small but skilled Mike Cammalleri, who endured an off year in Los Angeles with just 19 goals, one season after notching 34. He should rebound given that he'll likely center a line with Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who snagged skilled Russian youngster Nikita Filatov with the sixth overall pick, also added offensive depth, not to mention a player who played his college hockey just down the street at Ohio State, when they acquired R.J. Umberger from the Philadelphia Flyers for the 19th and 67th picks in this year's draft. The move suggests the Flyers will now have room both in terms of the salary cap and on the ice to re-sign restricted free-agent forward Jeff Carter. Umberger had a terrific postseason for the surprising Flyers, recording 10 goals in 17 games this spring. He might get a chance to center a line alongside Rick Nash. Nice to see a huge Scotiabank Place crowd greet Phoenix head coach and part-owner Wayne Gretzky with a rousing standing ovation when Gretzky got up to select Danish-born Mikkel Boedker with the eighth pick. Gretzky played his last game in Canada in Ottawa, and the fans here have never forgotten. Nor should they.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.