Finally, the Mats Sundin soap opera is over.
Finally, Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey can close the book on a chapter that just went on, and on, and on. And on.
In the end, Gainey simply got tired of waiting for Mats. In the end, Gainey never really believed he would see Mats Sundin in a Canadiens uniform. In the end, Gainey went ahead with “Plan B”, in the form of Robert Lang. And, in the end, it was the right move by the Canadiens’ GM.
By helping the Chicago Blackhawks out of a sticky salary cap situation, the Canadiens helped themselves out where they needed help the most: up front, with a big centreman who still has some productivity left in those 37-year-old legs. Lang cost the Habs a second-round draft pick and four million in salary: a reasonable price to pay for someone who had clearly been lost in the shuffle of youth in Chicago. Despite his 21 goals last season, Lang wasn’t much of a factor for the Hawks down the stretch in 2007-2008. And, by his own admission, a change of scenery is just the spark Lang needs to continue a career that included his four most productive years in Pittsburgh: playing with Alex Kovalev.
Lang chuckled when he told me he had spoken to Alex just a couple of days ago. Two old friends just catching up on the phone. A couple of days later, the two are teammates again.
“I talked to him just to touch base and I obviously talked to him after I got the news told him it looks like we might be playing together again,” said Lang. “It’s funny how it works sometimes. It should be fun.
It’s been anything but fun for Bob Gainey in his dealings with Mats Sundin over the last 11 weeks. Going back to the days when Gainey had been granted exclusivity by the Leafs to negotiate with the big Swede during the time of the NHL draft, all we had been hearing from everyone (except Mats) is how Montreal made the most sense for Sundin. How he would never return to Toronto. And how he would never head west, despite Vancouver’s humungous 20-million-dollar, two-year offer.
Trouble is, Mats still hasn’t made up his mind. But Bob Gainey has. Gainey knew in his heart of hearts he would get an indication, real quick, if Sundin had any interest in playing in Montreal. That indication never came. The days after the NHL entry draft in Ottawa stretched into weeks, and then into months. Still, Sundin sits on the sidelines, considering his future; leaving Bob Gainey to consider his options, an option that included a “Plan B,” in the form of Robert Lang, someone who is excited and actually looking forward to wearing the CH on his chest.
It’s positively refreshing, I tell ya.