NHL Report: January 31, 2008



Yes, at some point before the NHL’s trade deadline this month, Mats Sundin WILL waive his no-trade clause and allow the Toronto Maple Leafs to deal him because:


A) He will receive a whole lot of money for agreeing to do so;


B) He will become a key part of a team that already is an extremely strong contender for the Stanley Cup championship.


And that team, folks, may very well be the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings, sources say, already have made it clear to the Leafs’ interim bossman, Cliff Fletcher, that they will relinquish a package of respectable players and prospects for Sundin. They will also offer him an extra seven figures to at least finish this season with them.

If you’re Sundin, how could you possibly say no to this?

His devotion to the Leafs is admirable and all that, but, let’s face it, they’re wretched and going nowhere.

The Wings, on the other hand, are on the verge of extending the longest streak of playoff appearances in professional sports to 17 consecutive seasons. They’re on pace for an NHL-high 125 points. They will seize home-ice advantage in the post-season.

These Wings, even without Sundin, are heavy favourites to capture the Cup. With him, they could coast to the Cup.

Yes, at some point before the NHL’s trade deadline this month, Mats Sundin WILL waive his no-trade clause allow the Leafs to deal him. Probably to the Wings.

•Another Swedish veteran, Peter Forsberg, is about to end his free agency and rejoin the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender themselves. They’re enjoying a remarkable bounce-back season. With Forsberg back in their lineup, look for the Flyers to go deep into the post-season.

•Mind you, the New York Rangers covet Forsberg, as well.

For that matter, they wouldn’t mind outbidding the Wings for Sundin. They’re also talking to the Columbus Blue Jackets about David Vyborny.

The Rangers believe any one of the above would serve as an ideal centre on a line with Jaromir Jagr, who seems to be in dire need of a setup man.

•They’re in the same province, but the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are going in opposite directions.

The Flames are playing first-rate hockey lately and easily rank among the top 10 teams in the NHL. They’re 16-4-4 in their past 24 games.

On Wednesday night, Owen Nolan recorded a hat trick to lead the Flames to victory. Nolan, almost 36, was deemed a has-been a long time ago, but he has endeared himself to Calgary coach Mike Keenan.

“He’s a real leader who steps up in big games,” Keenan said.

“I feel like I’m 31 again,” Nolan said.

Combine Nolan’s comeback with strong goaltending performances from Mikka Kiprusoff and Dion Phaneuf’s imminent contract extension with the Flames and, heck, you don’t even notice that captain Jarome Iginla has gone scoreless in his past six games.

This is an exciting time for the Flames.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are a troubled lot, in danger of finishing out of the playoffs.

And they were sluggish and seemingly apathetic during their 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Edmonton on Tuesday night.

“We're not hard enough at either end of the rink right now,” Oilers captain Ethan Moreau said after the loss. “We don't have enough physical play up front, and guys are going to have to change their game a bit to fill the void with Raffi (Torres, knee surgery) out.”

Moreau is urging his teammates to toughen up and be more aggressive.

"Everybody can do it,” he said. “We don't have that many guys who are going to get 80 points this year. We don't have a lot of Ales Hemskys in here. Not yet, anyway. If you're not going to produce some physical play and some forechecking, blocked shots, then ...”


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