Mats Sundin has proved himself over and over.
From winning three World Championships and an Olympic Gold to receiving nine selections to the NHL All-Star game, Sundin has shown he has what it takes to put the puck in the net and lead his team success.
The New York Rangers, along with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vancouver Canucks, have been playing with contract offers to Sundin since the summer. New York has now come into the foreground of this muddled picture, showing new interest.
And for good reason.
The Rangers, while sitting atop the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, have scored only 88 goals — identical to the number they have allowed. They are 10th in the league in goals scored, but have played more games than any other team.
New York has been held to a goal or less in seven of their 33 games this year — three of those coming against the Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Islanders, who claim three of the four worst goals-allowed totals in the league.
So it’s apparent the Rangers could use a new offensive weapon.
They could also use experience.
If New York wants to make noise in the playoffs, three of their biggest obstacles look to be the Boston Bruins, the Canadiens, and the Philadelphia Flyers (an Atlantic Division rival).
Boston has five forwards at least thirty years old, and eight of their total skaters have achieved this age. Montreal has five forwards of at least thirty years of age as well, and nine skaters. Philadelphia sports four forwards and six skaters of thirty years or older.
New York has two and four, respectively.
At the end of last season, Sundin held the second-longest active captaining streak behind Joe Sakic. He was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Sundin has not only proved he can play great hockey, but also that his age of 37 means he has some fine leadership skills to go along with it.
A concern with the elongated contract discussions is New York’s current chemistry and focus.
The prospect of having a new player join the team is both challenging and catalyzing, rather than inhibiting. Bringing in Sundin would create cap problems for the Rangers, forcing them to possibly cut a player or two from the current roster. Players now have to step up and prove that they aren’t the ones to be letting go.
Underperformers like Petr Prucha should be worried. Prucha may be the one to go, considering his salary and limited production. The Rangers had already asked him to go to their American Hockey League affiliate for some time, which he refused to do. If New York decides to dispose of him in the near future, he will not have as much of a choice.
If the Rangers decide Sundin is worth it, changes will be made.
Could Mats Sundin put the New York Rangers over the top and on their way to a Stanley Cup win for the first time since 1994?
The only way to know is to wait and see if he gets the chance.
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