Signing off from BOG meetings: More Sundin and Sabres talk

December, 9, 2008
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Vancouver Canucks have been in the mix for Mats Sundin since July 1, and as a decision nears any day now for the free-agent Swede, they remain very much at the forefront as a possible match.

"We've approached it consistently throughout, and you know, the media has made a lot more out of it than we have, ever," Canucks GM Mike Gillis said after the NHL's board of governors meeting wrapped up Tuesday.

"He's a player that we really wanted to get, and want to get, on our team, and it's been pretty low-key for us; but obviously the speculation that has gone on for a long period of time has been topical, and people have made a lot out of it."

Flyers GM Paul Homgren is at least taking another look at Sundin even though the team has very little cap room.

"Why not explore," he said via text message Tuesday night.

Vancouver, Chicago, Montreal and the New York Rangers are also in the mix.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked whether the drawn-out process with Sundin and fellow free agent Brendan Shanahan was bad for the league, and whether the NHL should change the rules (with the NHL Players' Association's blessing) to institute a cut-off date for these free agents.

"As long as this isn't widespread -- I mean, if lots and lots of players started doing this, I'd more concerned," Bettman said. "But there seem to be particular reasons and particular cases as to why this happens. I'm not sure we need to overreact at this point."

More Champions League talk
As we mentioned Monday night, the NHL presented a report on the Champions Hockey League in Europe and again bounced around the idea Tuesday of possibly investing money in the enterprise.

"Well, anything that we can do on a worldwide basis to help grow the game we think would be a good thing," Bettman said. "Anything that perhaps could get us even more involved from an international standpoint in working to work the game would be a good thing. We spoke about this generally, but this could be an interesting business opportunity, as well."

But Bettman made it clear he didn't envision NHL teams actually playing alongside European club teams in the competition.

"We're not talking about integrating our schedules," Bettman said. "It would be more along the lines of exhibition games."

In the meantime, the NHL is still planning to expand its regular-season openers next fall in Europe to include six teams, up from four this season.

"That's what we're working on, although it hasn't been finalized," Bettman said. "It's far from done, and we have a lot to do with the Players' Association, but we're talking about six teams and four markets."

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said his team has been approached to see if it was interested in being among those six teams, although no decision has been made on that front.

Sabres sale
Like Sabres minority owner Larry Quinn yesterday, Bettman also strongly denied the report that the Buffalo Sabres were actively seeking out a buyer.

"They have absolutely no interest in selling the franchise," Bettman said. "It's always been my understanding of Tom Golisano's position. I don't understand why these stories periodically keep bubbling up as to this team or that team. But I don't know it's constructive for anybody."

Still, it makes you wonder when the story comes from a respected source like veteran hockey writer Jim Kelley, a longtime Buffalo guy. Food for thought.

Follow baseball?
The NHL will keep an eye on how Major League Baseball does in its efforts to sell tickets and woo corporate sponsors this offseason, although Bettman said MLB isn't an exact bellwether for the NHL.

"Our demographics tend to be more affluent," Bettman said. "Our fans tend to be more avid. But there is trending there that you keep an eye on. I don't think you can look at it on a macro basis. You look market by market. If I'm a hockey team in the same market as a baseball team, I'm curious to see how they're doing. Although some of it, as with any sports team, can be performance-related. Watching how they're selling and their attendance and their sponsorship renewals gives you a little guidance. But it isn't the litmus test for a hockey team."





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