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Sundin ready to shine?

Mats Sundin looks like he's ready to return to the NHL, but not with the Maple Leafs, who he played most of his career with. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Mats Sundin looks like he's ready to return to the NHL, but not with the Maple Leafs, who he played most of his career with. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The NHL’s Christmas trade freeze begins Friday, Dec. 19 and while there will likely be some trade activity leading up to the deadline, don’t expect any big names to be on the move.

Since the imposition of the salary cap in 2005, only four notable players – Joe Thornton, Sergei Fedorov, Doug Weight and Andy McDonald – were dealt in early-season trades. The rest were lesser talented players carrying more affordable salaries, which made them easier to move.

So if you’re hoping to see a blockbuster trade by Friday involving players who have been frequently mentioned in trade rumors this season - like Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester, Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik or Chicago’s Martin Havlat – your hopes will most likely be dashed.

Sorry for playing the Grinch, but that’s the reality in today’s salary cap world.

• The Mats Sundin free agent saga that has dragged on for half the year should mercifully come to a close this week.

His agent, J.P. Barry, claimed Sundin has narrowed his list of preferred destinations to “four or five teams,” none of which – according to the St. Petersburg Times – are below sixth overall in either conference.

That would rule out the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators. The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers were interested in Sundin, but their GMs admit they cannot free up the necessary cap space to sign him.  

Those believed to still be in the running are the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens; of those clubs only the Canucks have the available cap space to sign him.

It’s possible the Rangers or Canadiens could tip their hand by making a trade to dump salary prior to signing Sundin, but the New York Post reported Monday Sundin’s potential new contract wouldn’t count against a team’s salary cap until it is registered with the league.

That could give either the Rangers or Canadiens time to move salary after agreeing to a deal in principle with the Swedish pivot.  

• Forget about those rumors of the Atlanta Thrashers shopping Ilya Kovalchuk.

Thrashers GM Don Waddell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week he hasn’t had talks with any NHL team regarding Kovalchuk, who has one more season remaining on his current contract.

Waddell could get a solid return for Kovalchuk if he moved him this season, but apparently he has decided to take his chances on re-signing Kovalchuk in 2009-10.

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• A rumor making the rounds over the past few weeks had the Dallas Stars possibly shipping troubled winger Sean Avery back to the New York Rangers for struggling defenseman Michal Rozsival.

The rumor came out prior to the Stars’ announcement on the weekend that, by mutual consent, Avery would not be returning to the club.

While Rangers GM Glen Sather might be regretting re-signing Rozsival to a four-year, $20 million contract this past summer, it’s doubtful he’d want Avery back, especially when Slats is trying to woo Mats Sundin.

It’s also doubtful the Stars would be so desperate to move Avery they’d agree to accept an overpaid blueliner in return.

• Recent reports regarding the Florida Panthers – usually coming from outside of Miami – suggest there is considerable unhappiness amongst the Panthers players. This has formed the basis of several trade rumors, but their recent play tells a different story.

After stumbling to yet another slow start, the Panthers have turned it on by winning five of their seven games in December, pulling them to within two points of a playoff berth.

Either the Panthers are having great success as a dysfunctional team or the tales of their unhappiness have been greatly exaggerated.

• Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton’s efforts to combat his club’s struggles with trades and demotions has more than a few observers believing more changes could be in store.

One rumor that cited sources close to Martin St-Louis suggested the veteran winger might be willing to waive his no-trade clause if Lawton asked him to.

So far there has been nothing mentioned in the Tampa media about this, probably because St-Louis doesn’t seem to be the type who’d bail on the Lightning when times are tough.

Besides, there’s also a perception that St-Louis needs to be paired with the right center to be effective and, when factoring his age (33) and salary ($5.25 million per season until 2011), he could be a tough sell even if he did agree to be shopped.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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