Sakic's back, but what of Sundin, Selanne and Shanahan? (Getty Images)
Colorado captain, franchise face and all-time leading scorer Joe Sakic, as anticipated, re-signed for one more year (and counting?) last month, putting to rest the retirement question for the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer.
But what about the other S-men? Will it be yes or no to another NHL season?
We speak, of course, of Anaheim sniper Teemu Selanne, 38, who sat out the first half of last season contemplating retirement; Rangers shooter Brendan Shanahan, 39 and sounding like he wants another crack; and, last but not least, longtime Leafs captain Mats Sundin, 37, who, if you believe all the reports (which would be foolish), has basically held a bunch of teams hostage as he muses about his hockey future.
For fun, here are the seven clubs rumored to be pursuing the playmaking center, in approximate (i.e. flat-out guessed) order of Sundin's likelihood of playing for them: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Detroit and Tampa Bay.
There surely have been a few others in the running, and would be a few more if Sundin came out and announced he'd skate for the highest bidder. (Not that money is his motivation to return; if it was, he would've snapped up the two-year, $20-million offer from Vancouver GM Mike "Can You Tell I Used To Be A Player Agent?" Gillis.)
The popular lines of thought are if Sundin comes back, it will be for love (the Leafs) or glory (a contender).
So what's it going to be? To play, or not to play? To lose with the Leafs or to choose a contender?
If you believe Sundin, who spoke to a Toronto radio station this week and again at a charity press conference for Right To Play, he's still undecided. Which could make you think he's leaning towards retirement – he sure didn't look or sound much like a guy who was coming back for another year – and is leaving it until the last minute to make sure.
Then again, he could be waiting to see what the Leafs do, or waiting to see which contender needs a big, veteran center who's hungry for a championship.
The guess here (again, flat-out) is that Sundin will be back for another season, probably in Toronto, but let's throw the Rangers in there as a dark horse.
The Canucks? Well, $20 million will make just about anybody stand up and scratch their head, agreed. But Vancouver is a playoff bubble team, not a top contender, and Sundin seems like the kind of guy who would be pretty content with the tens of millions of dollars he has earned since arriving in the NHL in 1990, just as salaries started to explode. So, just don't see it happening for Sundin on the West Coast, despite the scenery and the Sedins.
Meanwhile, Selanne has reportedly come to a decision; he's just not telling anybody what it is. However, he did tell the Orange County Register that he had been "skating every day" for a month, and that "there was a reason." So, my inner Kreskin says Selanne will be back with the Ducks this season, all season. Which is good news for Anaheim, as the Ducks need two scoring lines to truly compete with Detroit and even Dallas and San Jose.
And, finally, Shanahan, who still has swagger, a howitzer and can play a heads-up game in the offensive zone. Like Selanne and the Ducks, it appears Shanahan wants to return to his old team, the Rangers. The question is, do the Rangers want him back? GM Glen Sather has gone young with the roster, which no longer features Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka or Sean Avery. To continue the guessing game, it sounds like, for the right price, $2-3 million perhaps (I always guess low on these things), Shanahan will turn 40 on Broadway. Just don't expect him to score his age. He might score his season, though – 2008-09 would be Shanahan's 21st in the NHL.
Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears weekly.
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