The Montreal Canadiens have been given permission to talk to Toronto captain Mats Sundin, Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher has confirmed.
"We gave Montreal permission to talk to Mats," Fletcher told the Canadian Press on Friday. "We have no other comment at this time."
Sundin is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Toronto would require some form of compensation if a deal was worked out between Sundin and the Canadiens before that date.
Both Fletcher and the player's agent, J.P. Barry, indicated earlier in the month they believed Sundin, 37, would return for another season. Sundin is vacationing in Europe with his fiancée.
Barry was a bit more circumspect on Friday when questioned about the latest development.
"At this point, Mats still hasn't decided if he wants to play, let alone where," said Barry. "But obviously the Leafs are trying to facilitate a decision."
Toronto hasn't abandoned the idea of bringing its captain back. Rogers Sportsnet is reporting that the Maple Leafs have offered Sundin a one-year deal worth an estimated $7 million US.
Sundin earned $5.5 million last season and refused to waive his no-trade clause prior to the trade deadline. Fletcher had indicated in early June that if the Leafs were to make an offer, they would have no qualms about giving Sundin a no-trade clause again.
"If Mats comes to me and says, 'I will sign, but I have to have a no-trade contract,' and it is a one-year contract, he has got it," Fletcher said.
Sundin finished with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 74 games last season, leading Toronto in scoring for the fourth consecutive campaign.
The franchise leader in goals and points, he has played the last 13 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, who acquired him from the Quebec Nordiques in a blockbuster trade on June 28, 1994.
Sundin has posted 555 goals and 766 assists for 1,321 points in 1,305 NHL games since he was drafted first overall by Quebec in 1989.