Mats Sundin hasn't actually said he wants to play this season.

But if he did and he indicated that he wanted to play in Philadelphia, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he would be interested in signing the Swedish All-Star forward. Holmgren has contacted Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, to let him know that.

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"I certainly wouldn't be optimistic about him becoming a Flyer, but I think we've got to do our due diligence and look into it. I haven't talked to his agent in the last 10 days, but they know we're one of the teams that would be interested in signing him, and we'll see where it goes," Holmgren said between periods of last night's game against the Islanders.

Sundin, 37, has been the hottest unsigned free agent since the end of last season. He has steadfastly refused to say if he actually wants to play. But he has been working out and has been in contact with several teams, including Vancouver and the Rangers.

In 17 NHL seasons with Quebec and Toronto, Sundin has 555 goals and 766 assists.

According to the Vancouver Province, Sundin has set Dec. 15 as a target date for signing with an NHL team.

He is said to be planning a visit with the Rangers this weekend.

"You're always looking to make your team better if you can. I like our team, I think we're a good team, but I think there are a number of good teams," Holmgren said. "I think if we were able to get a guy like that we would be foolish not to look into it."

Like Brendan Shanahan, adding Sundin would require moving a substantial player out of the lineup. But unlike Shanahan, Sundin, if healthy, could be a dominant player. Holmgren said he would be reluctant to change his team to make room but would make an exception in this case.

"If you're talking about a guy like Sundin, it's a different ball game," Holmgren said.

Jones closer

With every passing practice, defenseman Randy Jones gets closer to coming back after hip surgery. He's pushing hard this week to see if he can stand up to the test. If he can, he will get the green light.

"I felt pretty good last week, and the doctor said if I could get a full week in of hard practice with contact he would be able to clear me. So far it feels good and I'll keep it going the rest of the week," said Jones, adding that if he is cleared by the weekend, he hopes to play.

But there is a remote possibility he will be sent to the Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL affiliate, for a few games of conditioning.

"I'm not sure exactly what the intent is," Jones said. "If they want me to go down to play a couple of games, or how many games they want, I'm definitely willing to, absolutely."

Flyers coach John Stevens said there has been talk about possibly playing Jones in the minors first, but Stevens didn't think that was going to happen.

"It's been tossed around a little bit," he said. "It just depends on our schedule. We'll see how he progresses in practice and some battle drills. It seems to me that he is progressing along pretty well.

"That's an option, but not one I think we'll exercise at this point. It's not a bad thing. I'm one guy who knows how good that league is and being in game situations will help him get ready, but that's more of a management decision. We're going to keep getting him ready."

Knuble milestones

Mike Knuble went into last night with three career milestones within reach. He was one point away from 400, two goals away from 200, and three goals from 100 with the Flyers.

"[The goals have] come a little slower of late," Knuble said. "To get 400 is nice. It's a good milestone and figure 200 of each, that's 10 years at 20 goals per year, that's good. It shows some longevity."

Knuble's goal-scoring came later in his career. He played with Joe Thornton and Glen Murray in Boston, where he started to become a scorer. This season, he has 10 goals and seven assists.

"Things have gone well, and you know I was in Boston for 4 years and the last 2 saw a lot more of my goals then," he said. "But to get 4 decent years here where I averaged 25 goals, that'd be pretty good. On paper, it averages out." *