Mats Sundin's days as captain of the Maple Leafs could be numbered.
To trade him or not to trade him – that is the question.
You know the notion of moving veteran scoring star Mats Sundin is not a front-burner issue for the .500 Toronto Maple Leafs now, and rightly so. The Leafs go to work everyday believing they are not only a playoff team, but also one that can go a long way in the post-season. I don’t quite see it that way, but you have to admire their conviction.
Though with each loss and each step toward the possibility of a third consecutive non-playoff season, you would like to think a certain amount of reality and long-range vision will begin to set in. This, of course, may be wishful thinking on behalf of frustrated Leaf fans because such foresight has not been a staple of GM John Ferguson’s rocky tenure.
Because he handed out no-trade, no-movement clauses like they were Halloween candy, Ferguson has left himself with precious few options for making the Leafs better beyond this term. There is no reason to believe the Leafs will be any better in 12 months than they are today.
Which brings us back to Sundin. Like a few others on the team, he managed to waggle a no-trade clause out of Ferguson in the one-year deal he signed with the team last summer. If a player requests such a notation in his deal, you have to think he would be dead set against packing up and leaving town during the year.
But Sundin, with 11 goals and 28 points in 22 games – good for fifth in the NHL – has a trade value that may never be higher. You have to wonder what a progressive-thinking GM could get from opponents in terms of building blocks for the future if he waved a proven scorer under their noses?
Of course, it would mean talking Sundin into waiving the no-trade clause and that might be a deal-breaker right there. You might want to try to get others with no-movement clauses to consider being traded, but it is unlikely any of them would fetch the type of return Sundin would.
I’ll say this; if Sundin is serious about winning a Stanley Cup before he retires, he’d better think long and hard about moving. The Leafs, as they stand, do not look like a team that will seriously contend for the Cup for a long, long time.
I was in the Colorado dressing room the night Ray Bourque finally sipped champagne from the Cup after playing 21 years in Boston. The joy on his face will stay with me forever. I was also there when Doug Weight finally won the Cup, as a rental player, with Carolina. Sure, it would have been nice for Weight to win in Edmonton or St. Louis, but do you think he has any regrets about winning with the Hurricanes? Not a chance.
The fact remains Sundin could even re-sign with Toronto next season if that is where he wants to end his career.
This might not be the time of year to approach Sundin about a possible trade, but it definitely is the season. Otherwise, I see this organization continuing to spin its wheels for years to come.
Now you may ask, would a GM on the last year of his contract have the courage to make such a bold move that won’t benefit the team immediately?
That is another question, for another day.
Mike Brophy's Double OT appears regularly on The Hockey News.com.
One of THN’s senior writers, Mike Brophy gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Mike's expertise delivered to you every issue.