Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin in this Dec. 22, 2007, file photo in Sunrise, Fla. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Rick Silva
The captain is staying.
Maple Leafs centre Mats Sundin, after careful deliberation over the weekend, decided Sunday night he would not waive his no-movement clause after being approached by interim Toronto GM Cliff Fletcher.
"I have carefully considered the team's request that I waive my no-trade clause," Sundin said in a statement released by his agent J.P. Barry on Sunday night. "I have always believed I would finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf so the actual request was still a very difficult one for me to contemplate. I have spoken to and listened to my family and those closest to me about this issue. In the end, there is no right decision in a situation like this one.
"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL club at this time," Sundin added. "I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."
Sundin is an unrestricted free agent July 1 and Fletcher had either hoped to trade him and recoup some assets to help rebuild the floundering club or possibly sign Sundin to a contract extension. But that won't happen either at this time.
"He advised us that he's staying where he is, which is his contractual right, and that at this time he's not interested in entering into a deal for next year," Fletcher, in Toronto, told The Canadian Press on Sunday night.
No hard feelings, Fletcher said.
"Hey look, when people sign contracts, both parties are happy with it when they sign them," said Fletcher. "The club was happy to give the player a no-trade contract and the player exercised it - what can you say? It's the business of sport. So we'll live with it, we'll move on and we'll do what we can to start moving the club forward."
It ends a drama-filled weekend for the 37-year-old Sundin, who was first approached about waiving his no-movement clause in a meeting with Fletcher on Thursday. But Sundin kept to his word which he has repeated all season long - he didn't want to leave the team he has been with for 14 years. Winning a Cup with another club doesn't mean the same to him. And he also been consistent in his desire to wait until the end of the season before deciding about whether he wanted to play another season.
Sundin and Barry met all day Friday in Toronto and another four hours Sunday in Ottawa. The Leafs play in Ottawa on Monday night, the first of a four-game road trip. And now Sundin knows he'll be in a Leaf uniform come Wednesday at Florida.
Sundin has 25 goals and 37 assists in 63 games this season. In 970 career games with the Maple Leafs, Sundin has 413 goals and 971 points, both franchise bests.
Several clubs were believed to be interested in Sundin, including Detroit, Anaheim, Montreal, Ottawa and San Jose. But they'll have to look for help elsewhere, perhaps in the form of Atlanta Thrashers winger Marian Hossa - another player slated for unrestricted free agency and undoubtedly on the trade block.