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Checking the Landscape

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Mats Sundin will make up his mind about his hockey future this weekend.

Or maybe he won’t.

He might let the window between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens that closes midnight Monday slam shut, and then sign with the Canadiens anyway. Or he could take any one of a myriad of offers. He could even re-sign with the Maple Leafs.

Hamilton Spectator columnist Steve Milton recently wrote that War and Peace is easier to read than Mats Sundin. My friend Milt was understating things.

Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t think Mats Sundin will retire. I say this because 37-year-old players coming off superb seasons do not quit. As the old saying goes, you have the rest of your life to rest and 32 goals shows that Sundin is that one-in-100 player who could be effective, if not dominant, into his 40th birthday. That said, if he announces over the weekend that he is not coming back to the NHL, he’s not coming back – ever. He is just that kind of cat.

When he refused any entreaties to move along at the trade deadline, Sundin struck a blow against the rental player concept. If he wasn’t there at the beginning, he doesn’t want the ring. In this, as in so many other ways, Mats Sundin is unique.

Montreal has a nice feel to it. It’s a Canadian city and Sundin’s started in Quebec with the Nordiques. He would be instantly canonized. The team is young and good and he would be the undisputed top player. That too is something Sundin would insist on. Uniquely humble he is nonetheless uncompromisingly prideful. He is used to being the best player on his team. He isn’t after a reduced workload.

So what does Mats Sundin want?

I think the chance to work with a youngish team, unburdened by big-ticket egos and declining skill sets.

So far this week, the Leafs have dispatched Andrew Raycroft, Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker. GM Cliff Fletcher has confirmed he wants Bryan McCabe to waive his no-trade. It’s farily inconceivable that McCabe will be back.

I think the moves the Leafs have made have made it more likely, not less, than Sundin will return. Mats Sundin’s Stanley Cup was his Olympic victory. He is, in heart and mind, a Swede and nothing won here could equal what he has already won..

So if the last two years of your career aren’t just about winning the Stanley Cup, why move? He loves the city, the fans, the sweater.

His big finish could come here, mentoring a young team and impressionable players like fellow Swede Anton Stralman.

I’m certain that Mats Sundin will have at least one more year to pen his legacy.

I’m not at all sure the final chapter won’t be written here.

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