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Mats Doing It His Way

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
No matter how long it takes, Mats Sundin is going to do this his way.

Even in the wake of a reported $20 million offer from the Vancouver Canucks, the longtime Leaf will not be rushed to the altar.

In today’s sporting climate, there is a wonder in that.

For 98 per cent of the NHL, 10 million a year is all they would need to sear. Just tell them where to sign and give a morning to pick up a new suit for the press-conference.

And yet, among the almost incalculable offers, Sundin waits.

"Unfortunately, I am simply not close to being ready to make a decision about resuming my career at this time,” he said in a statement released through his agent.

The rest of the world figures there is nothing to decide. He is 37. He scored 32 goals last season. He has the rest of his life to take it easy, cultivate interests, run for Prime Minister of Sweden or Canada for that matter.

But that’s Mats Sundin. He isn’t built like anyone else. That independence of spirit has propelled him over countless nights and yes, more than a few lost causes.

I have watched him for all his 13 years and our beats intersected more times than I can count.

He has this habit in interviews. He would pause and his first word would always be “ahhh.” And then he would answer the question in the most straightforward way possible, rejecting whatever we dressed up the question with, saying the right thing.

We figured the “aaah” gave him time to formulate his words in his second language, the instant he needed to always get it right.

This is his “aaah” and he will not be rushed. He ignored the deadline of the Leafs-Canadiens deal that would have netted the Leafs something for his return. The Canadiens are presumably out of it.

He ignored the flurry of signings on Day One of the free agent sweepstakes. Then Day Two.

There are more days to come and his statement was a clear indication to GMs,’ ‘go ahead, make your plans. I will wait.’

This sounds like nonchalance, which it is not.

It sounds like arrogance, which it surely is not.

It is Mats Sundin being Mats Sundin, taking his turn at free agency at his speed.

It might mean he is waiting to see where the Leafs reconstruction ends.

It might mean he is the one player in a thousand willing to retire after a superb season.

It might mean he is so confident in his skills and the paucity of comparable free agents, that he believes the longer he waits, the higher his price goes. There is a danger in that, of course, as evidenced by the Red Wings signing of Marion Hossa. That took an intriguing team out of the mix.

It might mean he wants to play a 50-game season.

But Mats Sundin wasn’t willing to move at the trade deadline and he has given no signal about his future plans. As inscrutable as the Sphinx, he knows what he is doing. Whether we do, matters not a bit.
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