Mats Sundin will not play tonight against the Buffalo Sabres and a troublesome groin injury could end his season with the Leafs.
Sundin is an unrestricted free agent. With 32 goals and 78 points, he is the Leafs leading scorer, as he has been for all but one of his 13 Toronto seasons.
Citing a desire to remain a Maple Leaf, Sundin exercised his no-trade clause at the trade deadline.
Leafs coach Paul Maurice told reporters Tuesday morning that the Leafs captain hadn’t felt the expected improvement after the injury knocked him out of five crucial games in late March.
Sundin came back and played two games but was obviously affected. He practiced Monday but with the Leafs eliminated from the playoffs and with groin injuries notoriously slow to heal, the Leafs and Sundin look ready to shut it down.
“He had an expectation he would feel considerably better and he didn’t,” said Leafs coach Paul Maurice. “If there’s no improvement, then he’s not going to play the rest of the games.”
The Leafs host Ottawa on Thursday and journey to Montreal for a Saturday night finale.
The 37-year-old Sundin has a prominent spot among the pantheon of all-time great Leafs. He has adopted a policy of one-year contracts which have given him flexibility but led to boatloads of speculation about his future plans. Last year, he did not sign until June 12.
There is no doubt Sundin has retained the skills, the health and conditioning to return for another year. But the Leafs ongoing search for a new general manager lends uncertainty to the question and even the eternally optimistic Sundin has to be tired by three straight years outside the post-season.
It is indisputably true that Sundin’s last appearance, Saturday’s 4-2 win over Montreal might have been his last in Leaf colours. But by that same token, you could say that every night.
Mindful of that, Maurice didn’t want any conjecture on Mats season being over, even if he is the one who broached it.
“I’ll answer that question and someone over here might take a piece of it and say ‘Mats may be done for the year’ and then we’ll spend two or three weeks putting out the fire that you and I just created.
“There is going to come a point of time, in six or seven years, when Mats retires. Then you’re going to spend the next 20 years with parades, tributes, Mats Sundin nights, the ashtrays, the coffee cups, matchbooks. We’ll let that all happen.”
Meanwhile, groin problems have ended the season of forward Kyle Wellwood.
Wellwood underwent a procedure to a groin muscle, a common occurrence, Maurice said, when a player has had surgery on the other groin muscle.
“It’s a minor event on the opposite groin. He’s going to have it on the opposite side. When you have one on one side, it’s just a matter of time until you have the other. He is obviously done for the season.”
Last year, Wellwood missed 34 games with a sports hernia. He still managed 12 goals. This year he missed the first 15 games of the season and was scratched for five more with his first groin surgery. Wellwood, who was called out by Maurice for poor conditioning, has scored just eight goals this season, three at even strength.
Meanwhile, Andrew Raycroft will make his first start in the Leafs goal since January 20, a period of 29 games. Raycroft, who racked up 37 wins last season has just two in 17 contests. Tuesday morning he sounded like he was anxious to play, but not to leave Toronto.
“This is the top organization in the league and one of the top teams in the league. We have a great group of guys. Without a doubt, I’ve got a great set-up here, my family is here, my friends are here, my wife loves it here. Obviously I would like to play a little bit more but if I could play a little bit more, this is where I would play. Absolutely."