Is it just me, or is it starting to really sound like Mats Sundin is coming back to Toronto?
On Sunday, Sundin told Stockholm’s Aftonbladet newspaper that he was within a couple of weeks of announcing his decision on whether or not to play.
Bear in mind, this interview was conducted in Swedish, in Sweden. An awful lot can get lost in translation and the European media can be every bit as scurrilous as the North American branch when it comes to these stories. OK, there’s your disclaimer.
If Sundin returns to the ice - and it would be a monumental surprise if he doesn’t - his choices have been narrowed to Vancouver, where he has been reportedly offered a staggering $10 million a year for two years, and the Maple Leafs.
“I will make a decision in the end of July or beginning of August,” Sundin said.
“If I am going to play, it’s for the full season and I want to be there from the beginning of August.”
Sundin conceded that the Vancouver offer was substantially greater than the one he received from the Leafs. But, Sundin’s personal wealth is thought to be way over $50 million, perhaps twice that. The difference between say $7 million and $10 million isn’t $3 million. Instead, it is only a little time.
While he found the Canucks offer extremely gratifying, Sundin said there was more to it than that. “If it was all about the money,” he said, “I would have signed with Vancouver.”
And then Sundin began his assessment of the Maple Leafs by pointing to Joe Nieuwendyk’s new position as special assistant to the general manager.
“I haven’t followed it so closely, but Joe Nieuwendyk has come into the club’s front office, and he’s a fantastic leader and has got a real winner’s mentality. I believe he’s going to help a lot in the process of building a club that’s strong and can fight for the Stanley Cup in the future. I believe they’re going to get a good team already this season.
“And of course I feel strongly for Toronto after 13 seasons with the club. It feels like home. But we’ll have to see.”
It feels like home, but we’ll have to see. Doesn’t sound too convinced about Vancouver, does he?
There is of course, plenty of ground to cover if Sundin is to come back to Toronto. He will need to be assured he will not be pressured to give up a no-trade clause, as he was last March. If he does come back, he will not want to be flipped to another club.
The Leafs seem to have decided they wanted him back under those terms. They have already started clearing the decks by cutting loose Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker. Bryan McCabe may not be far behind.
At 37, Sundin’s best before date may be the day after tomorrow but he has served the team elegantly and nobly over 13 seasons. With him, the Leafs should be competitive. Without him…