Talk shows and newspapers columns are ripe with stories about what the Leafs could harvest with a trade of Mats Sundin.
The Leafs captain has long maintained he doesn’t want to leave the city and a no-trade clause in his contract gives him the final say in his fate. That hasn’t stopped many Leafs fans, buoyed by reports of first rounders and hot prospects coming back and certain there is no meaningful future for this team, from shouting that the team has a unique opportunity to get a jump on the future.
But there is much to be said for continuity and no guarantee Sundin would re-sign with the Leafs should he skate in the playoffs for someone else. As well, trading him to some teams would be unpalatable; Ottawa and Philadelphia come to mind.
So let’s take a look at some of the claims made by the trade Sundin camp.
1. Sundin would probably fetch two good roster players and two draft choices.
That is based almost entirely on the exorbitant price the Nashville Predators paid for Peter Forsberg at the trade deadline last year. The Flyers parlayed Forsberg into Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent and a first and third-rounder in the entry draft. But Upshall is a six-goal scorer and Parent is a good prospect who plays defence in Guelph for the Storm. The first-rounder is great but a third rounder is a crapshoot. So, who won this deal? No one. The Flyers rebound has been led by a host of young players unconnected with the Forsberg trade. The Preds, desperate to make a splash and increase the attractiveness of a sale, won one game in falling to San Jose in the first round. While the early forecast is for a seller’s market, no other team will come into the market with that kind of pressure. If anything, the deal is a cautionary tale for buyer and seller.
2. When push comes to shove, Sundin will acquiesce to whatever team would give the Leafs the best value.
Why would he? There is no evidence Sundin will agree to a trade in the first place. He hasn’t said anything about leaving in the 13 years he has played here. He has never lied, never let conventional opinion change his mind. Having already won an Olympic Gold Medal, the Stanley Cup could be an intriguing but inessential goal. Even if he does decide to move, he has earned a level of input in choosing his landing area that Forsberg would have envied. Sundin’s tenure with the Leafs could, in a sense, trump any trade because GM John Ferguson would be limited to the teams Sundin, not Ferguson, chose. 3. Sundin’s acquisition would guarantee his new team a Stanley Cup.
Well, it worked for Ray Bourque in Colorado but that was a talented team that had Patrick Roy in goal. Every winter, we forget that goalies dwarf position players in importance come playoff time. Mats Sundin, for all his talents, can’t play goal and the team with the best goalie is the one that wins.
4. Sundin would automatically re-sign with the Leafs in July.
That’s a big assumption. When you trade Mats Sundin, you lose more than the continuity. You lose some of the good feeling generated by his tenure here. It’s never really the same afterwards. Besides, if you trade him because of the need for new, younger blood, why would you bring him back? And who would succeed Mats Sundin, as Captain, and as cornerstone. There is no heir apparent, no one in his league on the roster.
This is not to say that trading Sundin by the deadline at February’s end would be a mistake. The idea is, instead, a risk, with more potential downside than its proponents might think.