With the NHL trade deadline just a few days away, several players have emerged as top candidates to be dealt. Mats Sundin was one of those names, but after careful consideration, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain and center is staying with the team - at least for the rest of the season.
Sundin hopes his presence can give the Maple Leafs some life as they visit the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
The 37-year-old Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause on Sunday following a lengthy meeting with his agent J.P. Barry and Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher.
"I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL club at this time," Sundin said in a statement released by Barry on Sunday night. "I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it, you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June."
Sundin, who leads the team with 25 goals and 62 points, has spent his last 13 seasons with Toronto. In 970 games during that stretch, he has totaled 413 goals and 971 points - both franchise bests - and led the Maple Leafs to eight postseason appearances.
Trading Sundin, who will become an unrestricted free agent July 1, might have allowed the Maple Leafs (26-28-9) to begin the rebuilding process. Toronto is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third straight season, currently last in the Northeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.
The Maple Leafs, though, are coming off a 3-1 victory over Atlanta on Saturday that helped them go 3-2-0 on their homestand. Nik Antropov and Alex Steen had multipoint efforts, and Sundin scored for the Maple Leafs, who now seek success away from Air Canada Centre.
Toronto is 2-8-2 in its last 12 road games, and lost three straight in Ottawa (36-20-6) dating to last season. It hasn't dropped four games there since an 0-3-1 stretch from Oct. 10, 2005-Jan. 23, 2006.
The Senators are 15-4-2 against the Maple Leafs since the start of 2005-06, winning three of five meetings this season (3-2-0). But they have lost the last two contests, including a 4-2 road defeat on Feb. 2, and haven't dropped three consecutive games in the series since a franchise-record six-game losing streak from Oct. 20, 1992-Dec. 5, 1995.
Ottawa hopes to end those struggles and regain the top spot in the East. The Senators led the conference since the first week of the season, and were still on top after a 4-3 overtime win at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
But they were passed by the New Jersey Devils, who defeated Washington on Sunday. A win would allow Ottawa to regain the East lead since New Jersey is idle until Tuesday.
In the meantime, the Senators hope to perform better than they have in their last six games - a span in which they are 2-2-2. On Saturday, Dany Heatley scored twice to help Ottawa overcome a three-goal deficit before Daniel Alfredsson scored the game-winner with 3.2 seconds remaining in the tiebreaker.
"We found a way to win," Alfredsson told the Senators' official Web site after a team workout on Sunday. "Even though we didn't play well, we tried hard and that's what I think is going to rub off here and keep us going."
Linemates Alfredsson, Heatley and Jason Spezza have all had success against Toronto recently.
Alfredsson, who leads the Senators with 35 goals and 75 points, has six goals and four assists in his last seven contests versus the Maple Leafs. Heatley, second on the team with 74 points, has four goals and four assists in his last six meetings, and Spezza has a goal and 13 assists in his last nine.