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article imageOp-Ed: What Happens If Mats Sundin Leaves The Toronto Maple Leafs?

By Nawest Vazquez     Jun 30, 2008 in Sports
Still no word from Maple Leafs forward Mats Sundin. If he leaves, I think I'm ready. I'm holding out hope, though, that he'll return for another season in the blue and white.
At the same time, I'm not upset that he hasn't yet come to a decision when it comes to his future. He'd be a fool not to test the free agent market, set to open at high noon on Tuesday, July 1st. You'd do the same if you were in his position. He's got to see what's out there.
If Sundin does leave, I wish him nothing but success. He owes the Maple Leafs nothing. I'm sick and tired of hearing and reading that he does. Last week someone came at me with this gem: "Sundin should have done the honourable thing and let Toronto trade him, like Wendel Clark did." Riiiiiiiight. Wendel had no say in the matter when he was dealt back in 1994. Wendel didn't "let" the Leafs do anything. Because Wendel didn't have a no-trade clause, mutually agreed upon by both player and team, negotiated into his contract.
With his negotiating rights transferred to Montreal, Sundin's already got an offer from le bleu, blanc et rouge. If he wanted to sign with Montreal, I think he would have done it by now. On Tuesday, he'll receive an offer from the Leafs (one-year, $7 million, and a no-movement clause), and likely ones from Detroit and the Rangers of New York.
I can't help but be a bit tickled by the thought of Mats playing in Montreal. Sure, the Habs are our historic rivals, but we haven't played them in the playoffs since we moved to the Eastern Conference and until that happens, the "rivalry" will always be a little dry. And just imagine Sundin in that lineup, in that building. It would be electric, playing with Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, the Kostitsyn brothers, Saku Koivu, and Chris Higgins. Montreal, with Sundin on board, would be quite the offensive juggernaut.
Don't get me wrong, seeing Sundin trade in his Leafs uniform for a Habs one would be intensely awkward. Sort of like going to Canada's Wonderland as a young lad on "Gay Day" (not that there's anything wrong with that) but not knowing it was "Gay Day." Yes, awkward like that. Umm, not that that's ever happened to me before.
Detroit would also be a great match for Sundin. He can join the Swedish posse down there, and give himself the best chance to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
As for New York, I see it as the least likely place Sundin ends up. Sure, it would be great to see Sundin play with talent the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, but I just don't see it happening for some reason. Chalk it up to gut feeling. And for the record, my gut feeling is in mired in a serious slump at the plate.
A lot of people I speak to are bitching and moaning that Mats hasn't yet made up his mind about whether he's coming back to Toronto or not. They say he either knows or he doesn't. I say that simply is not true. Sundin, as loyal and dedicated a Maple Leaf as there has ever been, has earned the right to make his decision on his own schedule. In a perfect world, Cliff Fletcher would know whether that $7 million allocated to Sundin can be spelt elsewhere tomorrow. But it ain't a perfect world. Sundin can't be faulted for taking the time he needs to make this critical decision.
Lately I've been feeling like Sundin should bolt for greener pastures, and that this city doesn't deserve him anymore. It saddens me to know that people are getting ready to burn his jersey and deny his tremendous legacy here in Toronto if he decides that, at this stage in his career, with the window quickly closing, he goes down another path. And all because we didn't get Chris Higgins, or a draft pick or two in return. It seems all those years of diligent service - the goals, the points, the scars, the playoff battles, the victories - don't count for anything.
Sundin goes into Tuesday afternoon with a lot of options. He will likely have, at one point or another, offers on the table from four of the NHL's Original Six franchises. That is incredible. Which ever team he chooses, in my mind he'll have made the right decision. I hope it's Toronto. I hope he continues to lead this team as it heads, finally, in a new direction.
If Sundin leaves, I'll be rooting for him and his new team. Loudly. Unapologetically. I will let the haters do the hating. Those who don't like Sundin will always have their reasons to not like him. I think, actually, I've heard them all. Those who choose not to like him if he leaves via free agency on Tuesday (or later), with the Leafs netting nothing in return, are, well, simply bitter and petty.
Just remember that another former Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one Doug Gilmour, when he was a free agent in 2001, chose between two teams: the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.
If Sundin leaves, I'll be disappointed, of course. But I will harbour no ill will towards him. If he leaves, it will mark the end of one tremendous ride. Even after everything that went down these last few months - the trade deadline and the calls for Sundin to accept a trade and "help the Leafs" - let it never be said that Mats Sundin let down the Toronto Maple Leafs. It simply isn't true. By never surrounding Sundin with the talent he deserved to play with - ironically, the same talent he can now go and find on another team - the Toronto Maple Leafs let Sundin down.
You're free to leave the nest, Mats. Fly away, if that's what your heart desires. I'll never hold it against you.
But I'm still hoping he stays...
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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