Sundin is going nowhere

Mats Sundin. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

Mats Sundin. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

Mats Sundin would like to thank those in Leaf Nation trying to pick a Stanley Cup contender to be traded to.

But he says he already has chosen the team and the city where he will end his career.

"It's right here," Sundin insisted yesterday at the club's Easter Seals skate. "I have no wish to move."

Sundin was dismissing a highly speculative report that the Swedish contingent on the Detroit Red Wings, including Niklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, are set to lobby general manager Ken Holland to acquire the Leafs captain if Toronto falls out of the playoffs.

But Sundin said Saturday night he was not in cahoots with the Motown Scandinavians and repeated yesterday that, as long as he controls his fate with a no-movement contract clause, he'll stay put.

"That's very safe to say," Sundin said. "I didn't sign a one-year deal last summer to (better accommodate a trade), I want to be a Leaf."

Some teams surely made exploratory calls last month when Toronto had lost seven of eight games. But in pin-pointing how the Leafs halted that slide last week, gaining five of a possible six points, coach Paul Maurice cited the Sundin factor.

"You'd need to spend some time with Mats to appreciate him," Maurice said after he led the Leafs with 32 shifts in Saturday's 4-2 win over Pittsburgh and assisted on the opening goal. "He's a special fellow. He channels his frustration into effort and he sets the tone in that room.

"There are good players and great people and every once in a while you get a man who is both."

But Sundin knows it won't take more than a loss or two this week to renew talk of cashing him in for a roster renovation of prospects and draft picks. With a shrinking $5.75-million US salary, Sundin would be a hot commodity approaching the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26. Conversely, profit-driven Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., would have to weigh the merits of dealing the man who could still lead them to a playoff payday.

The Leafs, who play the Nashville Predators here tomorrow, will be trying to win three in a row and back-to-back at home for the first time this season. With a win and some help on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Leafs could be back in the top eight of the conference.

"We think we can make the playoffs," Sundin said. "It's just the way the league is now. Look at Ottawa (losing six in a row)."

Sundin played down his behind-closed-doors role last week, but as Maurice hinted, it might have been one of his finest hours wearing the 'C'.

"I'm not doing anything different," Sundin said. "It's just that our spirit has really been up. Coming off that game in Phoenix (a 5-1 loss a week ago Saturday), was tough to go through. (Lately) we've done a lot of good things."

With the schedule spread out this month, Maurice likely will use rested goalie Vesa Toskala exclusively, up to back-to-back road games Dec. 14-15 in Atlanta and Montreal.

Defenceman Pavel Kubina should be rejoining the team for Saturday night's home game against Boston.


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