Djurgarden may have rolled out the welcome mat for Big Mats, but the offer may end up being all for naught.
Barring a last minute change of heart, don't expect Mats Sundin to finish out the hockey season with the Stockholm-based team.
The Maple Leafs captain has less than three weeks to decide if he'll take up Djurgarden's contract proposal and rejoin the same team he played for prior to coming to the NHL in 1990.
According to Swedish elite league regulations, Sundin must make up his mind by Jan. 31.
It might be a moot point anyway. Both Sundin's handlers and Djurgarden officials feel the odds are against the Big Swede signing with his former club.
"It's unlikely," J.P. Barry, Sundin's North American-based representative with International Management Group, said. "He's still deliberating but the odds right now definitely are against it."
Barry understands why Sundin might opt against playing in order to give his body time to heal.
IMG recently compiled an informal list of NHLers who have played the most games the past few years, including regular season, post-season and international competitions like the World Cup, World Championships and Olympics. Sundin, who never has shied away from representing his native Sweden whenever possible, was near the top.
Throughout the doom and gloom that has lingered over the first four months of the NHL lockout, Sundin has said he holds out hope that there will be a 2004-05 season for the Maple Leafs.
Such a scenario is unlikely to happen, given the fact that the union and league have not held bargaining talks in a month.
"We've had unofficial talks concerning Mats to this point but that's about it," Tommy Engstrom, the managing director of Djurgarden, said yesterday from Sweden. "There really have been no serious (negotiations) to this point and there are no indications there will be.
"We have not been told definitively that he is not going to play for us. But it does not appear like he is going to."