The Maple Leafs will get back a new "energized" Mats Sundin, who hopes to play here beyond the end of his current contract in 2007.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen this week, the Toronto captain lamented the possible loss of the 2004-05 National Hockey League season, but said the time off has done him a world of good.
'MANY MORE YEARS'
"I hope to play many more years and this break can mean I can prolong my career," said Sundin, who turns 34 next month. "It's something I've needed after going non-stop for 15 years (in the NHL and various stints with the Swedish national team). I feel I will come back stronger than I've ever been. My motivation is stronger."
Sundin already has said he will not play in the Swedish Elite League this year and told Expressen there is only a small chance he will play for the national team at the coming world championship, in order to continue his relaxed pace and not usurp anyone who had played all year for a spot on the roster.
If there's no NHL in 2005-06 he will play for Djurgarden, his former Swedish league club. But he talked about staying in Toronto beyond the expiration of his six-year, $52.5 US million deal.
"It's been really fun," he said. "We have had a really good team and I really like it there. We're one of the top teams in our conference. I really think we'll have a good team for years to come."