January 24, 2006
Sundin's time may be up with Leafs
By BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun
Are Mats Sundin's playing days with the Leafs all but over?
While the Leafs captain has a no-trade clause in his contract and isn't going to ask to be dealt before the March 9 deadline, don't rule out the possibility of the 34-year-old being moved.
Sundin bleeds the blue and white of the Leafs and would be the last one to jump ship. But if Toronto doesn't turn its fortunes around in the next two weeks, then a deal might be best for both parties.
Making $6.8 million (all terms US) this season and $7 million next, all you have to do is look at Sundin's linemates -- Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky -- last night against the Senators to realize that something is wrong.
Sources say Sundin isn't happy in Toronto, but, at the same time, he's not the kind of guy who is going to march into GM John Ferguson Jr.'s office and demand a trade.
And with key injuries to Eric Lindros, Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe, the Leafs have fallen into ninth place in the Eastern Conference -- and out of a playoff spot.
Of course, the fact the Leafs are even in the playoff race is a surprise to pre-season pundits who said Toronto was too old and too slow to be competitive in 2005-06.
So while the Leafs' fade shouldn't really come as much of a shock, it has still left Sundin having to put on a brave face as the controversy swirls around him in the Toronto media and questions about the future of coach Pat Quinn have now arisen.
"We all have to take responsibility for what is happening right now," said Sundin. "It's up to all of us to get this turned around."
Of course, Sundin, who is in the latter stages of his career, might decide he would like to go to a contender where he can pursue the Stanley Cup that has eluded him during his 15-year career.
This is where the onus is on Ferguson Jr. to visit with Sundin to see if his captain wants to move on. Like the way the Bruins rewarded longtime captain Ray Bourque for his loyalty to the organization by trading him to the Avalanche where he won the Cup.
Moving Sundin to a contender with cap room shouldn't be difficult.
A couple of teams on the radar screen could be the Canucks and Flames. Both are looking for help at centre.
Wouldn't Sundin look a lot better with Vancouver's Markus Naslund or Calgary's Jarome Iginla as one of his wingers?
Naturally, the Canucks would have to include centre Brendan Morrison in any deal, but it might be a nice package that could include goalie Ed Belfour if the Leafs drop out of the post-season race.
HELP FOR IGINLA
Then, there's the Flames. Calgary coach and GM Darryl Sutter has been searching all season for a centre to play with Iginla. Steve Reinprecht is a solid centre, but he's not superstar calibre and Iginla has had some difficulties this year.
Sources say the Flames are among a group of teams that has been dialling up Florida GM Mike Keenan to see if he's going to move centre Olli Jokinen, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.
However, the belief in NHL circles is that Jokinen will re-sign with the Panthers.
That means Sundin could find himself being fitted for a cowboy hat in the next couple of weeks.