Mats wants to be a Leaf forever

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Mats Sundin's perfect hockey world includes not only a retirement ceremony one day in a Maple Leafs sweater but also, apparently, another season with Pat Quinn as coach.

Sundin, who has another year left on his contract with a club option for one more, said yesterday he has no interest in possibly one day becoming trade fodder at the deadline.

"I have a tough time seeing myself doing, for example, what Ray Bourque did," Sundin said. "I don't think that's me. I wouldn't go at the end of the season before the deadline to try to win a championship. You start training camp with a team and you become teammates over a long season, with struggles and all that. I have a tough time seeing myself asking to go to a contender at the deadline just because your team is not where you want it to be.

"When I retire, I want to be a Maple Leaf, there is no doubt about it."

In March 2000, Bourque, a career Boston Bruin, was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Just more than a year later, Bourque helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.

Sundin will be paid $6.84 million US in 2006-07, with a club option at $5.32 million for 2007-08.

He said he would like to see Quinn return for another year behind the Leafs bench, but acknowledged that changes could be made.

Another Leaf, Darcy Tucker, put his support behind Quinn yesterday as a smattering of players appeared at the Air Canada Centre for final goodbyes.

"(Quinn) has been a strong influence on not only myself, but also on the guys in the dressing room," Tucker said. "He is a good man and he has a good heart toward his players. A lot of the guys have a lot of respect for Pat."

Quinn's future remains a point of intrigue. Neither he nor general manager John Ferguson addressed the media yesterday, and theories abound as to what, if anything, will become of the two with the Leafs missing the playoffs. It could be a while before the board signs off on job changes, if in fact those recommendations are brought forth by either Ferguson or president Richard Peddie.

Those who argue that Ferguson might want to fire Quinn and bring in his own guy (Paul Maurice) should remember that it was Ferguson who signed Quinn to a two-year extension last June. And though missing the post-season is unacceptable, no one was predicting great things for the Leafs.

But Quinn -- without two Ferguson signings, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros for important stretches -- coached the team to a 41-win, 90-point campaign.

Sundin, who turned 35 in February, knows he has few chances left to win the elusive Stanley Cup. He was asked whether he is at a crossroads in his career and gave a frank answer.

"I'm more at the end of my career than at the crossroads," said Sundin, who will return to his native Sweden in mid-May. "But I enjoyed playing this year as much as I have in all the other years. I'm at the point where you just take it one season at a time."


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