Mats Sundin's future in Toronto -- and his future as a National Hockey League player -- suddenly is in question after it was learned yesterday that the Maple Leafs captain requires hip surgery.
According to a source in the medical community, Sundin needs surgery almost immediately to repair a hip problem, complicating his still-to-be determined contractual status with the Leafs.
It isn't known which hip requires the repair.
The hip trouble and surgery is similar, the source says, to the operation that all but ended Alexander Mogilny's career as an NHL player at the age of 37.
Sundin, coming off his lowest goal-scoring total in a decade, turns 37 himself in February.
The Maple Leafs hold an option on Sundin's contract for next season but already have hinted that it is their intention to sign the long-time centre with a two-year or three-year extension.
For Sundin to be ready in time for next season, assuming there is a next season, he would need to have the surgery sooner rather than later. In recent years, any Leaf player needing hip surgery went to Dr. Marc Phillipon in Pittsburgh.
If the Leafs' off-season status wasn't already complicated enough, dealing with the Sundin situation makes it all the more so. For one thing, general manager John Ferguson has yet to be confirmed to return next season. Ferguson, meanwhile, has to make a decision now on what do about his captain's situation.
In the past, Ferguson got himself into some difficulty signing Ed Belfour to a long-term contract before determining the goalie needed back surgery. Considering the heat Ferguson took on the Belfour contract, would he be willing to take that leap of faith again -- and still, will he be given the authority to do so?
Recently, Ferguson did sign wayward forward Boyd Devereaux to a two-year contract even though Devereaux had wrist surgery in this off-season.
MAINLY GOOD HEALTH
Sundin has been a picture of good health and consistency for most of his 12 years as a Leaf. Not only has he led the Leafs in point scoring in 11 of those seasons, he was, on average, 16 points better than the second-leading scorer on the team. While he has missed only 43 regular-season games to health issues as a Leaf -- which are mind-boggling numbers -- he has been injured more frequently in recent years.
It isn't known if Sundin's hip is considering degenerative nor is it known if he suffers from osteoarthritis, the conditions that is hastening the end of Mogilny's career.