Sundin deal likely one year

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

Don't be surprised if Mats Sundin's impending deal with the Maple Leafs is only for one year.

Both the Leafs and Sundin's handlers have been closing in on a new pact for the past several weeks, with a proposed two-year contract believed to be dominating talks at one time.

But now it is expected the deal, worth in the neighbourhood of $5.5 million US, will run only through the 2007-08 season. An official announcement could come as soon as today.

So what changed?

According to sources, Sundin feels a one-year contract might allow him to go out on his own terms should his skills begin to evaporate. The Maple Leafs captain, referred to as "a proud man" by several of his teammates, wants the flexibility to walk away from the NHL should he feel he no longer can compete at an appropriate level.

At the same time, the veteran Swede is said to understand that such a short-term deal would free the Leafs from any potential salary cap shackles after the 2007-08 season. If he and the Leafs want to continue the relationship after that, the door is open to an extension.

In other words, it appears as if the long-time Toronto captain is poised to take one for the team.

"He's definitely a team guy," Leafs forward Matt Stajan said last night, encouraged by the news that Sundin is on the verge of being back in the fold.

Informed that Sundin might opt to go the one-year route, Stajan was not surprised.

"If, in fact, that is the case, it shows he wants the best for the team and will do whatever it takes to win a championship here now."

The Leafs are well aware of the benefits of a shorter deal. If Sundin, 36, were to sign a multi-year pact and then retire after the 2007-08 season, Toronto would take a cap hit for the rest of the contract.

Nursing a nagging hip ailment, Sundin recently was told by a Swedish specialist, Dr. Anders Valentin, that he would not require major surgery. Dr. Valentin is considered one of the top orthopaedic surgeons in Sweden.

Dr. Valentin's diagnosis was echoed by a top North American specialist two weeks ago.

Sundin finished the 2006-07 season with 76 points.


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