Mats welcomes new look

Leafs captain Mats Sundin will be front and centre when Toronto takes to the ice this fall. (Sun...

Leafs captain Mats Sundin will be front and centre when Toronto takes to the ice this fall. (Sun File/Greg Henkenhaf)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

A respected ink-stained colleague once dubbed Mats Sundin "The Wizard of Ahhs" because of his penchant for pausing before answering questions.

For example: "Mats, are you peeved at missing the playoffs the past two seasons?"

"Ahhh ... it's disappointing."

But there was no such hesitation yesterday from the Maple Leafs captain when asked if the Toronto roster needs to be augmented with more skilled players.

"Bring in as many as possible," Sundin, armed with a new one-year, $5.5-million US deal, said yesterday from Stockholm. "I want to have as good a team as we can to make a run at the Stanley Cup."

There were suggestions from the cheap seats that Sundin may have been dipping into that famous Swedish ice wine when he said the Leafs are not that far away from a championship given the league's new salary cap landscape.

In any event, armed with a no-movement clause, Sundin will evaluate his future at the end of the season, a decision that could be sculpted by the Leafs' direction.

Over to you, Fergie.

Like it or not, general manager John Ferguson is showing faith in the core group, recently inking Sundin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov and Ian White to new deals.

Ferguson's logic is this: The Leafs finished just three points out of sixth place in the East while being among the league leaders in man-games lost to injury.

In the meantime, he suggests fans not panic and that changes are coming. Easier said than done.

With restricted free agent Carlo Colaiacovo still unsigned, the Leafs payroll is already slighty above $40 million US.

With the cap expected to be in the $48 to $50 million range, there seems to be about $7-$9 million to play with.

That might not be the case, though.

Team officials want to leave wiggle room under the cap in order to have some flexibilty during the season and figure the available money to add talent will be closer to $6 million.

Unrestricted free-agent winger Ryan Smyth would be a perfect complement to flank Sundin, but keep this in mind: If he was looking for a five-year deal worth $5.5 million, then his demands aren't about to drop. Daniel Briere? Chris Drury? They might very well be too pricey.

How about what's referred to as "The Wilbur Plan" in reference to former Leafs executive Bill Watters, who yesterday floated the idea of pursuing free-agent forwards Scott Hartnell and Paul Kariya.

Or, perhaps, do they take a flyer on Alexei Yashin at a bargain-basement price?

Then there is the issue of whether free agents even want to come to Toronto and be under the spotlight 24/7.

"There is a lot of rhetoric around the league that it's a tough place to play," winger Darcy Tucker said.

"It does take a special personality. But once you're here, there's no better place to play."

The Leafs will explore their trade options.

They are loaded with blue-line bodies and could offer a package to land help up front or in goal.

One theory making the rounds is that the Yashin-free New York Islanders might accept Bryan McCabe and his $5.75-million salary as part of a deal.

Because McCabe's wife Roberta is from Long Island, there is an assumption that McCabe might waive his no-movement clause in order to return to the Isles, freeing up cap space for the Leafs at the same time.

Reached on Long Island yesterday, McCabe had no clue that such an idea was being kicked around in the media.

"I signed in Toronto because I want to play there," he said. "Other than that, it's not my decision."

As we said before: Over to you, Fergie.

MAPLE LEAFS 2007-08 PLAYER SALARIES

Once the Maple Leafs sign Carlo Colaiacovo, they will have committed more than $41 million US to their 2007-08 roster. With next season's NHL salary cap expected to fall between $48 and $50 million, the Leafs won't have much money left to pursue key free agents, unless they trade a big-ticket player such as Bryan McCabe. (--- Projected salary of restricted free agent Colaiacovo; --- Salary total does not include a backup goalie)

Bryan McCabe $5.75 million

Mats Sundin $5.5 million

Pavel Kubina $5 million

Tomas Kaberle $4.25 million

Darcy Tucker $3 million

Alexei Ponikarovsky $2.105 million

Hal Gill $2.075 million

Nik Antropov $2.05 million

Andrew Raycroft $2 million

Carlo Colaiacovo - $1.2 million

Alexander Steen $900,600

Chad Kilger $900,000

Kyle Wellwood $875,000

Matt Stajan $875,000

Ian White $850,000

Wade Belak $670,000

Boyd Devereaux $575,000

Kris Newbury $500,000

Ben Ondrus $475,000

Andy Wozniewski $462,500

John Pohl $462,500

Staffan Kronwall $462,000

Tie Domi (buyout) $416,667

Total -- $41,354,767


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