COLUMBUS -- Mats Sundin might well be basking in retirement on the shores of a pristine Swedish lake by the time the majority of kids from the draft class of 2007 finally claw their way into the NHL.
For the 36-year-old captain of the Maple Leafs, the future is now.
And if that means trading away some of the team's future in order to improve the roster for the coming season, Sundin apparently is all for it.
Word out of Sweden is that Sundin was encouraged by the deal Friday that sent three draft picks to the San Jose Sharks for Finnish goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell, a native of St. Paul's, Ont.
In fact, Claes Elefalk, Sundin's Stockholm-based representative, phoned the Leafs over the weekend to tell team officials how much his client liked the trade.
By signing a one-year, $5.5-million US deal earlier this month, Sundin made it clear that he is in the twilight of his career and wants to re-evaluate his future after each and every season.
For him, short-term help in the forms of Toskala and Bell makes the Leafs better. That is reason enough to leave Sundin in an optimistic mood.
THINKING OF JOHN
A constant sidebar at the draft was the concern from officials with various teams for former NHL tough guy John Ferguson, whose valiant struggle with cancer is sadly -- and, apparently, quickly -- taking its toll.
Before announcing his team's first-round pick Friday night, Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi acknowledged the absence of Ferguson from the draft. Lombardi, who worked with the elder Ferguson for years in San Jose, wished him well.
Sharks' director of scouting Tim Burke later made a similar heartfelt statement, gestures that were appreciated by his son, Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr.
"My father and Dean have great respect for each other, and I know Dean's acknowledgement meant a lot to him," Ferguson Jr. said yesterday.
"Doug Wilson, Tim Burke, Wayne Thomas and the entire Sharks organization have been extremely supportive throughout his battle."
Ferguson is a senior scout for the Sharks.
"So many of his friends and colleagues around the draft floor sent their prayers and best wishes," the younger Ferguson said. "My father and our family truly appreciate all of the support."
Bell's court date in San Jose, originally scheduled for today, apparently has been postponed, likely until early August. Word from the West Coast suggests one of the attorneys involved is tied up with another case. Bell was arrested in that area last September after police said the winger was intoxicated when he left the scene of a car accident. Bell subsequently pleaded not guilty to felony hit-and-run charges ... Hockey Canada officials confirm that ground finally has been broken on the Leafs' glitzy new four-pad practice facility near Kipling Ave., and Lake Shore Blvd. The Leafs, Hockey Canada and the Hockey Hall of Fame will be tenants in the new building ... Hockey Canada will hand out rings to Ferguson Jr., GM Steve Yzerman and the rest of the world championship Canadian team in Calgary tonight in honour of their gold-medal performance in Moscow last month. The entire management team plus 20 of the 23 players are expected to be on hand. Both the world junior team and the Canadian national women's team will be there as well and will be presented with rings for winning their respective world championships. It's part of Hockey Canada's fundraising gala in support of the Canadian hockey foundation, which uses monies from the event for national minor hockey development programs and initiatives. Hockey Canada hopes to raise more than $500,000 from the ceremony.