No hidden agenda for Mats

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

The moment Mats Sundin opted to take just a one-year, $5.5 million US deal from the Maple Leafs over the summer, the conspiracy theories began to flow.

Suspicions immediately arose that the Maple Leafs captain decided against a longer pact because he wanted a way out in case the team struggled.

Maybe he would asked to be traded later in the season. If not, he always could bolt for greener pastures once free agency rolled around next July.

Yesterday, an upbeat Sundin arrived at the team's medicals looking to squelch all the rampant scuttlebutt before it went too far.

Wanting to set the record straight, the veteran Swede said any potential trade rumours during the season will not be a distraction.

"It shouldn't be -- not for me anyway," he said. "And if it's not for me it shouldn't be for anyone else.

"There are no hidden agendas on why I signed a one-year deal. It was the thing that felt the best for me.

"My only desire is to be part of a championship team here. I want to end my career in Toronto."

Retiring at the end of the 2007-08 season remains an option, but that possibility is not one Sundin is even thinking about right now.

"I know I'm at the end of my career," Sundin, 36, said. "(But) it's not depressing, it's motivating.

"I feel I'm as good a player as I was five years ago. It's a good motivation thing to know my big goal is still to be part of a championship team in Toronto. We haven't achieved that and that's something that's going to help motivate me for this season."

Sundin obviously has been drinking the same Kool-Aid as his coach and general manager. Both Paul Maurice and John Ferguson have been chirping that the Leafs can be Stanley Cup contenders this season, a stance Sundin agrees with.

"It's anybody's game at the start of the season," he said. "If you look at the past couple of years, it's really tough to predict a Stanley Cup winner. So, yeah, we have as good a chance to win a championship as a lot of other teams this year. I'm very excited about that. I'm hungry to have some playoff success."

In order to enjoy playoff success, don't you have to get there first?

That has, in fact, been the Leafs' problem. They have missed the post-season in consecutive seasons, something Sundin finds inexcusable.

"We should all feel the urgency," he said. "In Toronto, we should be making the playoffs every year."

Sundin continues to insist his one-time ailing hip is ready to go. Experts in both Sweden and North America over the summer told the captain he would not require surgery to repair the torn labrum in his hip.

The real litmus test will come over the next few weeks. Maurice's gruelling on-ice workouts, coupled with a relatively heavy schedule of regular-season games early in October, should show if the hip can stand up to the rigours of the NHL.

If the Leafs want to finally reach the playoffs this season, it had better.


Videos

Photos