Rent-a-Mats scenario unlikely -- captain

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Almost 13 years ago to the day, just up the palm tree-lined highway in L.A., Mats Sundin had his first Toronto point in his first Maple Leafs' game and staked his place in team history.

Yesterday, in short sleeves and under a blue and white sky, Sundin said he knows every goal and assist in California this week will whip up more trade frenzy to cash him in on behalf of the supposed greater good of Leafs Nation. But he's adamant he wants to stay and that includes nixing any Rent-a-Mats plan to fetch max value at the deadline, help a contending playoff team in the spring and then return to the Leafs as a free agent in 2008-09.

While dropping a couple of expletives yesterday to describe the club's wasteful efforts of late, Sundin reaffirmed his desire to see his one-year contract through as a Leaf and play beyond April 5.

"I have not talked to my agent (J.P. Barry) about anything," Sundin said of waiving his no-trade clause. "We're not going to give up when our conference is so close. When we play our style of game, when everyone works together, we're a good team, as good as a lot of teams that are ahead of us.

"We have to learn to close out games, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot."

General manager John Ferguson said he was in meetings with scouts all day yesterday and was unaware of the mounting pressure to trade Sundin. But he bristled at the idea of the Leafs being out of the playoff picture and making Sundin available.

"We know what Mats' value is to this team," Ferguson said.

Since that first night in the old L.A. Forum, Sundin has compiled 957 points as a Leaf, now the franchise's leading scorer.

HASN'T CHANGED

Nearing his 37th birthday next month, he was asked again about the anticipated boon for the Leafs from a trade, at the same time improving his chances at a Cup ring before retirement.

"My mindset has not changed," he said. "You don't know what can happen (if a deal is made before Feb. 26 and doesn't help either team)."

In the past two non-playoff years, he thanked fans for their concern that his Leaf career was somehow unfulfilled and joked about the media trying to get him out of town, but 'a Leaf for life' has been his preference.

Last month, the rumour was the Swedish contingent on the Red Wings was pressing for general manager Ken Holland to get Sundin and while that was jumping the gun, Detroit does have a history of big deadline deals. Sundin's rare appearance in Anaheim and San Jose this week will be monitored closely by their respective GMs.

Sundin insisted he didn't sign for one year at $5.5 million US to give himself a trade escape hatch if the Leafs tanked, but to help the club out of the salary cap crunch that his previous, multi-year contract had created.


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