Cliff Fletcher is starting to put together his blueprint for the Maple Leafs' future, but whether the finished product includes captain Mats Sundin remains unclear.
Fletcher, hired last Tuesday as the Leafs' interim general manager with the sole goal of putting the sad-sack franchise back in the NHL's penthouse, met with the coaching staff yesterday and has a date today with members of the scouting department.
As for Sundin, who did not speak to reporters yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena, Fletcher said he does not require a hard and fast decision this week from the big Swede as to whether Sundin will waive his no-trade clause. But Fletcher also is aware that all that really matters to the long-suffering members of Leafs Nation is whether Sundin, who has the most points in franchise history, agrees to say goodbye.
"I've talked to Mats but there has been nothing tangible," Fletcher said. "Teams that are going to be looking to make deals at the deadline are not in that process yet. I will probably try to talk to him again informally on the trip to Carolina (where the Leafs play the Hurricanes on Thursday night)."
Sundin's agent, J.P. Barry, said last night from New York he would like to be a part of any serious discussion Fletcher has with his client. But Barry has not yet heard from Fletcher.
Sitting second-to-last in the Eastern Conference with 48 points, the Leafs have 31 games remaining in the regular season but just 13 fall before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, including tonight's tilt at the Air Canada Centre against the struggling St. Louis Blues. While some close to Sundin privately insist he simply will not waive his no-trade, a string of Leafs losses could sway his decision the other way.
At least two veterans -- forwards Jason Blake and Kyle Wellwood -- are going to try their best to ensure Sundin's decision won't be a simple one. Blake and Wellwood know that if the Leafs have any chance of salvaging something in 2007-08, they will have to improve drastically.
Wellwood got away to Florida for the all-star break and while he soaked up the rays, he must have been thinking about being a healthy scratch in Washington against the Capitals on Thursday. A sports hernia injury that caused him to miss training camp and the first 15 games of the season is old news, Wellwood said.
"I used to be able to produce no matter what, so it is certainly odd that I have not been playing well," said Wellwood, who has five goals and seven assists in 33 games. "You try to put your fears aside and know that eventually things will work out for you."
While Wellwood has been invisible on most nights, Blake has not. He has 30 points in 51 games, but with just nine goals, his 40-goal season in 2006-07 with the New York Islanders has become a dead weight around his neck.
"I've been stomping on my head for the past three months trying to figure out what I need to change," said Blake, whose 215 shots on goal trail only Alex Ovechkin (273) and Henrik Zetterberg (225) in the NHL.
"I know one of the things I can do is move the puck to my linemates a little bit more. It has been frustrating and confusing to me, because I am getting the opportunities.'"