While many Maple Leafs fans continue to hold out hope that Mats Sundin might waive his no-trade clause, there is a growing belief among NHL front-office types that the big Swede is sincere in his wish to remain in Toronto.
"Mats Sundin wants to go down with the ship," an NHL executive told Sun Media yesterday. "It could turn out that the Leafs hang around (a playoff spot) long enough that they won't be able to trade him."
A common theory making the rounds in Toronto the past few months suggested the Leafs could trade Sundin, pick up a lucrative package of prospects and draft picks, then re-sign the big Swede as an unrestricted free agent July 1.
But word around the league is that many teams would want Sundin to stick around for at least another year if they acquired him.
"If people think the Leafs are going to rebuild their team by trading Mats Sundin, that's not going to happen," the NHL executive said.
"Any team that gets Sundin is probably going to want to sign him to a contract extension just to prevent that."
As the "Who stays, who goes?" debate heats up in Toronto these days, the big news in Buffalo is the status of pending free agent defenceman Brian Campbell of the Sabres.
Should the Sabres not be able to ink Campbell to a new deal as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches, don't be surprised if GM Darcy Regier moves him in order to get some sort of return for the smooth-skating defenceman.
The Sabres don't want to end up with nothing to show for a resource like Campbell. They went through the same thing with pending free agents Daniel Briere and Chris Drury a year ago. Instead of dealing them at the deadline they watched both players leave as free agents in the summer with nothing coming back in return.
Regier met with Larry Kelly, Campbell's agent, in Ottawa on Tuesday.
"We didn't go from zero to 100 but we're still moving down the road," Regier told the Buffalo News. "The fact that you're communicating means you are moving down the road."