TORONTO -- In the past week interim general manager Cliff Fletcher has talked to four high-profile Maple Leafs who hold those cursed no-trade clauses in their contracts.
First came Tomas Kaberle, who was reportedly being wooed by the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week. Kaberle responded by telling agent Rick Curran: "I'm staying."
Yesterday, Fletcher had brief chats with forward Darcy Tucker and defenceman Bryan McCabe. Asked by Sun Media about those conversations, both Tucker and McCabe, who have been insisting for weeks they want to stay in Toronto, sounded like broken records by uttering the same three words ... "Nothing has changed."
Over to you, Mats.
Indeed, the Mats Sundin saga is coming to its climax. All the while, the entire hockey world watches.
Fletcher met with Sundin Thursday, then sat down with J.P. Barry, Sundin's long-time representative, at the team's Air Canada Centre offices yesterday. Now all that remains is for the all-time scoring leader in franchise history to make up his mind.
"Mats is taking time to think about things," Fletcher said.
By not simply saying no to the possibility of a trade, there is a growing public belief that Sundin is more open to the idea of leaving.
But those close to the Leaf captain caution that no one should jump to conclusions. They claim that among the many emotions Sundin is dealing with right now, is frustrated and upset that the Leafs waited this long to actually approach him after weeks of speculation.
"It's an emotional time," Barry said last night via e-mail. "In his heart, Mats is and always will be a Toronto Maple Leaf. He does not want to leave Toronto.
"Toronto is a wonderful place to live with great fans and an unrivalled hockey tradition. Mats has loved every minute of his time here.
"He needs some time now to reflect upon the request made by the team in order to make a proper decision."
The Leafs ideally would like Sundin to present them with a list of the teams he would be willing to go to. But, as Fletcher pointed out, it's difficult to get to that point "when you haven't even resolved the concept of if he would agree to go anywhere yet."
Meanwhile a circus-like atmosphere dominated practice yesterday when Sundin and McCabe were absent because of flu-like symptoms, according to team officials. Suspicions immediately arose, with some claiming the two players had "trade deadline flu" and were about to be dealt.