Hell, no, Mats won't go!

Mats Sundin maintained his stance and will not waive his no-trade clause. SUN MEDIA/Mark O'Neill

Mats Sundin maintained his stance and will not waive his no-trade clause. SUN MEDIA/Mark O'Neill

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

The captain will go down with the ship, but it could turn out to be a waste when the Maple Leafs relaunch next summer.

Though Mats Sundin earned the right to control his fate after 14 years of service here, his final decision last night not to waive his no-trade clause didn't include a guarantee he will sign on for 2008-09. In the short term, the Leafs lose their biggest bargaining chip for tomorrow's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline. In the long run, their leading scorer for more than a decade could simply walk away and retire.

"I can not leave my teammates and join another club at this time," Sundin said in a statement through agent J.P. Barry after their late-night meeting in Ottawa. "I have never believed in the concept of a rental player."

Nor does the 37-year-old franchise scoring leader believe in rushing into another deal with the Leafs, whose front office and future direction is unclear. Though he wanted to create a heated auction for Sundin in the next day and a half, interim general manager Cliff Fletcher got the call around 9:45 p.m. that there would be no trade or talk of a new contract.

"He's not interested in doing that," Fletcher said. "He will wait until the summer and, historically, that's how he's always handled it. (Exercising the no-trade) was his right. It's business."

Had Sundin said yes to Fletcher, he would have been moved for sure, though the number of interested teams and the return would have been smaller than fans expected, given the chance he would retire or go back to the Leafs.

"I have spoken to and listened to my family and those closest to me about this issue," Sundin added. "In the end, there is no right decision in a situation like this one."

Eleven years ago today, Fletcher had to tell Doug Gilmour to hand over his C and board a plane to New Jersey, compelled to trade a popular Leafs captain for the second time in his executive tenure.

So far, Fletcher also has failed to dislodge four other "no-trade" Leafs -- defencemen Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina, plus forward Darcy Tucker. He was asked about the possibility of using the buyout provision in the NHL's CBA, a last resort to free up salary cap space and an expensive one in terms of cap hits during the next two years.

"That's something for the future to decide upon," he said. "The next step (should nothing happen tomorrow) is free agency on July 1 and that will influence what decisions we make."

Fletcher will also entertain offers for a second tier of players, likely including defenceman Hal Gill and centre Matt Stajan, but says there's no guarantee that he'll be able to make any kind of deal by tomorrow.


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