Sundin's future tops off-season's questions

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Asked yesterday if he would consider playing for another NHL team next season, Mats Sundin did not say "yes."

But, interestingly, he did not completely reject the notion either, adding even more intrigue to the speculation of what the captain might do over the summer.

Of all the questions hovering over the Maple Leafs this off-season, many will centre on the future of Sundin, who will do some soul searching to decide if the time to retire has come.

"If I decide to keep playing, I want to play here," Sundin said, just one day after his Leafs were eliminated from playoff contention. "I've always said I would like to finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf."

Here is where he left the door open on the possibility of going elsewhere.

"Having said that, I know there will be changes (with the Leafs). We'll see."

As for the issue of his potential retirement, Sundin's handlers indicate the big Swede has enjoyed himself this season, aside from the bitterness of being out of the post-season for a third consecutive time.

"(Missing the post-season) usually does not sink in until the playoffs start and you are not a part of it," he said. "That's when it hits you.

"As disappointing as missing the playoffs is, I had fun this season. Last season too."

With Sundin's fate topping the list, here are some of the most pressing questions facing the Maple Leafs heading into the off-season.

- Does Sundin feel like a 37-year-old man?

"I do today."

- Will next Saturday's game in Montreal be his final appearance as a Leaf?

"We're not there yet. We'll see how it is in Montreal. Those always are fun games to play."

- Do the Leafs want Sundin back?

"Very much so," interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said. "He's a leader on and off the ice. We'll honour his desire to take time to decide. Having said that, I'd be disappointed if he didn't come back, based on how he's played this year."

- Who might be cast adrift?

Don't be surprised if the Leafs continue attempts to move Bryan McCabe to the Islanders, the belief being that he might waive his no-trade clause to go to Long Island, where is wife Roberta is from. Because the Leafs missed the playoffs, Pavel Kubina's no-trade clause becomes moot from June 20-Aug. 15. The Leafs could opt to keep him in the wake of his stellar play the past six weeks. Rumblings of buyouts for veterans like Darcy Tucker just won't go away. Add Jason Blake and Andrew Raycroft to that list, too.

- Any imminent decisions on the future of the coaching staff, given rumours of Paul Maurice's possible dismissal ?

"The entire staff is under contract for another year so there are no time pressures there," Fletcher said.

- Will there be any quick fixes in free agency?

No. "We are not going to do anything that is just short term, like for one year," Fletcher said. "We're looking beyond that."

- Who will oversee the draft?

Management has given complete control to Fletcher, who has scouted many of the top prospects already. "We still could move six positions between now and the end of the season," he said. "We'll whittle the number (of candidates) down once the (season ends) and we have a better idea where we'll pick."

- Who are the top candidates for the role of president/GM?

MLSEL president Richard Peddie, who said no candidates will be contacted until the end of the season, is seeking a "big name" and a "proven winner", so the expected front-runners should come as no surprise: Brian Burke, Ken Holland, Jim Rutherford, Doug Wilson, Doug Risebrough, David Poile and Colin Campbell.


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