Mats Sundin won't keep the Maple Leafs waiting all summer before declaring his playing status for 2008-09.
"In our last talk, he acknowledged what July 1 means to us (replacing the captain and top scorer with a free agent)," interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said yesterday.
"We'll know what his decision is before that."
Sundin is an unrestricted free agent and can either come back at a higher price (think $6 million US and up), take another offer or retire.
Fletcher's impression is that Sundin wants to play a full season somewhere and, unlike Teemu Selanne, will not want to take half a year off before returning to the league.
SWEDES PICK STRALMAN
Fletcher has assurance from Swedish officials that defenceman Anton Stralman will play full time at the world hockey championship, so the GM will let the rookie skip a return to the Toronto Marlies.
Stralman will join the Czech Republic's Tomas Kaberle at the tournament in Halifax and Quebec City next month.
"He'll be part of their lineup, and with the tournament on smaller North American ice, we thought it would be beneficial," Fletcher said.
Kaberle will play for the Czech Republic, and though Fletcher was approached about countryman Pavel Kubina, the latter won't be playing because of a chest infection.
Centre Matt Stajan was hoping to be named among the first batch of 15 Team Canada selections.
However, yesterday's announcement included no Toronto players.
"The door isn't completely closed," Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman said of players such as Stajan. "It's a bit of a juggling act (keeping spots open)."
Yzerman says he doesn't worry about alienating Toronto, Vancouver or Edmonton when selecting the team.
"Health, fit and who might be available after the first round came into play," Yzerman said. "Whether it's a U.S. or Canadian team doesn't matter."
Also named to the team were goalies Pascal Leclaire and Cam Ward, defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and Duncan Keith and forwards Jason Chimera, Shane Doan, Jamal Mayers, Rick Nash, Derek Roy, Patrick Sharp, Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Ray Whitney. A handful of first-round playoff casualties will be added.
COMEBACK FOR BELAK
Traded Toronto enforcer Wade Belak, an unrestricted free agent this summer, would consider returning to the Leafs but wonders if the next general manager will be game.
"It sounds like they're getting rid of everyone there," Belak joked yesterday on the phone from south Florida. "Definitely I'd be interested if things don't work out here. I've considered Toronto my second home and I've thought about doing something in the media there when I retire.
"But I had a good exit meeting with (Panthers general manager/coach) Jacques Martin yesterday. He wants me back to add toughness and they played me a lot. In Toronto, I was in and out."
MARLIES MAKE ROOM
Bolstered by the return of defenceman Staffan Kronwall and forwards Jiri Tlusty and Kris Newbury, the Marlies are preparing for the start of the AHL playoffs next week. Though the first-place team continued its record-setting season while those three were with the Leafs, all will be put right back in the AHL lineup.
Forwards Tyler Doig, Peter Tsimikalis and defenceman Patrick Wellar were all returned to Columbia of the ECHL yesterday.