Mats Sundin stunned his various NHL suitors, including the team willing to make him the league's highest-paid player, by saying thanks but no thanks to any deals until he decides on his playing status.
That process possibly could take several weeks, throwing the rest of the unrestricted free agent market into uncertainty.
It was the thought the Maple Leafs captain couldn't possibly turn down the Vancouver Canucks' two-year $20 million US offer, but he politely told all teams yesterday, including Toronto, that he is not going to be rushed.
"I would like to thank all the teams who have expressed such sincere interest in my services," Sundin said in a release through Creative Artists Agency, which represents him.
"The numerous options provided to me were impressive and I have no doubt that each one presented a unique opportunity for me to finish my career in a terrific hockey environment.
"I spent a great deal of time (Tuesday) reflecting upon the teams who stepped forward and the opportunities that each provided.
"Unfortunately, I am simply not close to being ready to make a decision about resuming my career at this time. I wish all the teams the very best and thank them for their interest."
The Canucks' deal was reportedly broken into four different $5 million increments, including signing bonuses now and next summer. The $10 million average would have put him ahead of every star on the Detroit Red Wings, some of whom have won multiple Stanley Cups. Detroit spent it's "Sundin money" on a $7.4 million one-year deal for winger Marian Hossa.
The Montreal Canadiens also went hard after Sundin, with a reported two-year, $16-million offer, while the Leafs had considered a one-year, $7-million deal. The fact that Sundin is still unsigned and other clubs such as the Wings and New York Rangers are burning up salary cap space could leave the door open for the Leafs to retain their franchise leading scorer.
Sundin's agent J.P, Barry has been careful to say no team is out of the running, while Toronto general manager Cliff Fletcher has only said he will not pay as much as the Canucks to retain Sundin. But by late July, if the Leafs are still looking for a centre, other teams have filled their roles and Sundin decides he wants to play, then a fit with his old team is possible.