Mats won't tip his hand

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Eyebrows were raised among members of the Swedish press upon receiving invitations for a news conference this morning in Stockholm for PokerStars.net, a shindig that would be attended by Mats Sundin.

The invite suggested that Sundin was going to reveal his plans for the future, a future that has been speculated about on both sides of the Atlantic for months.

With suspicions in Sweden mushrooming that Sundin was about to drop his final card and announce his retirement, the long-time Leafs captain reacted with a familiar response.

No, he has not made a final decision on his future as of yet. That was the message he relayed to Swedish reporters and, later in the day, AM 640.

Sundin's so-called "future plans," as described in the invite, are related to his reported coming role as a spokesperson for PokerStars.net. Sundin, in fact, recently finished shooting a commercial for the organization.

Just chalk it up as another false alarm in the seemingly never-ending Sundin Saga, which is sure to gain momentum as he arrives in Toronto this week to participate in a charity game for the Right to Play organization at the Air Canada Centre on Friday.

Or is it?

Sundin's friends suspect it is just a matter of time before he calls it a career, perhaps due to some suspected health issues. For the record, Sundin acknowledges he has not trained nearly as hard as in summers past, although he claims he is in "good shape."

Sundin did reveal this much: He does not expect to be in any NHL training camp when they open next week.

"Where I am right now, I'm not at a point where I'm physically and mentally ready to make a decision," Sundin told AM 640. "My biggest thing is, I want to make sure I'm physically and mentally prepared for the rigours of an NHL season and to compete at an elite level."

Sundin admitted the Leafs went through a "difficult season" in 2007-08 but said the disappointing performance of his former team is not a factor in his decision. In fact, picking a team to play for will not even be an issue in his own mind until he makes a commitment to return to the NHL, one he is not prepared to do at this time.

The longer the process continues to drag out, the more Sundin will be accused of being "selfish" by fans and various media members alike for making teams such as the Leafs, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens wait as he attempts to make up his mind.

Such allegations have been front and centre throughout the summer.

They also don't make much sense.

How is Sundin "selfish?" He is a free agent. He is the property of no one. And if there are any physical ailments, it only adds to the difficulty for the future Hall of Famer of finding the bottom line.

In any event, to claim Sundin is holding teams for ransom is silly. He owes them nothing even if, in the case of the Canucks, a whopping two-year, $20-million US deal was shoved in front of him.

If he turns down the offer, you can question his decision, but not his right to make it.

There was some validity when Sundin came under scrutiny months ago for refusing to waive his no-trade clause at the Feb. 26 deadline. Had he agreed to cut the umbilical cord with the Leafs, he would have greatly helped Toronto's rebuilding efforts by being part of a deal that would have brought an outstanding package of young players and prospects to Toronto.

Even then, the bottom line was: It was the Toronto organization that agreed to provide Sundin with the no-trade. As a result, it was Sundin's right to stick to his guns and refuse to be moved.

Just like it is concerning this life-altering decision.

"I'm 37-years-old, I don't have a contract and I'm under no obligation (to any employer)," Sundin said in response to his critics, adding he hopes people "respect" the difficult process he is going through.

He at least deserves that much.


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