Hello Brian Burke, goodbye Mats Sundin?
That seemed to be the message conveyed yesterday by the incoming Maple Leafs president/general manager, who does not expect the long-time Toronto captain to return to the team this season.
While still working for the Anaheim Ducks several weeks ago, Burke had a brief meeting with Sundin. When it was over, Burke seemed to come away with the feeling that the big free agent Swede was looking to join a contender.
Burke was speaking at the glitzy afternoon news conference announcing his appointment as the Leafs new hockey boss. Judging by his comments, a similar such media gathering for Sundin in Toronto does not appear to be in the cards.
"I don't think we fit the profile he is looking for," Burke said when asked about the possibility of Sundin coming back to the Leafs.
Burke said salary does not appear to be an issue for Sundin.
"It's not about the money. He (didn't sign) a $10-million US per year offer (from Vancouver). He has got $2 less than God," Burke said.
J.P. Barry, Sundin's North American-based agent, politely declined comment about Burke's statement.
"I'd rather not on Brian's big day," Barry said via e-mail last night.
Barry did say that Sundin will skate "several times in the next week." Sundin has been engaged in off-ice workouts in the southern California area for several weeks, but has not yet committed to returning to the NHL this season.
The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning are among the teams interested in Sundin's services.
Burke knows all about players who are struggling with the retirement. Just one year ago he went through a similar set of circumstances in Anaheim when Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer debated their options before deciding to sign well into the season.
As a result, Burke stuck up for Sundin, saying he has no problem with players taking time to mull over their futures.
"There has been a lot of criticism of Mats Sundin for not making up his mind," Burke said. "Having been through this situation before, I do not agree with it. I'd rather have a guy who wants to make sure in his own mind of what he is doing, as opposed to a guy who plays half-assed just to collect a paycheque."
If Burke's comments yesterday mean the official end of the Sundin era in Toronto is indeed here, no one can ever accuse the big Swede of not producing. Sundin is the career franchise in goals (420), game-winning goals (79) and points (987).