Fletcher won't keep Mats in dark

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

If Cliff Fletcher takes a trade proposal to captain Mats Sundin, it won't be at the 11th hour.

"Mats is such a big, important part of this team," Fletcher, the Leafs' interim general manager, said after the first period of last night's game against the Buffalo Sabres. "You don't think we're going to drop something on Mats at five-to-three on Tuesday afternoon? That's not the way I do business."

It could be inferred from that comment that the market for Sundin has not closed.

Though one big meeting between Fletcher and Sundin is expected to occur prior to the NHL trade deadline Tuesday at 3 p.m., in which Sundin would give his final answer as to whether he would waive his no-trade clause, Fletcher said there was "nothing at all" that happened yesterday.

Both Sundin and his agent, J.P. Barry, have been adamant that the 37-year-old Swede has every intention of remaining with the Leafs. The consensus on Sundin around the NHL is that if he chooses to keep playing, he could be a high-end player for at least two more seasons. Any club that would want him in all likelihood would want to sign him for at least another season.

A buzz went through the Air Canada Centre yesterday morning when Sundin did not participate in the morning skate, but coach Paul Maurice quickly dumped water on the trade-talk spark.

"I thought maybe someone would notice that," Maurice said. "He was just opting out, which I wish he would do more. He has put the equipment on enough that he does not need it."

What should scare the Leafs from trading Sundin is the fact there is absolutely no one in the organization being primed to take over as the No. 1 centre should the big Swede be shipped out.

If Fletcher can't move one of Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker or Pavel Kubina, then who?

One or more of Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Chad Kilger and Hal Gill?

The first two would be valuable on the market, but dealing a couple of players who could be part of the future in Toronto would not be prudent. Kilger and Gill could be invested for mid-round picks and it would give Fletcher a bit more space under the salary cap this summer.

WAIT UNTIL SUMMER

There would be a window for Fletcher or a new GM to trade Kubina this summer if the Leafs don't make the playoffs. Kubina's no-trade clause would be moot from the draft in June to Aug. 15, but whether another team would want to take on the $10 million US owed the Czech defenceman in the next two seasons might be asking for too much.


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