Yes Mats is still with us in Leaf land. Yes he invoked his no trade clause at the deadline. Yes Mats Sundin will be back in the blue and white next season and yes it will be with a no trade attached to the bottom of the contract. There is no reason to believe Sundin will retire at years end with or without a playoff appearance by the blue and white express. This steam engine isn't through yet and frankly I can't see how the Leafs organization can possibly let him go elsewhere. In fact I think he would retire before pulling on another jersey anyway, but in reality this club is going to need their captain to usher in not only a new era under a new GM (Brian Burke) but also to break in the heir apparent. I know there are lots of rumours out there about a lucrative 10+ million dollar deal for 2 years and although that is very possible I'm betting on a 1 year term which will in fact hold a no trade clause. The reason? Sundin wants to finish in Toronto and without a no trade he would surely be dealt once again at the deadline unless the Leafs were a serious contender.
Why leave it to chance, "include a no trade or I retire" seems a good line to spit out after all he has given to the organization. I know people have drug him through the mud about not helping the team move forward by allowing a blockbuster deadline deal. Fact is I dont think it was as much his heart as it was the deals. Look at what he's done down the stretch. Without the big swede Maple Leafs fans would surely be watching Jays spring training a heck of a lot closer by now and the deals offered just didnt hold a candle to what Mats could do in a buds uniform himself. Thats my take on why he didnt go. Of course he wants to retire a Leaf. Of course he has earned the right, but still, if the deal was right, this diehard thinks he would have waved goodbye, as did the Great One once upon a time and as will the Next One when his time comes in Pittsburgh. The deal wasnt right and we have a playoff push as a result, no matter how long of a shot it is.
Now assuming Mats does in fact resign, no matter the deal. Who will be the heir? Who will management go out and get to take the reigns when Sundin does hang up the skates? There certainly isn't anyone already on the club in line. Antropov, among others, have made great strides this year but none have yet shown Sundin-like potential. And as far as bringing someone in, my bet is on an offer sheet rather then a UFA. What if you go out and offer Jeff Carter a 7 million dollar offer sheet.
With the Flyers obviously looking to reaquire Forsberg they surely wouldn't match, even if they could. The leafs have already shown interest in the young stud but were unable to convince those involved to accept a trade no matter how close the deal was to being done. Carter brings everything they could want in a future leader and his days are all but numbered in Philly with him wasting away at 3rd on the depth charts. This guy is not a number 3 center (which is the part he is playing right now) I heard Bill waters compare the young man to Jon Taveres. Although I'm not quite sure I would go that far yet, he has deffinately shown a superb upside and will likely be a star for years to come.
Now what if the Flyers do match, whos next in line? I've heard Ryan Smyths name mentioned but why do you want this guy. He is everything that Mats isnt, and if Mats is the ultimate role model how can you replace him with his polar opposite. In my oppinion Mr. Smyth is a selfish player who cant hold a candle to Sundins caliber of play. He is talented, don't get me wrong, but not Sundin talented. besides why replace Mats with a player who is going to leave for a few hundred thousand dollars more then what the buds offer him 4 or 5 years down the line. Maybe they should make a play for Brad Richards. He would clearly fit the mold and would likely be overjoyed to become a Leaf. The list goes on and on.
The one piece of the puzzle that needs to be straightened out first is the GM. MLSE has to actually do what they say in replacing Peddie and Fletcher with what has been elluded to as a 'top teir hockey guy'.
To this point all MLSE has done is disappoint fans so why would this off season be any different. Perhaps it will be the franchise first, 3rd consecutive playoff miss. Maybe the millions in lost revenue, or the approx. 10 million lost to revenue sharing without any recoupe from a post season run. Maybe it will be a fan demand that will finally aline the planets and land the Maple Leaf faithful a legitimate shot at building a winner.
At the end of the day there are few gaurantees other then that Mats will be another year older, Fans will be planning a parade before the first puck even drops in October and it will be at least 2 or 3 years before we even get close to knowing if the heir brought in is actually going to live up to expectations. Lord knows Sundin will leave behind some huge skates to fill.
You heard it here.