The Toronto Maple Leafs tried to play it classy in how they handled captain Mats Sundin’s no trade clause and ended up botching it royally and coming off as totally classless—and clueless.
Hopefully the Mats bashers will layoff. Sure the team would be better off long-term if they'd been able to trade Sundin for top draft picks or prospects, not to mention the added advantage of sinking to the bottom of the standings without their best player and upping their chances of landing Stamkos on draft day.
However, Sundin’s reasons for staying—his commitment to the team, city, and his teammates—are exactly what you look for in a captain. He should be lauded for not simply demanding to be traded to a place where he “has a chance to win.” I always hate it when a superstar demands a trade to a contender. Stay where you are and make your team a contender, if you are a true star player.
Finally, no one ever said, even once, that if the Colorado Avalanche were to fall out of playoff contention that they should look to move Joe Sakic. His situation is very similar to Sundin’s (not exact, obviously as Joe has won a Cup and only ever played for one team) but the treatment of the two was very different.
As to the handling of l’affaire Sundin, as I said in my opening, it boggles the mind. What they should have done is so straightforward I had just assumed they were doing it behind the scenes. When Fletcher came in all he had to announce was the following:
1. I’ve been given a mandate and we are going to everything we can to get this franchise back to its rightful place at the top of league and competing annually for the Stanley Cup.
2. We have five players with no-trade / no-move clauses. I will be meeting with each of them, outlining my vision for the future and discussing how they fit in. In the best interests of the team I will ask each of them if they would consider waiving their clause if the right deal came along.
3. We have no interest in trading Mats. He has been the face of the team for the past decade and is our best player and captain. That being said, if we got knocked over with a great deal we’d have to consider it. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anyone can get traded.
Boom. Done. Press conference over, nothing more said than what happened anyway. Expectations properly managed and direction communicated.