Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal: the Future for Mats Sundin

JROCK DusomeCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2008

When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the sheer amount of ups and downs associated with the team is enough to make any fan of the game extremely frustrated. Whether its searching for consistent goaltending, or merely trying to find that allusive scoring touch, the Leafs always seem to have their problems regardless of the situation.

However, since his trade to the Leafs in the early 90's, Mats Sundin has remained the only shining light in the world of darkness that is the Maple Leafs. And now, it finally seems as though his time with the Buds may finally have come to an end.

Since his trade from the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, Sundin has been the cornerstone of the Leafs offence. With Toronto, Sundin has scored at least 70 points in every season since 1995/1996, and has led the team in scoring every year with exception of the 2002/2003 season where Alexander Mogilny bested him by seven points. Even though his offensive production has been very significant in each and every season he has played for the Blue and White, it is his leadership qualities that are most important in terms of his time in Toronto. Sundin is the longest serving European captain in NHL history, which demonstrates the kind of player Mats truly is. However, as integral as Sundin is to the Leafs, as stated above, his time with the team may finally be over.

With the coming of the 2008 Trade Deadline, it looked as though it was only a matter of time before Sundin was on his way out of Toronto. However that time never came, as Sundin refused to waive his No-Trade Clause, forcing Cliff Fletcher to give up his search for a possible deal.

And now, during an off-season where the Leafs are coming off yet another failure of a season, Fletcher has been busy signing such players as D Jeff Finger, LW Niklas Hagman, and C Ryan Hollweg, as well as a trade to acquire C Mikhail Grabovski, in addition to the drafting of Luke Schenn with their 5th overall pick in this years draft. The Leafs finally seem to be shifting their organization into a rebuilding phase. The big question lately has been whether or not Sundin has a place on this new Leafs squad.

As of July 23rd, Sundin has still not decided whether or not he wants to play in the upcoming NHL season. As a 37 year old veteran forward, it is clear that Sundin is close to retirement. However, Mats could potentially be a very valuable player to many teams, coming off one of his best offensive season of the last few years. And with offers on the table from 3 significant teams, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, it is easy to see that Sundin still has a place in the NHL.

The Vancouver Canucks have placed the most significant deal on the table in a bid for Sundin, offering $20 million over 2 years, with $10 million coming in salary, and a further $10 million coming in bonuses. For a 37 year old player, an offer worth $20 million has to hold some weight in any decision being made. It is clear that Sundin is contemplating this offer very highly, because honestly, who wouldn't?

The Leafs have made a decent offer to re-acquire Sundin during this off-season. Although many people feel as though it is time for Sundin to move on, and that there is no place on the Leafs for Sundin anymore with their new rebuilding motives, GM Cliff Fletcher has made Sundin the offer of about $7 million per season, over two seasons. Even though this is not as attractive as the offer made by the Canucks, Sundin will have to consider the fact that Toronto has been his home for the last 14 years, and that his face base his massive in the GTA. And come on, does $14 million really seem like all that bad of deal?

As for the Canadiens, the offer that they have made to Sundin is quite similar to that of the Leafs. Sundin has always said that if there was a team that he could play for other than the Leafs, it would be the Habs, and with Montreal now being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, Sundin will have to think hard about betraying the Leaf Nation, and joining forces with the enemy.

In all honesty, it is clear that Sundin has one hell of a decision ahead of him. He has three very good offers on the table, and it is easy to see that he is not ready to rule out any one of them. According to Sundin, he is still not even sure if he wants to play in 2008/2009 NHL season, however I believe he will, as there are many teams that have use for his services.

As for what team he will play for, I think Mats will ultimately follow his allegiance to Toronto, and you will see Sundin wearing a Leaf uniform with the C on his chest next year. Even though Vancouver has made an offer worth a very large amount of money, Mats Sundin is already a very wealthy man, and in the long run, he will play in the town that has made him famous, Toronto.