Toronto to Trade Matt Sundin? Maple Leafs Better Think Twice

Joe Gillen@Joe_G16Correspondent IJanuary 10, 2008

Should he stay or should he go?

Talk shows and newspapers columns are ripe with stories about what the Leafs could harvest with a trade of Mats Sundin.

The Leafs captain has long maintained he doesn’t want to leave the city, and a no-trade clause in his contract gives him the final say so. 

But that hasn’t stopped many Leafs fans—buoyed by reports of first-rounders and hot prospects, and certain there is no meaningful future for this team—from shouting that the team has a unique opportunity to get a jump on the future.

But there is much to be said about a no guarantee; Sundin would re-sign with the Leafs should he skate in the playoffs for someone else. In addition, trading him to some teams would be unpalatable—Ottawa and Philadelphia coming most readily to mind.

So let’s take a look at some of the claims made by the "trade Sundin" camp:

1. Sundin would probably fetch two good roer players and two draft choices.

That is based almost entirely on the exorbitant price the Nashville Predators paid for Peter Forsberg at the trade deadline last year. The Flyers parlayed Forsberg into Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent and a first- and third-rounder in the entry draft.

But Upshall is a six-goal scorer, while Parent is a good prospect who plays defence in Guelph for the Storm. The first-rounder is great, but a third rounder is a crapshoot.

So who won this deal? No one.

The Flyers' rebound has been led by a host of young players unconnected with the Forsberg trade. The Preds, desperate to make a splash and increase the market value of their team, won one game before falling to San Jose in the first round.

While the early forecast is for a seller’s market, no other team will come into play with that kind of pressure. If anything, the Forsberg deal is a cautionary tale for both all buyers and sellers.

 2. When push comes to shove, Sundin will acquiesce to whatever team would give the Leafs the best value.

Why would he? There is no evidence Sundin will agree to a trade. He hasn’t said anything about leaving in the 13-year career he played here. He never lied, and never let conventional opinion change his mind. Having already won an Olympic Gold Medal, the Stanley Cup could be an intriguing, but an inessential goal.

Even if he does decide to move, he has earned a level of input in choosing the landing area that Forsberg would have envied. Sundin’s tenure with the Leafs could, in a sense, trump many potential trade, as GM John Ferguson would be limited to the teams Sundin, not Ferguson, had chosen.


3. Sundin’s acquisition would guarantee his new team a Stanley Cup.

Well, it worked for Ray Bourque in Colorado—but he was a talented team player who already had Patrick Roy in goal.

Every winter, we forget that goalies dwarf position players in importance come playoff time. Mats Sundin, for all his talents, can’t play goal—and the team with the best goalie is the one that wins the Cup.


4. Sundin would automatically re-sign with the Leafs in July.

That’s a big assumption. If, and when Toronto trades Mats Sundin, the franchise will lose more than continuity. The team would risk losing some of the good feeling generated by his tenure here, which might never be the same afterward.

Besides, if the Leafs traded him because of the need for new, younger blood, why would they bring him back? And if they were not willing, or able to do so, who would succeed Sundin as captain—not to mention, as cornerstone. There is no heir to Sundin, and that person in no way on the Leafs' roster.

This is not to say that trading Sundin would be a mistake. But the idea risk—with greater future downside than its proponents might think.