Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ice of Boston is Muddy

Mats Sundin played his last game for the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 5th, 2008 but he effectively ended his career with the Leafs on February 26 when the NHL trade deadline passed and he was still in the Blue and White.

Today he signed a one year deal (reportedly worth $5M) to play with the Vancouver Canucks.

Salary Dictates Destination

With a two-year $20M contract offer from Vancouver on the table, last season's "home-town discount" contract of $6M as a reference point and agent JP Barry working the media, it was clear that when Mats did sign, it wasn't going to be for a token sum.

Unfortunately for Sundin, his (legendary) indecision left very few possible destinations. The majority of teams made salary commitments that left no room for a signing of Sundin's magnitude.

Here are the teams that have the salary cap room to take on an additional $5M salary commitment:


Not a pretty bunch, especially for a player who allegedly aspires to win the Cup.

More of those teams have a better shot of landing the first overall pick in next year's draft than the do of even qualifying for the post-season. In fact only two of those teams, Vancouver and Nashville, are likely to get close to the playoffs at all.

Sure other teams could have used waivers or trades to try to make room for Mats, but given the difficulty of moving salaries, self-imposed team budgets (you still have to pay those millionaires if their in the AHL), the financial problems facing so many NHL owners and the freeze on player transactions runs from December 19 to 27th it was likely too difficult for those teams to find the $5M in cap space to sign Sundin.

Looking at these issues, it should come as no surprise that the big Swede landed where he did. It was the best of a bad lot.

Water Under the Bridge

I have no problem with Sundin declining a trade from the Leafs last spring. It's a contractual right he bargained for in good faith and it's his right to exercise.

Would I have preferred he be dealt to bring in some much needed assets to the team? Absolutely, but given he said we wouldn't waive his no trade clause about 6,213 times in the three months leading up to the trade deadline I don't know why anyone was surprised or upset by his decision.

I have no problem with Sundin exercising his rights as a UFA and picking his employer. That's what we civilians do all the time.

And let me be clear: I'm not saying or even suggesting that Leaf fans shouldn't boo, cuss and curse over Sundin. By all means fill your boots. That's the beauty of sport - what drives me absolutely batty (Greg Millen checking to see if every goal was tipped on the way to the net) is just water under the bridge for another fan.

As someone who's loved the Leafs for 30+ years, I just don't see the point in channeling any anger at #13. In the pantheon of Leafs transgressors I don't think Sundin even cracks the top 10.

I do, however, think his comments leading up to and coming out of the 2008 trade deadline leave him open to some fair criticism.

Making His Bed

Sundin emphatically said he didn't want to be a rental player - for Sundin chasing the cup was all about the journey from September to June.

He may want to check the Calendar as he's just signed a one-year deal in December.

He said it wasn't about the money.

While he didn't jump at the big contracts he was initially offered, he didn't discount his services to make him a more tenable signing for so many cap constrained teams either.

He supposedly wants to win a Cup.

I'm not sure that Vancouver is his best option, given Luongo's injury and the quality of the Western teams they'll have to get through in the post-season.

Circle the Date

The Leafs are due to play Vancouver on February 21.

I don't know if Mats will be booed, cheered or greeted with indifference by Leafs Nation, but I do know those of us who gather to cheer Mats and those of us who gather to boo will all be sick and tired of the non-stop media coverage this one game will generate long before then.


  1. Anonymous11:05 pm

    Very nice summary.

    Good luck Mats, I'm still a fan, even though it'll be painful suffering through the media deluge in VanCity. Bring back the rain!

  2. Anonymous11:33 pm

    Great post.

    I am going to boo my lungs out on the 21st. Of course, don't hold me to that.

    Was that glib? Probably.

    I do not look forward to February 21st.

  3. I have to agree completely. I think Sundin looked very foolish over the past 10 months. He had built this reputation of keeping to his word. But with each passing month that image crumbled a little more. He is no rental player. He would have to play a whole season with a team. It's not about money. Wants a shot a winning the Cup.

  4. Your "Making His Bed" section pretty much nails it. That's where the head scratching comes in for me.

    I'd like to think someone considered a great captain and dressing room leader could be taken at his word, but his actions say otherwise...

  5. Anonymous12:16 pm

    Oh my god.

    Sundin's last game was on the day I married a Canuck fan.

    Is this my fault?!?!?

  6. Karina - Yes, you are to blame. Now we just have to figure out how you can use those powers for good.

  7. Anonymous3:54 pm

    Karina - divorce him and marry a guy named Stanley. I think that'll work.

  8. Anonymous11:59 am

    What people are forgetting in this discussion about Sundin's decision last spring is that Fletcher had made a deal with the Habs. The Habs! Fletcher had actually considered trading the current captain of the Leafs, and arguably the most talented player to ever wear the blue and white, to the most evil team in all of sport, our most hated rival. The outrage I felt when I heard that was indescribable. Sure, trade Hollweg or some other bum to Montreal. They deserve those kind of players. They don't deserve to cheer for a player of Sundin's talent and class.

    Not only should fans not boo Sundin on February 21, not only should they applaud his decision not to be a party to such sacrilege and traitorous behaviour, they should instead give him the longest and loudest standing ovation ever heard in the world of professional sports.

    Immediately afterward, we should publicly lynch Fletcher for even considering such a deal.

    I'm obviously very happy that Sundin signed with Vancouver and not with the Habs. All of my Sundin memorabilia is safe. I don't have to burn it now.

    Best of luck, Mats! This is one Leaf fan who will be cheering for the 'Nucks to win it all this year.

  9. Anonymous11:21 am

    Steckley, anyone who wants Montreal to lose more than the Leafs to win is automaticaly discounted from any sane conversation.

    The ridiculous explanation Sundin gave at the time, supposedly dismissing the idea of being a rental, was the cause of my ire at the trading deadline. The whole reasoning didnt make any sense and seemed to be an attempt to cover up the real motivation, whatever that was (i suspect simple laziness and not wanting to move etc).

    His actions now prove that his belief that a cup is only valid if you play with a team from September was B.S.

    Would I boo him in Feb? Probably not, if only out of respect for his years of service and his achievements as a Leaf. I do not think he purposely tried to screw the franchise over. However M. D'agostinno, S. Kotstisyn and the Hab's 1st pick last draft sure would look good in a Leaf uniform right now.