Chicago 7, Vancouver 5. Goodbye Mats Sundin.

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    Mats Sundin’s season with the Vancouver Canucks, his chase for the 2009 Stanley Cup that brought him out of pseudo-retirement, and possibly his NHL career, ended tonight with the Canucks’ elimination from the playoffs at the hands of the young Chicago Blackhawks.

    And now the “future of Sundin” questions, and subsequent “will-he-or-won’t-he” Favrian (or is it Favresque?) soap opera will surely begin anew.

    Sundin, after all, is a free agent this off-season.   Despite Vancouver’s offer of $20 million for 2 years still standing at the time he signed, Sundin instead took a 1 year, $5 million deal for the balance of this season.  Which means, of course, that he is unrestricted and free to do as he wishes.

    It could be that he retires from the game, as his close friend Markus Naslund recently did.

    It could be that he hems and haws for half a season again, as Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer have also done.

    It could be that he signs elsewhere for another shot at a Cup.   Sure would fit in well with Detroit, and that Eastern schedule would be more favorable (the reason he put off signing with Vancouver for as long as he did was to allow for most of the heavy travel to the East to be gone from the schedule).

    Or, it could be that he signs on for a farewell tour with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as so many other former Leafs‘ stars have done in the past.

    I must ask:  what do you think about that possibility, Leaf Nation?

    Before you reply, consider the following:

    1.  The Maple Leafs roster is currently devoid of leadership, and veteran experience, especially up front.  They do not have a #1 centre, and there are no guarantees they can land one in free agency.  So you could argue a return to the blue and white (albeit somewhat weakly) on the basis of need.

    2. Brian Burke won’t blow the cap in free agency – he has been very clear about his concerns regarding an expected cap decrease in 2010 – and Mats Sundin would come relatively cheap ($4 – $5 million) on a 1 year deal.   So you could argue a return to the blue and white (somewhat more strongly) on a fiscal-responsibility basis.

    3. The ownership of the Maple Leafs has a history of bringing back its former stars for farewell tours.   Wendel Clark comes to mind.   As does Doug Gilmour’s abbreviated return to the blue and white.  And remember how hard they tried to re-acquire Gary Roberts?   It is not a reach, by any stretch, to suggest that ownership may exert some pressure to bring back Sundin for a final go-around, given their history on the matter.   Of course, whether or not Burke would do it is anyone’s guess.  Then again, Pat Quinn – who is a similar personality to Burke – brought back Gilmour and Clark.   So you could argue a return to the blue and white (very strongly) on the basis of the team’s history in regard to its former stars.

    It should be mentioned that Leafs‘ GM Brian Burke was heavily rumoured to be interested in acquiring Mats Sundin two trade deadlines ago when he was the GM of Anaheim.  Just sayin’.

    Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that I think bringing back Sundin would be a good idea, or the best approach for this team moving forward.   Personally, I feel the best way for a team to move forward is to keep looking ahead as opposed to behind.   Further, they will likely struggle to make the playoffs next year, so would it make sense for Sundin to come back just so he can retire as a member of the Leafs, even if they have next to no shot at the Stanley Cup?

    It’s a question that is actually much more difficult to answer than it first appears.  Many fans (myself included) feel it’s time for Sundin to either retire or pursue a contract with a Cup-contending team, but it is quite possible that his long-standing desire to retire in a Leafs sweater could lead him to seek out one final contract with the Maple Leafs.

    In short, I have serious doubts that he will actually wind up back in Toronto – my guess is he retires and moves in next door to Naslund – but at this point I wouldn’t be willing to put anything past Burke & Co., either.

    However, my own views aside, I am bringing this topic up because now that Vancouver is out, and Sundin is a free agent, these questions will undoubtably be asked all summer long.   And surely, certain members of the media will complain about the soap opera beginning again, but the truth is they all love it.   It’s a deep long-running saga, with strong emotions tied to it on all sides, and (frankly) it will give them something to write about for the ever-passionate and insatiable Maple Leafs fan base.

    So I’ll jump the gun and ask:  what do you think about all this?   Will Mats Sundin retire?  Will he sign elsewhere?  Will he go fly fishing for another half-season before doing so?   And if he does return to the NHL … will he return to Toronto?

    Have fun with this one, folks … I’m looking forward to what you have to say.   You had to figure the big Swede would be a topic here again, sooner or later.

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