Mats Sundin to Return to Toronto?

Matthew Di NicolantonioAnalyst IJuly 2, 2008

After weeks of speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be losing their Captain and best player, there are whisperings (very faint) that he may want to return to Toronto after all.

Sundin issued a statement today thanking all teams for making such generous offers, but stating that he needed more time to think about his future because he was not even sure if he wanted to return to the NHL.

While many Leafs fans have been bracing for official news of his departure for weeks, and even encouraging it, I want you to listen to a possible scenario for the coming season.

To me, the statement issued by Sundin says something deeper than the words actually spoken. Anybody who reads Eklund on will have seen something similar to this already, but it was something that I thought of as well when I heard the Sundin news early this afternoon.

Sundin has had weeks to think about his future and received some spectacular offers to play elsewhere this season. However, his heart still lies with the Toronto Maple Leafs fans who have treated him with so much respect and honour for the last 13 years.

Also, he still believes there is truth in the words he echoed all season long when people asked him to waive his no trade clause: "I want to retire a Toronto Maple Leaf."

Sundin did admit that he was open to the idea of playing with other teams during the Stanley Cup Final this year. Still, that may have been because he was facing free agency for the first time and knew he'd have an attractive market following him.

But, at the end of the day, he could not see himself pulling on another uniform.

Montreal? Come on. The guy has been through over a decade of one of the most intense rivalries in sports and you really think he is just going to switch sides just like that? I didn't believe that Sundin would end up in Montreal and if he really wanted to, he would have signed there already.

How about Vancouver? While humbled by their generosity, Mats has never really been about the money, and I suppose he doesn't see Vancouver as a more attractive destination than Toronto.

The Canucks missed the playoffs last year too, and haven't done a whole lot in terms of improving that club. If it's going to be another struggle year, why not return to Toronto?

Sundin's desire to play for another season still burns inside him, and he can't envision himself wearing colours other than the Maple Leafs' blue and white.

His statement today was just a cover for saying these are his true intentions. It would look pretty bad if he had led teams on for a month only to take less money from Toronto than was offered elsewhere.

Finally, the Leafs will be the only ones with room for him when he does make up his mind. Montreal, Vancouver, and the Rangers will all be going to their respective Plan B's, and when the great Swede decides he wants to return to the NHL, there will be no roster room, no cap room, and no room in the Inn anywhere except Toronto.

He'll take his place as Captain and first line centre, while allowing other members of the team to mature and grow underneath him so that he can be replaced in a year or two. The team may still be bad with him, but it could be a classic overachiever as well.

But enough from me. Am I possibly onto something, or have I just pulled on my blue and white jersey of disillusionment—the one with the No. 13 on the back and the big "C" on the front?