Mats Sundin Is Staying Put.

Mats Sundin is not going to be traded. Ever.

The self-proclaimed "centre of the hockey universe" has been relentlessly gabbing about the status of Mats Sundin for the past two days; will our captain be traded? Has Sundin asked to be traded? In the midst of a six game losing streak should the Leafs just abandon ship and start dumping salary?

I'm all for debate - but they must be based on questions that have a foundation routed in substance and truth. The questions listed above have no such qualities.

- Did Mats Sundin ask to be traded? Well, when the Leafs were in the midst of a six game winning streak recently everything seemed peachy. Almost immediately - and not surprisingly, since they are a .500 team - the Buds started heading in the opposite direction. Then, sometime over the weekend, an editor at the Toronto Sun piped in with: "Hey, the Leafs got pumped on the weekend; let's put Sundin on the cover Monday and suggest the Leafs trade him. Also, let's stop using Sunshine girls from Alberta."

Full marks for the Toronto Sun. It's their job to make the public think, and besides, they've filled their quota for covers featuring Karla Homolka this month. However, none of this changes the fact that Monday's headline was simply speculation used to divert attention away from a decidedly average incarnation of the Blue and White. Without sensational headlines, based predominantly on guesswork the Leafs - presently - are slightly less interesting than a trip to the Dentist.

There are nine players under contract for next season - including the contract option for Ed Belfour that won't be picked up. If the Leafs are lucky enough to make the playoffs they're going to get shellacked in the first round. Unless they play Kanata, in which case they'll get shellacked in the second round. After that, they reload. That is the summation of the '05 - '06 Leafs. (It took 58 words.)

Oh, and one more thing: the current six game losing streak has coincided - one might say, remarkably - with the absence of Bryan McCabe, the Leaf leader in average ice time, points and the member of the Leafs who looks most like Jerome Williams. Interesting.

So, no. Mats Sundin didn't ask to be traded.

- Should the Leafs abandon ship and dump salary? If that was a palatable option in an economic system where salary cap implications and player talent go hand in hand; then, sure.

The NBA's CBA mandates that the cumilative value of salaries exchanged in a trade must not differ by more than 15%. The NHL has no such restrictions. Having said that, why would an NHL team willingly ADD salary in any transaction?

The only logical reason would be if the player were virtually guaranteed to improve your team. Can you think of one player on the Leafs - that they would be willing to trade - who fits that description? I can't. The only clear cut way to rebuild your team in the NHL - which uses a hard cap - is to draft well and be fiscally responsible with free agent additions.

Dumping salary is a useless argument. Unless you can assume league executives sometimes do stupid things.

(I just accidentally disproved my point.)

- Will Sundin be traded? Big Mats is on the hook for $6.84 million this year and next. Based on what was discussed above and at 34 years of age would you commit approximately 20% of your allotted payroll to a player that has 31 points in 36 games?

Let us suppose for a second that the Leafs were trying to trade FOR Mats Sundin:

If they packaged Darcy Tucker $1.6, Tomas Kaberle $2.28, and Kyle Wellwood $627,000 for Sundin the Leafs would be acquiring a veteran who is - decidedly - on his downside, for three young players either in their prime or entering it shortly. Moreover, they would be ADDING $2.25 million to their player payroll.

There's a very good reason that in all of this discussion over whether or not Mats will be traded nobody has actually presented a plausible scenario involving real, live players: there isn't a plausible scenario.

Mats Sundin is a lovely hockey player, and a terrific ambassador for the city of Toronto as the captain of our hockey team. When Mats signed his current deal there was no way of knowing that the owner's in the National Hockey League would systematically destroy the NHLPA like Jack Bauer going commando on a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists in Season four of "24", thus creating the current market. Mats will be in Toronto this season and next, after which he'll re-sign for a healthy discount, go play in Sweden or retire.

Ten years from now, should Mats have his number honored by the Leafs? Now that is a subject fit for debate.


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