Friday, February 22, 2008

Only one team is a perfect fit for Mats Sundin

Unless Cliff pull the trigger early, Mats Sundin will play what could be his last game in Toronto on Saturday. Then on Monday, he'll play what could be his last game in front of a building full of Toronto fans, when the Leafs visit Ottawa.

It's fitting that the Leafs would play their Deadline Eve game in the nation's capital. Because right now, the Ottawa Senators are the best possible fit for a Mats Sundin trade.

Here are three simple reasons why:

  • They have some decent young players to offer, such as Vermette, Meszaros, and Nick "Son of Mike" Foligno. (Come on, you want to see the headline "Fletcher acquires Foligno" just so Damien Cox's head will explode.) The story goes that Bryan Murray doesn't want to move the team's first round pick since the draft is in Ottawa this year, but that shouldn't be a deal-breaker considering it will be in the late-20s.

  • Mats would almost certainly be willing to play there. Ottawa isn't far from Toronto, and he could play with his Olympic linemate Alfredsson. Unless he's decided that he's absolutely not going anywhere, it's hard to imagine him turning down a trade to Ottawa.

  • They have a GM who is willing to overpay to make a major deal. Do not underestimate this one. As coach, Murray spent the last two years seething over Muckler's refusal to make a big deal at the deadline. It was the main factor in the rift between them that ended in Muckler being forced out. Now that he's the man in charge, Murray needs to back up his big talk. I think he knows it, and I think he's ready to push his chips into the middle of the table.
Some have argued that the Leafs wouldn't deal Sundin to a divisional rival. I don't buy it. For one, calling the Senators a "rival" at this point may be stretching things. The fabled "Battle of Ontario" rivalry was always over-rated, even at its peak. But right now, it's on life support. It may be revived some day, but only if the Leafs can get their act together and start contending again. And to do that, they need to take the best deal they can get for Mats and leave the politics behind.

(Side note to Sens fans: You may be wondering to yourself, "Hey, if we trade for Sundin and win a Cup, will bitter Leaf fans try to diminish our championship by claiming we needed their captain to help us do it?" Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes indeed we will.)

So let's say Ottawa does win the sweepstakes. With recent talk that Cliff wants to make the deal before Tuesday, that could lead us to a surreal sight on Monday night: Mats Sundin, making his Ottawa Senators debut against the Leafs. It would be a scene reminiscent of the 1990 Toronto/Winnipeg trade that saw Ed Olczyk making his Jets debut at Maple Leaf Gardens only hours after the deal -- except exponentially more important for both sides.

Imagine the ovation Sunin would get. Could this be the first time we see the fans in the stands for at Leafs/Senators game in Ottawa unified on anything?

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