Saturday, June 28, 2008

What the Leafs should offer Sundin

With July 1 only a few days away, and Mats Sundin still hidden away in Sweden, it seems almost certain the Leafs captain will become an unrestricted free agent. While he'll cease to be Leafs' property on Tuesday, the team can still make a bid for him. And despite everything I've written about him, I think they should bid. And bid hard.

If I'm Cliff Fletcher, here's the offers I send JP Barry at 12:01 on Tuesday.
  • A one-year deal, at a salary of $10M. This would make Sundin the highest paid player, in terms of average salary and cap hit, in the history of the NHL.
  • A limited no-trade clause, as follows:
    • On February 1, 2009, the Leafs supply Sundin with a list of ten teams of their choice
    • By February 15, Sundin must choose three teams from that list that he would be willing to accept a trade to.
    • If at any point between February 1 and the trade deadline the Leafs are among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference in points, the deal converts to a complete no-trade clause
To summarize: the highest paid player in league history, and a NTC that covers 90% of the league. Think we'd get his attention with that offer?

It goes without saying that the $10M is a huge overpayment that can't really be justified based on Sundin's play. But that's not what you're paying for. You're paying for the right to trade him in February. Essentially, the Leafs are using their financial muscle to buy a premium package of draft picks and prospects.

The Leafs have plenty of cap room, and it's cap room that they really shouldn't be spending on big name UFAs. This deal would still leave them with enough cap space to sign their key RFAs and add a player or two to fill out the roster.

Of course, there's no guarantee Sundin would accept the deal. In fact, I suspect he wouldn't. That's fine too. If a total NTC is so important to him, or he just plain wants out of Toronto, then let him sign with Montreal or the Rangers for a fraction of what the Leafs offer. That's his call.

But at least if will clearly be his choice. Nobody will be able to accuse the Leafs of not making the best offer, and Sundin won't ever be able to play the "no respect" card. If the Leafs make him this kind of offer and he still bolts for the Habs, fans everywhere will always know that there was nothing the Leafs could have done to keep Sundin. He knew he was leaving all along.

Make the call, Cliff.


  1. i think you propose a very good idea. i just don't think mats would accept it - goes against his wish of never being a rental.

    it looks like we're sticking to our $7 million offer, with a JFJ style no movement clause...

  2. Good idea. I'm not sure he'd take it, but at least he'd have to think about it - and I'm not sure there are that many really attractive places for him. He doesn't seem too keen on Montreal and Detroit and New York won't offer him that much money.

  3. I think this proposal only sets up Sundin to be the fall guy as far as Leaf fans are concerned. Look how quickly a 6+ million dollar contract turned McCabe from the next Niedermayer to local goat.

    Unfortunately, many Toronto fans and media aren't real good in the expectation department, nor are they terribly loyal.

    I think a 10 million dollar contract may make for an uglier outcome (as far as fan appreciation goes) than having Sundin walk away now... even if it is toward Montreal.

  4. Hey DGB. I think this is a really good suggestion. Even cunning. It would take a lot of balls, but they don't call Cliff the Sly Fox for nothing.
    My biggest concern with Sundin right now is the whole "not even sure if he wants to play" thing. That's not the kind of hockey player I want on my team. I want palyers who's sole desire is to win the Stanley Cup. Wanting to play hockey should be a given, not something you should have to think about. Sundin's lack of ambition for success, and the absence of enthusiasm for the game we love, is most troubling, and I hope this is an attitude the Leafs will distance themselves from.