If he signs in Vancouver, he'll look like he took a big paycheque over a chance to win. If he goes to Montreal, his legacy in Toronto will be damaged if not destroyed. If he comes back to the Leafs, he'll be joining a rebuilding team that doesn't even seem to be sure it wants him. If he retires, he'll have lead several teams on all summer and then quit because he couldn't motivate himself to come back and chase a championship.
None of those scenarios may be fair, and much of the negativity will fade over time as it always does. But right now, virtually anything Sundin decides will be met with significant derision. That's his fault. He's simply let this drag on too long for it to work any other way.
There's one other option, and its one that could be a perfect fit. It's pretty clear that the best choice for Sundin right now is to make no choice at all. Sundin should follow the Neidermayer Plan -- take some time off, rest up, and then consider a mid-season return.
The move would give Sundin extra time to consider his future. When (and if) he did decide to return, he'd be 100% healthy and rested. He'd be able to consult the standings to ensure he was headed to a legitimate contender, and might even have more suitors since his cap hit would be lower. Sure, it would cost him a half season's salary. But it sure seems like money isn't Sundin's focus these days.
All things considered, its obvious that Sundin should follow in the footsteps of Neidermayer, Selanne and Forsberg and take an extended vacation.
There's one problem: he can't. Not without seeming like an enormous hypocrite.
Remember that at the 2008 deadline, Sundin was very clear on this issue:
"I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June." - Mats Sundin, February 2008It was an unusual reason, to say the least. Many found his stance refreshing in an era where star players regularly insist on being parachuted onto the roster of ready-made contenders in order to coattail-ride their way to a ring.
I didn't see it that way, and I mocked him for it at the time. In hindsight, I still don't buy it. The "October through June" logic sounds like an afterthought, the kind of thing a good PR person would come up with to cover up for an athlete who was having a good sulk.
But whether he meant it or not, Sundin's statement has painted him into a corner. And six months later, it may mean that the only good option he had left is off the table.