Questions arise about Sundin's future Staff

1/9/2008 12:58:07 PM

While the Maple Leafs begin their three-game road trip in Anaheim on Wednesday night, the local media back in Toronto are having a field day with an all-important question surrounding the club's future.

Should the team trade captain Mats Sundin?

The Maple Leafs enter Wednesday's contest against the defending Stanley Cup champions in 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings, just five points shy of the eighth and final playoff spot. But if the team slides further over the next few weeks, there will be pressure on the front office to deal Sundin, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

While Sundin's future with the club has been a hot topic for months, it started on Monday with the front page of the sports section of the Toronto Sun, which read, "Time to blow it up."

The featured column suggested that the team should explore the idea of asking Sundin to waive the  no-trade clause in his one-year contract. Given the high return last season on rented players like Keith Tkachuk and Peter Forsberg, the team could get an even better package with Sundin's health and production taken into consideration.

The Toronto Star followed it up on Tuesday with a questionnaire asking experts and former executives what the captain could specifically fetch in return.

The list of assets was impressive, with names like Jordan Staal, Angelo Esposito, Andrej Meszaros, Patrick Eaves, Antoine Vermette and Ryane Clowe thrown into the hat.

The package of potential draft picks was also an eyebrow-raiser, with some deals offering first and second-rounders and one that even suggested the first two picks from a given team for the next three years. That's not a bad thought, especially considering the team's potential to hold a lottery pick in June.

But herein lies the rub. For any sort of serious trade talk to move forward, the Leafs will have to go on a monumental downward spiral with little to no hope of making the postseason. If the team is within striking distance of a playoff spot on Feb. 26, dealing Sundin won't even be a factor.

And if the Leafs struggle over the next few weeks, trading Sundin could be easier said than done. A move of that magnitude will have to go through team president Richard Peddie and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. And if the playoffs aren't in the cards, Ferguson - in the final year of his contract - might not even be in the picture.

But as it stands, the Maple Leafs have as much chance of making the postseason as any other team in the conference, and the chase continues Wednesday night in Anaheim.