Mats Sundin has exercised his no-trade clause, effectively preventing Cliff Fletcher from trading him and picking up the kids and draft picks that this team so desperately needs to rebuild. A lot of people are going to be angry with Sundin for doing this, saying that’s he’s putting himself ahead of the team. Well, why the hell shouldn’t he?
He’s got the clause in his contract, and has every right to exercise it. He says he doesn’t want to be a rental player because he’s not comfortable with that concept — neither am I, so I certainly can’t fault him there. He’s gotta know that by doing this, he’s pretty much guaranteeing that he will end his hockey career never having won a Stanley Cup. He’s guaranteeing that he will never again play for a team that is any better than mediocre (since even if Fletcher and whoever the next GM is do everything right, by the time the Leafs are turned into a contender, Sundin will very likely have retired). He knows those things and yet he still made the decision to stay because he wants to play for the Leafs. How can Leafs fans fault him for that?
You could argue that this decision will not help the Leafs get better in the long run, and Howard Berger goes so far as to say that it will set the Leafs back at least a full season. This is probably true, but making the Leafs a better team is not Sundin’s job, it’s (currently) Fletcher’s. Fletcher did his job by asking Sundin to waive the clause, and Sundin did what’s best for him by saying no. Mats is one of the best players ever to wear the Leaf uniform, and also one of the best Leaf captains. Given how much Sundin has given to the Leafs and this city over the past fourteen years, he doesn’t owe the Leafs anything.