TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs management didn’t come armed with any surprises when it met with former captain Mats Sundin on Friday.
General manager Cliff Fletcher had a face-to-face discussion with Sundin and his representatives but didn’t offer the 37-year-old any new reasons to come back and sign with the team.
“It was a nice meeting but what was said wasn’t anything that hasn’t been said before,” said Sundin.
He was back in the city to take part in a charity hockey game along with other NHLers and celebrities in support of Right To Play.
Sundin admitted to feeling comfortable at the Air Canada Centre – even though he had to change in the unfamiliar visitor’s dressing room. He received a nice ovation from the couple thousand fans in attendance before the game and acknowledged it by taking his helmet off.
The longtime Leafs captain flew from his home in Sweden to participate.
“It feels good, it’s a good cause and I’m happy to have been asked to play in this game,” said Sundin. “There’s great hockey players and celebrities, it’s a good mix.
“But it definitely feels like coming home, for sure.”
It could be the final time he skates around the ice at the arena where the Leafs have played since February 1999. Sundin maintains that he will take as much time as is necessary to decide if he wants to return to the NHL.
Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza spends the off-season in Toronto and has been amazed by how much attention the story has received over the summer.
“Because it’s Mats in Toronto, it seems to be everybody just needs to know now,” said Spezza, who also played in the charity game. “Everybody (thinks) he should tell us now. Really it’s his decision and he should have as long as he wants.
“I don’t think he’s going to the Leafs hanging, I’m sure they kind of know what’s going on. Everybody feels like they need to be in the know. From a player on the outside it’s a little bit frustrating because you know what he’s probably going through emotionally trying to figure out if he can play another year.”
Sundin admits to struggling with the decision last summer before eventually signing a one-year contract with Toronto. The 17-year NHL veteran finds it tougher to get physically ready to play now and is not sure if he’s mentally prepared to do what is necessary to keep performing at a high level.
That’s something the 23-year-old Spezza understands.
“Most guys take a little bit more time to figure things out as they get on in their careers,” said Spezza. “Joe Sakic took a long time (before re-signing with Colorado), a guy like Brendan Shanahan still hasn’t signed anywhere, Teemu Selanne. …
“You just sit back and laugh at how much they’re talking about it. I think if everybody would have given him a little bit of space he probably would have had a decision by now.”