STOCKHOLM, Sweden – NHL camps open in two weeks but Mats Sundin is still pondering his hockey future.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs captain, who became an unrestricted free agent in July, does not expect to make a decision anytime soon. “I will not make up my mind before the season starts,” Sundin told a news conference Wednesday. “That’s how I feel right now. Others have started playing in the middle of the season. If I would feel like retiring I would say it.”
The 37-year-old Sundin is working out and says he’s in good shape.
“I skated yesterday and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I love to play hockey. I’ve played since I was five, but the question is if I can play at the highest level again.”
Sundin will be in Toronto to participate in the Festival Cup charity game on Friday night and Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher plans to sit down with him for a meeting while he’s in town.
The Maple Leafs have plenty of salary cap room to sign him but Fletcher is simply looking to renew acquaintances.
“We’re not anticipating anything other than a private meeting so that there’s a good understanding of what can happen in the next period of time,” Fletcher said Tuesday.
Speculation about Sundin’s future has grabbed headlines all summer in Canada and Sweden.
He has received contract offers from a number of teams, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and the New York Rangers.
“I was very flattered about all this interest,” Sundin said.
But he has no idea where he’ll play if he decides to return for another season.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about any club,” Sundin said. “That will be a later question if I decide to keep on playing. But it will be an NHL club. I don’t think I’ll ever play in the (Swedish) Elite League again.”
Sundin has played 17 seasons in the NHL and he says it’s getting tougher each year.
“I have to prepare differently and warm up 30, 40 minutes before a practice session,” he said. “I didn’t have to do that when I was 25.”
Sundin, who won Olympic and world championship gold medals for Sweden but never a Stanley Cup ring during 14 years with the Leafs, will join NHLers and celebrities Friday playing in support of Right To Play. The international charitable organization uses sport to improve the lives of children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease.
While pondering his hockey future, Sundin is spending more time on another passion – poker.
He signed a deal with PokerStars.com and joined former tennis star Boris Becker as the site’s ambassador. All winnings will go to charity, he said.
Next week, Sundin is heading to a European Poker Tour event in Barcelona, Spain.
“I’m an amateur, I hope I can improve until then,” he said.