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Toronto abuzz with debate over whether captain Mats Sundin should go

TORONTO - The NHL's trade deadline is more than six weeks away but you wouldn't know it in Toronto.

Both of the city's daily newspapers ran stories on the front of their sports section Wednesday examining the merits of a potential trade involving captain Mats Sundin. Radio call-in shows also devoted time to the topic.

This, despite the fact that GM John Ferguson has said that he hasn't even spoken to anyone about the possibility of trading his best player.

Efforts to reach Ferguson on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The Toronto Star had former NHL executives and other hockey personalities come up with theoretical packages that each deemed suitable in exchange for Sundin. The Toronto Sun ran a large photo of the Leafs captain with the headline: "To stay or go?"

Sundin is the longest-serving member of the Maple Leafs and has served as team captain since 1997. He is also the franchise leader in goals and points.

The 36-year-old is currently earning US$5.5 million on a one-year contract that includes a no-trade clause. He has said repeatedly that he wants to finish his career in Toronto and reiterated that stance on Tuesday during a lengthy scrum with reporters in Anaheim, Calif.

"I don't want to go anywhere else and that's not going to change," said Sundin. "If they were to ask me about (waiving the no-trade clause), I'd obviously have to sit down and think about what my options are.

"But I know in my heart that I want to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs."

The NHL's trade deadline is Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. ET.

Those advocating a deal involving Sundin see it as an opportunity for the Leafs to receive valuable assests that would help the team down the road. With 48 points (20-28) in the first 42 games, Sundin is on pace for his most productive season in Toronto, where he's played since being acquired in a trade with Quebec at the 1994 draft.

However, the Maple Leafs entered Wednesday night's game against the Ducks only five points out of a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference.

It would take a strong second half for Toronto to work its way into the top eight in the conference but it's certainly within the realm of possibility. The Leafs are trying to avoid missing out on post-season play three years in a row for the first time since 1925-27.

Sundin becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and could come back to Toronto if he were to be dealt away, just as other veteran NHLers have done in recent years.

But he says the idea of being a rental player is not something that interests him.



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