It was just one summer ago when the hockey media hung on to every word coming out of either Mats Sundin(notes) or his agent, J.P. Barry's mouth about the star center's future. There was the August 1st deadline when Sundin was supposed to make his final decision. That turned into a "soft deadline" and no decision was made of course. Then, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos flew all the way to Sweden to talk to Mats and try and get the inside scoop. That was fruitless, of course. It wasn't until mid-December when Sundin finally decided to sign with the Vancouver Canucks in a pro-rated one-year deal.
Today, Sundin sits in the same position he did a year ago: a man without a team still deciding on his future. The big Swede has said he will make his decision at the end of July (Hey, just like last year!) as he's getting married in August and would like nothing to distract him from that moment in his life. The big difference from a year ago? The lack of media coverage. Maybe writers and talk radio hosts learned their lesson last summer when trying to speculate and press Sundin to make a decision? Maybe, unlike a year ago, they're strongly leaning towards the fact that Mats will retire into the sunset?
And maybe they just don't care anymore?
The Sundin coverage from a year ago got to the point where it became unbearable. Granted, from mid-July until training camps begin in September, there's not much to discuss, but it almost made the current Michael Jackson coverage seem tame.
Whatever Sundin's decision, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis won't be waiting for a decision this time around. For Mats to return to the Canucks, he would have to take less than the $5.36 million he made for half a season and if his play in the playoffs was any factor in his decision this year, as the Vancouver Province's Jim Jamieson writes, Sundin could believe he's able to do it for one more season:
"But the reality is that bringing Sundin back would be workable only under two conditions: 1) That Sundin makes up his mind asap whether he is going to continue his NHL career so he can report the first day of training camp in top shape; and 2) He agrees to sign for much less, say, in the $4 million range.
There will be those who'll suggest signing Sundin last season was a mistake. Certainly, his scoring numbers were a disappointment. He finished the regular season with nine goals and 28 points in 41 games. This included scoring just three times in the final 29 games.
More disconcerting, Sundin never really seemed to find his skating legs as he attempted to play himself into game shape.
But Sundin's play came on in the final month of the season and despite a knee injury that forced him to miss the final two games of the Canucks' first round series with St. Louis, Sundin was one of Vancouver's better players against Chicago, with four points (2-2) in the last two games and seven (2-5) in the six game series."
Should Sundin actually make his decision like he plans at the end of the month, if he does comeback, a full training camp would allow him to begin the season with his skating legs and be a productive component to whatever team he ends up with.
Should Sundin finally decide to call it a career, he'll find himself sitting next to Joe Sakic(notes) in three years at the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions and the National Hockey League (and the legendary NHL '94 video game) will have lost another great ambassador on the ice.