Mats Sundin is not angry at the Toronto Maple Leafs for wanting to dangle him as trade bait. He wishes to conclude his career in Toronto.
Sundin, the franchise leader in goals (414) and points (972), was the subject of trade rumours until he confirmed late Sunday that he rejected Toronto's request to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.
"I followed my heart and I just haven't felt the desire to go to any other team or play for any other team at this point," he told reporters prior to Monday's 5-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
"It is an identity," J.P. Barry, Sundin's agent, told HNIC Radio on Sirius. "He really, really loves the city of Toronto."
Sundin, 37, is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, meaning he could have consented to be shipped to a Stanley Cup contender for the playoffs and possibly re-sign with Toronto over the off-season.
But Sundin, who has yet to hoist the Cup, refuses to be a rental player, preferring to begin and end the season with the same team.
"He was not happy to be asked [to waive the clause]," Barry said. "It was not something he wanted to have happen."
"He does not believe in leaving a team halfway through a year," Barry continued. "Right now, after 13 or 14 years in Toronto, he cannot just, in the matter of a week or two, put on another jersey — it is just not something he feels good about."
Sundin remains Toronto's top player, leading the Maple Leafs with 26 goals and 63 points in 64 games.
He has played the last 13 of his 17 NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, who acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the Quebec Nordiques on June 28, 1994.
"For a long time, he thought he would retire as a Leaf," Barry said. "That's not something that is a certainty at this stage.
"But I think for many, many years, he thought that would be the case. The last couple of years, he wanted to take the summertime to decide how much he wanted to play — and to advise me if it was a one-year deal or a two-year deal — and he would like to do that again this summer."
'He is not angry'
By coincidence, it was Cliff Fletcher, currently serving as interim general manager, who brought Sundin to Toronto with Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a first-round draft pick for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a first-round pick.
Fletcher returned Jan. 22 to help rebuild the floundering franchise, and needed Sundin to waive the clause so he could peddle him for prospects.
"He understands the team hasn't played well," Barry said of Sundin, Toronto's longtime captain.
"It is something he bears on his face. He feels partly responsible for the fact the team isn't where it should be.
"He is not angry. But he had hoped it was something that didn't have to happen."
"In the instance of Cliff," Barry continued, "he was only here for a couple of weeks [before asking]. I believe the decision was made long before that, and long before Cliff arrived, and it was something he had to do."
Sundin has totalled 549 goals and 757 assists for 1,306 points in 1,295 NHL games since being drafted first overall by Quebec in 1989.
He also led Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games.