Today, the Leafs finally did what needed to be done a long time ago and fired General Manager John Ferguson, Jr., while hiring former Leafs’ GM and member of the Hall of Fame Cliff Fletcher as an interim replacement. Not only is this great news for Leafs fans, but it could also bring Canucks fans reason to rejoice.
For the last week or so, Leafs captain Mats Sundin has been rumoured to be of interest to the Canucks organization (along with the Flames and Red Wings). And with Fletcher in place this trade might actually happen. If Ferguson was still in charge no trade involving Sundin was ever going to happen for two reasons.
First of all, Ferguson’s mandate was to make the playoffs, plain and simple. He knew if his team missed the playoffs for the third time in a row (that has never happened in Leafs’ history) he might as well fire himself. Trading Sundin would effectively be giving up on the playoffs and he wasn’t willing to do that.
Secondly, Sundin has a no trade clause in his contract, which means that he would have to approve any deal involving him leaving Toronto. Sundin has said in the past that he wants to retire as a Leaf; I don’t think that Ferguson would have been able to convince him to say goodbye to Toronto, even to go to a more competitive team.
I don’t think these two roadblocks apply to Ferguson’s replacement. Fletcher realizes why he’s there: to make lemonade out of lemons. He’s there to make the most out of what Ferguson left him. With the current Leafs squad, I think Fletcher realizes they’re probably not going to make the playoffs, so he can focus on the next season and shoring up some cap space for next season by moving Sundin along with other players who have expensive long-term contracts.
In terms of Sundin’s no-trade clause, I think Fletcher can get over this hump as well. Fletcher was the one that brought Sundin to Toronto back in a 1994 draft day trade (for another fan favourite, Wendel Clark), so they have a relationship. He may not only be able to convince Sundin to take a trade, but perhaps also convince him to sign back with Toronto for the 2008-09 season. Who knows? All I know is that for the Leaf’s, next seasons starts today. For Canucks fans, they have to hope that Sundin would rather play with a bunch of Swedes in Vancouver rather than play with a bunch of Swedes in Detroit.