The presidential election didn't seem to last this long and it went on for nearly two years. But thankfully, Mats Sundin has finally let everyone get on with their lives by deciding that yes, he really does want to play a little more hockey after all.
What's more, his decision comes just in time to let everyone enjoy the holidays without any distractions. The 37-year-old veteran has even figured out which team he is finally willing to joing, calling the Vancouver Canucks the best fit, which comes from that famous Swedish saying: "They showed me the money."
Ultimately, that's what this came down to for Sundin. Forget about what the former Toronto captain has been saying about possible retirement since April, or his hints that a return would only be for a legitimate shot at his first Stanley Cup. And don't even think about his oft repeated mantra that winning a Stanley Cup would only be meaningful if he played an entire season with the team.
Sundin used that logic to justify not waiving his no-trade clause for the Maple Leafs at last March's deadline, and in the process he put a severe crimp in Toronto's efforts to speed up its rebuilding process. But that was okay because that was the deal Sundin signed and was simply enforcing.
Now the altruism has vanished and Sundin has changed his outlook because, well, its convenient for him. Doesn't matter that he's kept a lot of people hangin for six months, while he presumably tried to figure out if he still had the drive and which club might offer the best shot at a Cup.
Clearly this has all been a big show. It was designed to let Sundin follow the path of veterans Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim last year, when they avoided the hassled of training camp and a relatively inconsequential first few months of the season. And Sundin had the added bonus of building up a market that would let him cash in on his own terms, which is exactly what he did.
Sundin's annual $10 million pro rated deal from the Canucks was on the table with a second year attached in July, when a half dozen teams courted him and kept their rosterss in some state of limbo waiting for his answer. Vancouver's cash wasn't enticing enough then, and chances are Sundin would have forgone it again if the New York Rangers could have found the cap room to sign him.
New York was his first choice, but to go there Sundin would have had to take less salary, albeit for what one might presume was a better chance at winning the Cup. Ther Rangers have been inconsistent, but look like they have an outside shot right now because there are several championship caliber players on the roster Sundin could complement. Vancouver has been a pleasant surprise, and when Roberto Luongo is healthy, it has an elite goaltender. But the Canucks aren't deep enough to be seriously considered a Cup threat yet.
Problem is Sundin wouldn't play in New York with a deal that was commensurate with his expectations. It probably didn't have to be Vancouver type money, just close enough. But for a team that pushes the cap like the Rangers, that required a lot of juggling. And with the Christmas roster freeze beginning Friday, Sundin's procrastination made it all but impossible for the Rangers to accomodate him.
Instead he took the Vancouver offer, which is the kind of money a player gets when he can put a team over the top right away. Sundin isn't that guy and has never proven to be a difference maker, despite the near iconic status attached to him from his days in Toronto. Sundin is a big bodied cetner who is a 70- to 80- point type when he's healthy, and a class act who leads by example. Still he's never been an All Star or individual award winner, and through his 14 seasons in Toronto, he was unable to lead the Leafs to any notable achievements. To expect him to lift Vancouver now to the next level is unrealistic, just as it was to think Mark Messier could when he arrived there in the twilight of his career a decade ago.
Sundin will boost the Canucks offense and fit smoothly with fellow Swedes like the Sedin twins, which should help Vancouver in the battle for its division title. Still the road to a Stanley Cup from the West will most likely got through San Jose and/or Detroti, and few would argue Sundin is the missing piece get the Canucks there.
Fortunately for Vancouver, it has all kinds of salary cap space and can afford to take an expensive flyer, even if it lasts only for a few months. It might even be worth it to them. It will be to Sundin.