The first thing that entered my mind when I heard that the Wings nabbed Marian Hossa for a 1-year, $7.45 million contract was, “what the hell is Mats Sundin thinking?” And to be clear, I’m psyched about the Hossa-signing. He has more goals than any other player under 30. He’s a fantastic two-way player who just finished playing the best hockey of his career in the playoffs. He was probably the most coveted free agent available. I just find it peculiar that Sundin didn’t jump at the chance to play for the Wings like Hossa did.
Hossa turned down an $81 million contract from the Edmonton Oilers to sign with the Wings. His motive wasn’t a mystery. He came to Detroit to win the Stanley Cup. What makes such a motive so astonishing, though, is that Hossa is only 29 years old. His career is only half-over. Yet, at the pinnacle of his earning power, he passed up $73.55 million guaranteed just for a chance at the Stanley Cup. If he suffers a career-ending injury next year—or even just career-altering—that will amount to paying more than $70 million for one shot at the Cup. I don’t want to make it sound like Hossa’s giving up every penny he owns to save the world. Counting his deal with the Wings, Hossa will have earned more than $34 million in his NHL career by next season. Decisions—like passing up $70 million guaranteed—are a lot easier when you have $30+ million in the bank. Still, there aren’t too many people—sane or otherwise—who would give up that much guaranteed money.
And then there’s Mats Sundin... Sundin is 37 years old. He has never even made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. By next season, he will have made more than $80 million in his career. If there’s anyone who should be Cup-hungry, it’s Sundin. If there’s anyone who should be money-hungry it’s Hossa. Half of this odd role-reversal can be attributed to Hossa’s desire to win the ultimate prize in hockey. People do crazy things to win the Stanley Cup. I just can’t figure out what the other half entails. Few would argue that the Wings will have, by far, the best chance of winning the Cup next season. It wouldn’t take more than one or two seconds for Sundin to realize the Wings were his best shot at winning the Cup. He should’ve contacted the Wings as soon as the season ended. Instead, he waited for Ken Holland to give him a call and when it came down to it, Hossa jumped at the offer and Sundin didn’t. Why?
Maybe I’m not fully informed on the way things transpired. I suppose that it’s possible that both Hossa and Sundin wanted to play for the Wings and Holland chose Hossa. However, if that were the case, I’m guessing we would’ve heard about it by now. Maybe it’s possible that Sundin just doesn’t value the Stanley Cup as much as the average NHLer. It could be all about the Olympics for him. He won four Gold medals with the Swedish National Team (three World Championships and one Olympic). Hossa has come up empty in his international-career with the Slovakian National Team. Maybe that’s the difference between Hossa’s willingness to give up $70+ million for a good shot at the Cup and Sundin’s apparent indifference.
Regardless, Hossa’s “sacrifice” (I don’t want to get too carried away here) is refreshing because too many professional athletes pretend that their number one priority is to win a championship only to sign the contract with the most zeroes attached. Hossa—amazingly and perhaps crazily—is not all about the money. I don’t fault Sundin for taking a more practical approach. If he can get $20 million over two years from Vancouver, then more power to him. I’ll be very interested to see what he ends up doing. If he signs with a team that gives him more than what the Wings were offering (which I’m guessing was $7.45 million) and then says his motive is to win the Stanley Cup, then you’ll know he’s blowing smoke up your ass. In the meantime, I wish the rest of the NHL “good luck” next season because it looks like it’s going to need it.