ANAHEIM, Calif. – Will it be Toronto or Anaheim for Brian Burke?
It’s too early to answer that question. But the Ducks general manager stopped short of confirming he will still be on the job in Anaheim when training camp opens in September.
“I don’t know,” Burke told reporters Tuesday at a season-ending news conference.
Burke is believed to be the No. 1 target by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as a possible candidate for the vacant GM job with the Maple Leafs. The 52-year-old Minnesota native has family scattered on the East Coast and a move would allow him to spend more time with his children.
Burke, who won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim last season, has one year remaining on the four-year deal he signed with the Ducks in 2005. The Leafs would require permission from Ducks owner Henry Samueli to speak with Burke and Samueli’s blessing to allow the former Vancouver Canucks GM to leave for Toronto. It’s not clear at this point whether Samueli would be willing to do that.
“No NHL club has asked permission to speak with me at this time. Not one team has asked. Nor have I asked for permission to speak to any NHL team at this point in time,” Burke said Tuesday. “So unless and until those two things change, or unless and until I arrive at terms for a contract extension here in Anaheim, I have no intention of further discussing my situation.”
Burke said he is in discussions with Anaheim’s ownership about a contract extension.
“Those discussions will continue,” he said. “This is a great place to work.”
Still, it’s long been believed Burke also covets the Toronto job for both personal and professional reasons, the chance to end Toronto’s four-decade long Cup drought a challenge he would relish.
The Ducks were eliminated from the opening round of the playoffs by the Dallas Stars on Sunday and already Toronto’s newspapers have been filled with speculation on Burke possibly coming to Toronto. The front page of the Toronto Sun on Tuesday ran a headline reading: “Burke Leafs’ $23M Man?” The story suggested MLSE might try to lure Burke with a US$23-million, five-year contract.
Aside from Burke’s status, the Ducks need to find out whether star defenceman Scott Niedermayer and forward Teemu Selanne will return. The two missed significant parts of the season contemplating retirement before returning.
Both players said Tuesday they will wait before making a decision. Niedermayer has one year left on a four-year contract which pays him US$6.75 million next season.
“I made the commitment this year, I was excited to come back, I really enjoyed it, except for the outcome,” he said. “I obviously will have to talk with different people and kind of take it from there.”
Selanne, an unrestricted free agent, said he was happy he returned this season.
“I’ll relax and think about things a little more,” he said. “But there’s no way I’m going to do next year what I did this year. Either I’ll play the whole year or not at all.”
– With files from The Canadian Press in Toronto