Brian Burke waffled yesterday when he was asked by reporters in Anaheim whether he will be the Ducks' general manager in September when training camp opens.
"I don't know, I don't know," Burke said. "I have had discussions with (Ducks CEO) Mike Schulman. We have had extensive discussions. Whether they result in a (contract) extension or not, it's too early to say."
Burke couldn't give a straight answer because as much as he likes to slag media in these parts about unfounded rumours, he knows darn well he is at the top of the Maple Leafs' list to become the new hockey boss for a franchise that has become synonymous with embarrassing failure.
Gord Kirke, who is heading the Leafs' search committee for a general manager, is expected to tell the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., possibly as early as today, that Burke is the No. 1 target. A contract worth in the range of $5 million US a season likely would be placed on Burke's table.
Ducks owner Henry Samueli has said he would not stand in Burke's way if the 52-year-old, who has family on the East Coast, wanted to leave for another organization. But there are those who think the idea of Samueli simply letting Burke go is not a slam-dunk. At any rate, the Ducks should expect the Leafs to ring shortly, asking for permission to talk to Burke.
"No NHL club has asked permission to speak to me," Burke said. "Nor have I asked for permission to speak to any NHL team at this point. So unless, and until, those two things change, or unless and until I arrive upon terms of a contract extension here in Anaheim, I have no intention of further discussing my situation."
Burke's Ducks, who won the Stanley Cup last spring, were eliminated from the playoffs by Dallas on Sunday.