Quinn on his way back

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:29 PM ET

Pat Quinn is coming back as coach of the Maple Leafs -- soon. That seemed to be the position taken by general manager John Ferguson yesterday when asked to comment on reports that the coach with the highest winning percentage in club history had been inked to a two-year extension, or was on the verge of signing next week. Quinn did not return phone calls yesterday.

"I do not have a comment ... things are status quo with (negotiations)," Ferguson said last night.

But earlier this month, Ferguson told The Toronto Sun he was in serious contract talks with Quinn and, at that time, the latter expressed a desire to return for a seventh season and possibly beyond.

"My years here have been filled with lots of joy, although there have been moments of sorrow sprinkled in there," said Quinn, who turns 62 a week today. "I love the Toronto Maple Leafs. It has been an outstanding run and I look forward to staying on."

The unusual timing of the discussions, just as the NHL 2004-05 season is on the verge of collapse, likely confirms reports Quinn had a clause in his old deal to get re-signed by a January deadline or collect a six-figure settlement from the Leafs. That has been pegged as high as $500,000 US.

JUST ONE HAT

Quinn was already making around $1.5 million on his previous deal as GM and coach, but likely is getting less for wearing just one hat as he did when first hired in 1998.

Ferguson sidestepped the question of whether he is under a time restriction to retain Quinn or write a big severance cheque.

"What I have said already is that I do not view that (reported clause) as a deadline and neither does Pat," Ferguson said.

Quinn has had his run-ins over the years with many Leafs, some of whom have criticized him privately and publically as uncommunicative. But since he dropped his GM's role in the summer of 2003, relations have improved.

As news of an imminent signing leaked out last night, forward Darcy Tucker said: "I'm happy for him and it is good for our club. He has been with the club for years and brings stability."


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