Karmanos won't stop Rutherford

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Legality and necessity demand Peter Karmanos make Jim Rutherford fulfil his contract to the Carolina Hurricanes.

But Karmanos' friendship with Rutherford would let the latter go to work for the Maple Leafs.

Karmanos, the owner of the Hurricanes, said yesterday he would not block his general manager from listening to an offer from the Leafs next year and perhaps accepting, but only if his old pal was given the best chance "to do his job".

Reading between the lines, that means cart blanche as a team president/GM, independent from the Leafs' often-complicated board room chain of command. He also indicated he would be willing to act as go-between with Rutherford and the Leafs' search committee.

The 58-year-old Rutherford, a native of Beeton and a former Leafs goalie, has been named by numerous media outlets as a prime candidate for the Leafs. But he has been respectful of Karmanos and his current job of getting the Hurricanes back to their Stanley Cup form of 2006.

"First of all, it's not appropriate to be discussing this when Jim's in the second of a five-year contract, and a lucrative one, too," Karmanos told Sun Media yesterday from the offices of the Compuware Corporation in suburban Detroit. "But I would not stand in his way, only if the situation did not allow him to do his job.

"I would grant permission for the Leafs to talk to him, but I would want to hear the level of control he has. It might be something I could help him negotiate."

Karmanos and Rutherford have been associated in the hockey business since the early 1980s.

"We have almost 25 years in length of relationship, during which Jim helped the Detroit Compuware minor hockey program become one of the best," Karmanos said.

Cliff Fletcher, a member of the search committee, along with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie and sports lawyer Gord Kirke, said yesterday that a new GM is just one issue he's dealing with as he assesses long-term Leafs fortunes.

"We've had some good meetings with management personnel," Fletcher said.

"I'm starting to familiarize myself with the internal (operation). We have some idea what we like. (But) we've also lost four forwards in three games."


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