Key jobs in the Maple Leafs' new front office, including a head coach, might be chosen by the old guard before the next general manager is hired.
Call it more meddling by the team's board of directors, a stalling tactic until Brian Burke's availability is settled or a prudent move with the free-agency season approaching on July 1, but the fidget factor is rising at 40 Bay St.
"It's no longer April 7, it's May 26 and this club can't stay in neutral," interim GM Cliff Fletcher said yesterday amid talk his caretaker role will be extended.
There is some news on the interview front, as former Dallas Stars GM Doug Armstrong is slated to be grilled in the coming days.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president and CEO Richard Peddie said he was prepared to fill some high-profile hockey positions ahead of a new GM, with Fletcher getting the nod to conduct some interviews.
That confirms why former Vancouver Canucks GM David Nonis was here a couple of weeks ago to hear a Leafs offer to join the operation's business side, though he is not ready to give up the idea of being a GM.
Toronto was rebuffed by the Florida Panthers last week in seeking permission to talk to Joe Nieuwendyk, whose contract as advisor ends July 1.
Citing the Stanley Cup finalist Red Wings as the ideal model -- Detroit's masthead includes Ken Holland, Scotty Bowman, Jim Nill, Jim Devellano and Steve Yzerman --Peddie defended his hiring initiative after months of talk that a new hockey czar would have full autonomy.
"The kind of people we're thinking of would be no-brainers for any incoming president/general manager," Peddie said.
"Some of those people might be in place (before the GM). We've got some time to wait, but it's not infinite. We have to put a team on the ice, a coach in place, set a budget. That's the luxury of having someone such as Cliff."
Fletcher is engaged in trade talks, possible buyouts and has wrapped up pro and amateur scouting meetings pertaining to the June 20 draft and July free agency.
"I'm starting to prepare to move forward," Fletcher said. "My stamp is going to be on this, whenever my tenure ends. I'm operating under the goal of making this team the top in the league."
It will be interesting to see how a longer stay by Fletcher impacts Mats Sundin's decision about his future. The soon-to-be free agent hasn't committed to returning.
Heavy speculation remains that the Leafs intend to wait out Burke until his contract with the Anaheim Ducks expires in 13 months. Nonis' value here would then be enhanced as a bridge to Burke, his former boss, or to put pressure on the Ducks to allow Burke to come here.
Peddie and search committee member Gord Kirke will not comment on GM candidates, though after being refused permission to talk to Burke, Nieuwendyk, anyone in Detroit and San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson, there is clearance to contact Armstrong.