If Ron Wilson rejects the Maple Leafs' contract offer, it likely won't be for lack of money.
Despite a report that Wilson is unhappy with Toronto's monetary offer and thus went home to South Carolina this week rather than sign right away, a tentative deal could be reached as early as today. For better or worse, the Leafs are known for their largesse in these matters and hockey office jobs aren't hindered by a cap.
"(Salary) is a private matter, but we made him a very good offer," interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said yesterday. Asked if he'd be putting Wilson in elite company of the NHL's highly-paid coaches, Fletcher replied "absolutely".
A source familiar with negotiating NHL coaches' contracts said a person of Wilson's stature could expect up to a four-year deal at around $1.3 million US a season.
But Wilson might yet decide the rebuilding Leafs and the stressful Toronto market isn't worth the hassle. Fletcher had given him a loose deadline of this weekend to choose, though the coaching market heated up the past few days when John Tortorella officially was let go by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tortorella now is being mentioned among those pursuing Wilson's old job with San Jose, while he also is expected to get an interview in Ottawa. Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer was in Bytown on Wednesday, but the frontrunners for the Senators job are considered to be Bob Hartley and Craig Hartsburg. Both have been in for second meetings.
If Wilson is not Toronto-bound, the equally fiery Tortorella could be a good fit. Not intimidated by the humid hockey climate here, the latter said on Wednesday this would be an exciting market in which to work.
"I don't want to sell myself this way (through the media)," Tortorella cautioned. "But I will tell you it's one hell of a hockey city. (Ex-coach) Paul Maurice did a hell of a job and you guys were pissing and moaning because you wanted him to lose (and get a high draft pick).
"I don't want to disrespect that organization by saying nothing about the job, but I have no idea what's going on there. I'll leave it at that."
The Sharks have not ruled out promoting six-year assistant Tim Hunter as Wilson's replacement.
The search for a new Leafs GM remains in limbo, amid speculation Brian Burke will emerge at later date. It's not believed the Leafs are conducting any interviews this week or taking a second run at approaching the Detroit Red Wings to speak to Ken Holland or assistant Jim Nill, both of whom are under contract.