Leafs 'flexible', but wary of tampering

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

CALGARY -- Richard Peddie knows the walls have ears.

Isn't that right, Gary Bettman?

As a result, Peddie, the president of Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment Ltd., was not about to announce any plans yesterday to send a limo to Pearson Airport to pick up Brian Burke and immediately have him sign a new contract.

The NHL does have tampering rules, you know.

But while he did not identify Burke by name, Peddie admitted that the door is open for the hiring of a new president/general manager for the Maple Leafs in mid-season.

The hunt for candidates by the search committee previously had been put on hold until the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign. Suddenly, by no coincidence, things seemed to have changed now that Burke has resigned as GM of the Anaheim Ducks.

"Everything's flexible," Peddie said. "We hired Brian Colangelo (as Raptors boss) in the middle of the season so that door is not closed. We need to learn a lot more."

Peddie admitted the Leafs had previously asked permission from the Ducks to speak with Burke last off-season.

"Yes we had. We asked a number of candidates. Some said yes, some said no," Peddie said. "We have to go back and think about it," he added, referring to Burke's status as a candidate. "Are we still interested in him and, if we are, there are procedures to be followed. Tampering goes long after someone steps down. It really does reach out and you can open yourself to significant fines (if you don't follow procedure)."

Peddie said he was caught off guard by the news that Burke was stepping down in Anaheim.

"I'm not going to speculate on this," he said. "This comes as a complete surprise to me.

"As you know, we shut down our search back in August or so. Cliff (Fletcher) is running the team. We shut down the search until the spring.

"This is new news. I can't talk about Brian. I don't know the situation. Even when people are let go, there is still permission to be granted. So really, I have nothing to add other than Brian has done a great job out there. He won a Stanley Cup."

Fletcher, the Leafs GM whose contract runs out next summer, maintains he does not want the job long term.

"When it comes to my future, if I spend next winter in Arizona I won't be disappointed," Fletcher said.

"Nothing shocks me in professional sports these days," he said of the Burke resignation. "But the thing I'm concerned about is the hockey team and the organization -- making sure things stay on track.

"My job is to keep everybody in line and focused on the task ahead."


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