Burke's in, what's next?

TERRY KOSHAN AND STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Now that Brian Burke has agreed to terms to become president and general manager of the Maple Leafs, much of the front office has started its own guessing game.

"If Brian would like me to stay on (in a consulting role), I would be happy to, but that will be up to him," Cliff Fletcher said yesterday from his home in Arizona, where he was about to tuck into Thanksgiving dinner. "I just hope I have cleared the groundwork for Burke.

"I knew the job description coming in (when he was hired in January to be interim GM). I thought I might be the GM for only five months."

BIG DEAL

The Burke signing is expected to be done today, with a news conference either today or tomorrow. The contract, for six years (including the remainder of the 2008-09 season) and approximately $3 million US a season, will give Burke full autonomy to do as he wishes in the hockey department through the 2013-14 season. The thinking is Burke, who stepped down as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks earlier this month, will bring former Vancouver Canucks GM David Nonis with him.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson eagerly is looking forward to working with his old pal.

"It's going to take me back 35 years almost to the day when we met at Providence College," Wilson said. "We always talked along the way about some day maybe getting a shot to work together and how much fun it would be. I am really excited that Brian is able to get this straightened out, if it is true. I am also sad for Cliff because I think he has done a great job. He has been fun to be around. For some reason people have an axe to grind with him, but he has done a great job setting the table for Burke."

Burke will report to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. board of directors, not MLSEL president Richard Peddie.

With Burke on board, Tomas Kaberle might finally be convinced to waive his no-trade contract, while the same could be done with fellow defenceman Pavel Kubina. Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky might have new addresses before the season is over.

"We will see what happens," Antropov said. "He has a winning record and won the Stanley Cup. It's a great sign."

But Burke, whose preference is to use North American-born players, won't try to jettison all of the Europeans. He did some finagling to draft both the Sedin twins for the Canucks in 1999, and had no trouble with Teemu Selanne and Sami Pahlsson in Anaheim.

The futures of other members of the front office -- director of player personnel Al Coates, assistant GM Jeff Jackson and special consultant Joe Nieuwendyk -- are not clear. Fletcher, who has done well in getting rid of a lot of the dead wood in less than a year on the job, is under contract until the end of next August.


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