|Brian Burke is hoping to get the top pick at this year's entry draft in Montreal. (Sun Media/Susan Bradnam)
Brian Burke has identified his man and says he will do whatever it takes to get him.
The Maple Leafs president and general manager said this morning that no matter where the lottery balls end up following tonight's draft lottery, he will aggressively attempt to move up to get a shot at the consensus top pick, London Knights sniper John Tavares.
"Whoever has the top couple of picks, we are going to go after them," Burke said. "We will start planting the seeds understanding that it will be a long process.
"We are going to talk to everyone between us and the first pick to see what the landscape is."
Burke said he will pick up salary, deal picks and young prospects, whatever it might take to get a shot at the junior sensation, who is expected to go No. 1 overall when the draft is held this June in Montreal.
"He's big, he's a man, he can score goals," Burke said of Tavares. "And he pays a hell of a price to score goals."
In a wide ranging, 20-minute press conference, Burke was animated and adamant in his conviction at making Toronto a playoff team - and soon.
He criticized players who have what he called "Blue and White disease" for getting too comfortable in the hockey-mad city that he said is "a cult, a religion."
"If any of the (17 players) on the roster who has a contract thinks he has a job at this address, he better re-think that," Burke said. "I don't think any player is untradeable. Wayne Gretzky got traded. (Rookie defenceman) Luke Schenn is about the closest (the Leafs have to someone who won't be moved."
Burke said he had offers to move Schenn earlier that would have been good enough to improve the roster to the point that they could have made the playoffs this season. He has every intention of having that four-year drought ending next fall, however.
"The goal for next year is to make the playoffs, that should be the goal of every GM in the league," Burke said. "If it's not the goal, they should get out of the god-damned business.
Meanwhile, Burke was busy earlier in the day signing left winger Robert Slaney to a three-year entry level contract.
The 20-year-old Newfoundland native currently playes for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior League where he led the team in goals (36) and points (81) as well as another trait Burke likes, 78 minutes in penalties.
"We are excited to have Robert join the Maple Leafs organization," Burke said in a statement. "He is a strong power forward, who has good size, and his offensive totals have continuously improved over the past four seasons of junior hockey with Cape Breton."
As a 20-year-old, Slaney is a late developing junior but with his experience, the 6-foot-2, 204 pounder will be invited to training camp next fall.
The Leafs also signed forward Viktor Stalberg to a two-year entry level contract.
The 23-year-old native of Gothenburg, Sweden, appeared in 39 games with the University of Vermont this season, leading the Catamounts with 24 goals and 22 assists.
Stalberg will join the Toronto Marlies for the remainder of the 2008-09 season.