Burke 'always gets his man'

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:22 PM ET

TORONTO — Brian Burke is American, but seems to have adopted that old Royal Canadian Mounted Police credo to always get your man.

The Maple Leafs general manager’s dogged pursuit of Phil Kessel that began in June now has intensifed to where Toronto now is the leading candidate to land the Boston Bruins winger, through trade rather than a restricted free agent signing.

While Kessel’s agent, Wade Arnott, yesterday denied reports in the Boston media that the door is closed on re-signing there, the Bruins’ dicey salary cap situation, its willingness to deal Kessel at the draft to the Leafs and, more recently in talks with Toronto, Nashville and the Rangers likely means he is moving.

‘Has to sign it’

“There has been more discussion, but nothing has changed,” Burke said. “We just can’t send him an offer sheet. He has to sign it. No one has all the cards in this game except the agent.”

As for making a trade to try and fast-track the Leafs’ recovery, Burke said: “I have no problem trying to hit home runs.”

Though he has the first-, second- and third-round picks needed to sign Kessel, Burke can package one or two picks, plus one of his surplus defenceman and other parts in a trade.

Kessel, who is unavailable to any team until mid-November with a shoulder injury, had 60 points in 70 games last year, and would have led the Leafs in goals (36), game-winning goals (6) and been second in power-play goals (8), even with missing 12 starts.

Kessel is looking for between $4 million and $5 million US a season. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli acknowledged a “philosophical impasse” with Arnott earlier this week, but as valued as draft picks are, the Bruins aren’t rebuilding and would seek an immediate return to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive.


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