Bad news from Burkie

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 PM ET

TORONTO - Some Maple Leafs might already have paid the price for the team’s fifth season out of the playoffs.

General manager Brian Burke admitted he didn’t have encouraging news for many of the unrestricted free agents he spoke to during Monday’s exit meetings.

“I told the guys such as Wayne Primeau and Rickard Wallin that I pride myself on being honest and I don’t have an answer for you,” Burke said Wednesday. “I know that’s not what they want to hear right now (instead of) that we want you to come back. But we have too many variables going on right now.”

Until Burke sees what he can land in trades, free agency or how recovering injured players such as Mike Komisarek and Keith Aulie look in the late summer, he can’t fully commit to Primeau, Wallin, Garnet Exelby, Jamie Lundmark and Mike Van Ryn.

Meanwhile, David Nonis, Burke’s contract point man, has begun discussions with the agents for restricted free agents Jonas Gustavsson and Nikolai Kulemin on long-term deals. Burke says it’s too early to report progress, but it would be a shock if both aren’t retained.

“Within reason,” Burke cautioned of their salaries. “Some of the numbers I’ve heard bandied about, what the KHL might pay (Kulemin) ... if those are true then he’s not playing here.”

But getting those two back still won’t mean the picture is complete. Burke says his perfect mix of six skilled forwards up front and six belligerents on the bottom two lines is far from complete.

“We don’t have the split we need,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re 8-4 or 9-3. Some guys are going to have to define their roles here or play somewhere else.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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