April 14, 2010
Burke's off-season to-do list
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Claiming he had absolutely no fear of being fired if his vision for the Maple Leafs does not come to fruition in the near future, general manager Brian Burke unveiled his off-season shopping list Wednesday.
To that end, his wish list includes:
Easier said than done.
But Burke maintains he will stick to his plan of building from the net out. In other words, most of the focus this summer will be on the forward ranks, with the blue line and goaltending corps seemingly set.
And if the blue print doesn’t work for a franchise that has not reached the playoffs in five consecutive seasons?
“I’m immune to the fear of getting canned,” Burke said candidly during his end-of-the-season address to the Toronto media at the Air Canada Centre. “I made the playoffs four consecutive times in Vancouver and still got fired so I know it’s part of the job.”
Burke referred to the upcoming off-season as a “watershed” period for the team, one that will set the tone for the direction of the franchise.
In the meantime, Burke met with pending unrestricted free agents like Wayne Primeau and Rickard Wallin Monday as part of management’s season-end player meetings and told both he could make no promises they would return.
On the other hand, he did reiterate the team’s desire to bring back goalie Jonas Gustavsson and forward Nikolai Kulemin, both restricted free agents. David Nonis, Burke’s right-hand man, has held discussions with representatives for both players, adding that there was no progress to report as of yet.
Responding to reports that Kulemin might be eyeing the KHL, Burke said that if the Russian-based league threw ridiculous money Kulemin’s way, the Leafs would not be in the mix.
Burke added he would like to acquire a first-round pick in the June draft after giving up Toronto’s No. 1 as part of the Phil Kessel deal last September.
“Not because of (the trade) or anything but because I feel bad for our scouts sitting at the draft table,” he said.
Burke did not watch the draft lottery Tuesday, one in which the Bruins were confirmed as the No. 2 pick, acquired from Toronto in the Kessel trade.
“I watched the Blue Jays game instead...I watched David Nonis drinking beer behind home plate ...I wish I had been there with him,” Burke said.
Because of the lack of draft picks, Burke is targeting both free agency and the trade market as the most viable avenues to spruce up the talent level of his forwards.
“July 1 - that will be our draft,” he said.
In order to land a top-six forward, he might have to move defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who has told management he wants to stay. Kaberle’s no-trade clause becomes moot from the June draft through Aug. 15.
“My job is to listen (to any offers),” Burke said. “(But) we are not shopping him.”
As for 2009 first-round pick Nazem Kadri, Burke feels he will be given every opportunity to make the team come September.
“But he’s going to have to earn it.”