Burke trying to dial up deal
Both first round picks now in play
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke donates blood at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Monday. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Since lining up three decent draft positions for this week — 25th, 30th and 39th — Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke has said at least one of the first rounders was in play to move up in the draft order.
On Monday, he amended that to say both first rounders, acquired from Boston and Philadelphia, could be offered if the right deal for an established player came along.
“I’m not reluctant to move those firsts, based on the depth we’ve added the past couple of years,” Burke said. “If we can trade those picks and get better now, we’re going to.
“But I have no idea if I can pull anything off before the draft (this weekend in St. Paul). My phone bill could feed a small country the last month. I could go back upstairs now and make a trade or have nothing until the last minute of the draft. There are a lot of moving parts. Usually. when I’m at the draft, I’m working on one deal and I stay with that. This one, we have several lines in the water. It’s not my M.O., it’s just the way it’s happening this time.
“A centre is our primamry position. We need a top-six centre and help on our bottom six. We need more truculence to address the top six and bottom six and we’re looking to see if there’s a defenceman who can help us, as well.”
Ready for price war
In the morning, Burke gave blood at an ACC donor’s clinic. In the afternoon he vowed not to bleed green in free agency.
Armed with about $18 million US in cap space with talk of the new ceiling going up about $4.5 million to $64 million, Burke thinks he can handle whatever comes at the Leafs approaching July 1.
He has restricted free agents such as Luke Schenn and Tyler Bozak to settle with and though he said he won’t go back on a personal pledge not to meddle with other teams’ RFAs, he will aggressively fight any team that wants Schenn.
“We have cap room and budget space that if someone wants to do that, we’re comfortable we can meet that challenge,” Burke said.
That thinking extends to winger Clarke MacArthur, who according to Burke, appears headed to salary arbitration. Last season, he won $2.4 million from Atlanta, which exercised its right to walk away. That led MacArthur here for the bargain price of $1.1 million, when he came second in team scoring with a career-best 62 points.
“We anticipate he is going to arbitration ... that’s not a problem for me,” Burke said. “If he ever comes back with an award that’s out of sight, would we consider walking away? Absolutely. You’re not going to accept just any award.”
Texts spelled trouble
New Leafs assistant coach Greg Cronin was up front Monday about being suspended for a recruiting violation that clouded his final year with Northeastern University.
Cronin sat out six games for texting recruits in previous seasons.
“Three years ago, you could text recruits, then they eliminated it because text messaging was too cost-prohibitive for parents,” Cronin said. “We had kids come in who were verbally committed, terrific players, whom we texted.
“I want to put it in perspective. I was penalized for texting 64 times over a year and a half. But if I text ‘how you doing,’ you say ‘good,’ I say ‘how’s the weather,’ you say ‘great,’ then ‘have a good day,’ and ‘you, too,’ that counts as six. To me, it wasn’t a big deal, but the problem was we were under probation for a basketball violation. They (the NCAA) battened down the hatches and did what they had to do.”
Burke took great execption to an ESPN feature that labelled Toronto as the worst city for pro sports teams in North America. “I don’t think ESPN knows squat about Canada. I don’t think they know squat about hockey. No one complained about this as a sports market when the Blue Jays won two World Series titles.” ... Burke will not take back Tomas Kaberle if the ex-Leaf finds no takers as a UFA. “I think we’ve seen that movie here. I’m glad Tomas got his name on the Cup and that his play improved in the finals. Good for him, he’s a good man. I wouldn’t say never, but I can’t see it here.” ... Burke’s wife Jennifer, a Vancouver native, was nearly tear-gassed in the Game 7 riots. “That was 5% (at fault), from a crowd of one million people, of drunken hooligans,” Burke said. “I was ashamed and embarrassed. That was not the Vancouver where I lived and worked for 12 years.”