Burke: No more summer additions to Leafs
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Leafs General Manager Brian Burke during the second day of selections at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota June 25th, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
After spending the first couple of days of NHL free agent shopping on a long trip to Afghanistan, Brian Burke had plenty to say about the state of the Leafs on Wednesday.
In his first press conference since the NHL draft 10 days earlier, Burke wanted it known he took a serious run at signing Brad Richards, but he won’t be trying any number juggling on long-term contracts with unrestricted or restricted free agents.
In fact the general manager manager of the Maple Leafs announced at the MasterCard Centre that he was “done” adding players to the 2011-12 roster.
“We made a very substantial offer to Richards,” Burke said. “What we offered I don’t think is material. But we lost out in the sweepstakes for two reasons, one, we didn’t offer as much money (as the New York Rangers’ nine years at $60 million US), but more importantly, we didn’t structure the contract like other teams. These deals are front loaded with small amounts at the back end that in my opinion, are designed to circumvent the salary cap.
I never have and I’m not going to, though I wish him well.
“We were plugged in on all the other (July 1) deals, but we didn’t think they made sense. I’m not being critical of the teams that signed them but they didn’t make sense for us. As I’ve said before, (GMs) make more mistakes on July 1 than the rest of the year put together.”
Burke addressed long term deals for certain players (he didn’t specify the 10-year deal that Christian Ehrhoff received from the Buffalo Sabres).
“I’d be very interested to hear the explanations when they don’t serve the term,” he said.
And he repeated he is staying away from pushing an offer sheet at an RFA such as Steven Stamkos, which many fans are urging, but most GMs have not attempted. He didn’t rule it out at a later date, noting that he loaded up on the requisite draft picks a couple of years ago when chasing Phil Kessel, eventually going the trade route.
Talks with the agent for defenceman Luke Schenn, the Leafs’ reamaining big-name restricted free agent, have not started in earnest Burke said and with the opening of the NHL regular season three months away, he insisted there was no rush.
Burke said he was in discussion with UFAs Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb and defenceman Matt Lashoff, but the addition of other players and the projected rise of young Marlies does not make their inclusion in the starting lineup an absolute must. He said that enforcer Colton Orr will be 100% for training camp and that he could have been cleared last season had the Leafs been in the playoffs.
Burke will continue to pay defenceman Jeff Finger more than $3 million US to play on the Marlies, unless Finger could beat out one of the starting six at camp. In reviewing the club’s moves before during and after the draft, Burke called first round forward Tyler Biggs “a prototypical Brian Burke player” and said new centre Tim Connolly will be tested at the point on the power play.
On his overseas trip to visit Canadian troops, his meetings with Mayor Rob Ford that many believe was to get Ford to support Toronto’s Pride parade and the various charity endeavours he heads up, Burke was asked how he manages to devote proper time to the Leafs.
“If I don’t, I’ll get fired,” he said. “Let me worry about the balance.”