Burke drops lots of hints

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke spoke for better than 40 minutes on the rebuilding of an organization.

He then spent another 40 answering questions and talking to the media.

There were no blockbuster announcements about impending trades.

But if Burke follows his pattern for building and keeping a business healthy, the Maple Leafs will look a lot different next year than they do now.

Burke was the speaker for the Engaging Insights series yesterday, held in conjunction with the London Convention Centre and the London Chamber of Commerce. He spoke in front of about 200 people.

What he did say from a hockey standpoint is that he expects the March 4 trade deadline to be a busy time in general; that he was offered a trade Tuesday and his staff spent yesterday looking into the player offered in terms of his character; that 10 days ago a team called offering him one of the top five draft picks for defenceman Luke Schenn; that he believes whoever goes to the microphone first in the draft this summer will take London Knights forward John Tavares; and that he expects defenceman Tomas Kaberle to remain a Leaf.

Burke wouldn't give out any information about the potential trade but did say "we're really looking at the player."

Schenn has become an 18-year-old stalwart on the Leaf defence, one of their best draft choices in years. He is probably the only untouchable on the roster. Burke's reaction to the trade offer for Schenn . . .

"It was a short conversation," he said. "I asked him, 'You want me to trade a top five pick, someone who might eventually be able to play, for an 18-year-old who is playing 22 minutes a game right now?' "

When it comes to Kaberle, who would waive his no-trade contract to go to certain teams, Burke believes dealing him will be difficult.

"It has to be a deal that blows my doors off and that hasn't happened," he said.

Kaberle and defenceman Pavel Kubina are two of the Leafs with a no-trade clauses.

"No-trade contracts are coach killers," Burke said. "I hate them. They suck."

Then he defended former Leaf general manager John Ferguson Jr., the man who gave the players the contracts.

"He had to do them to get players to come to Toronto but he was smart," Burke said. "If we miss the playoffs, those no-trade clauses disappear from the start of the entry draft until Aug. 15. We're not helpless."

Not that the Leafs would go in the tank or anything, including working their way down the draft board to get a shot at Tavares. Burke believes he owes the fans something to cheer about.

"If I could make a trade today that would put us in the playoffs, I would do it right away. That's my job," Burke said. "Those aren't the kind of deals that are presenting themselves to us . . . Our job is to win as many games as we can."

Long suffering Leaf fans were a big topic of conversation with Burke. He repeatedly indicated that he had the best job in hockey but that job comes with a lot of pressure, especially a time frame for rebuilding the team.

"You get people who stand behind a microphone and say the rebuilding job is a three-year or five-year process, then they don't have to answer questions for three years or five years," he said. "I don't give a time frame. I want it to happen as soon as possible. There is some timing and luck involved. We have some cap space. It might be a shorter turnaround time than people think."

Burke makes the kind of appearance he made yesterday about four times a year. His speech was a combination of business, sports, earthy language and motivation. He donated his fee of $15,000 to the Special Olympics.

But in dealing with his plan to rebuild business, it was obvious much of what he was talking about will affect the Maple Leafs, from assessing staff and players to changing attitudes to making difficult decisions and being fiscally responsible to making people accountable and getting rid of deadwood.

It sounds like he's going to be one busy guy.

"I haven't made massive changes anywhere I've gone," said the former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks. "We're still trying to assess who can do things . . . We haven't made that determination yet."


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