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McKenzie's Blog: The Latest on Burke and the Leafs

TSN.ca Talent Blog
11/24/2008 2:30:42 PM
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The Brian Burke watch continues in Toronto and nothing substantive is likely to happen on that front until the weekend.

Burke is currently in Boston with his family and had originally planned to fly to Toronto today to pay his respects at the funeral of Chicago GM Dale Tallon's father in Gravenhurst, Ont., but that trip did not materialize and Burke has now indicated to the Maple Leafs that he is remaining in Boston with family through the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and will not be available for any business-related matters until the weekend.

But it would be a mistake to suggest the process of bringing to Burke to Toronto as president and GM of the Leafs is not being furthered in a meaningful way.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment consultant/lawyer Gordon Kirke has maintained a steady dialogue with Burke's Vancouver-based lawyer Peter Gall over the last 10 days and the foundation of a potential deal has been discussed in some detail.

Sources say that when MLSE gets around to making a formal offer, which hasn't happened yet, it will be, based on the ongoing dialogue with the Burke camp, as follows:

A six-year deal (including what is left of this season) worth about $3 million (U.S.) per year and with the same level of autonomy that was guaranteed in writing to Toronto Raptors' GM Bryan Colangelo.

It's also believed bonus packages have been discussed as well.
 
The pace of these negotiations has been somewhat glacial but neither side seems overly concerned at this point.

The method of negotiating is not all that unusual either. It allows for deniability. That is, if Burke and the Leafs should not come to an agreement, MLSE can say they never actually offered the job to Burke.

So technically, Burke and the Leafs haven't agreed on anything, but in reality they have potentially agreed on many aspects that would be included in a formal offer. It also allows the Leafs to present a formal offer to Burke that is not likely to contain any surprises for him. While it would be a mistake - and inaccurate - to say Burke's hiring is a mere formality at this point, it would appear much of the heavy lifting in negotiations has been done.

But the fact remains no formal offer has been presented. One would suspect that would happen in a face-to-face meeting sometime in the next week, but it's not absolutely essential either as the offer could be communicated via email or fax.

While Kirke has been the point man on all communications with the Burke camp thus far, it's expected MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie will be the one who closes the deal and presents the formal offer of employment. But precisely when that happens, only MLSE knows for sure.

The only way anyone can envision this not going ahead is if another team was to enter the picture for Burke and, while that hasn't happened yet, the longer the Leafs go without presenting a formal offer, the greater chance there is that another club could show interest.

And it's obvious that Leafs' current GM Cliff Fletcher isn't just waiting to hand over the keys to the executive suite to Burke - witness today's three-player deal with the St. Louis Blues. Sources say Fletcher continues to work the phones on transactions that may be even more significant than today's and is conducting Leaf business as if he's not going anywhere.

Bob McKenzie

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