Brian Burke is out as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks and senior vice president of hockey operations Bob Murray is in.
Burke will remain on as special consultant to CEO Michael Schulman for now but that the final word on any hockey operations decisions in Anaheim will be made by Murray. Sources say Burke will, in this advisory capacity, have the ability to freely negotiate future employment opportunities as a GM in the NHL.
That would pave the way for Burke to be hired as president and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the days, weeks or months ahead, if the Leafs and Burke so desire. And there is strong reason to believe that is precisely what will happen.
In any case, it would seem all but certain that Burke will find his way to Toronto as the Leafs' top hockey man.
The move by Anaheim came very quickly as a result of a meeting last week between Burke and Schulman, where Burke made it clear he was not going to sign a contract extension in Anaheim due to family considerations.
"Brian respectfully declined our contract extension offer last week," Schulman explained on Wednesday. "With his support, we decided to make the transition at this time in the best interest of the organization."
It was decided at that point the Ducks would hand over the reins of the team to Murray, the former Chicago Blackhawks' GM who has been working as Burke's right-hand man, and allow Burke an amicable departure that would permit him to explore other employment opportunities.
"This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Burke said. "I'm comforted that the team is in great hands with Bob and (assistant GM) David (McNab) in charge."
Although Burke's contract with Anaheim runs through to the end of the season, he is effectively an unrestricted free agent and can begin negotiations as he sees fit.