Maple Leafs interested in adding Gretzky to MLSE Staff

12/5/2013 10:15:46 AM

With the NHL having paid Wayne Gretzky the remaining funds owed to Wayne Gretzky from the Phoenix Coyotes, the rumours of his next NHL destination are in full swing.

And they're pointing to the NHL's biggest market: Toronto.

With Gretzky paid out for what is believed to be $7 to 8 million, Gretzky may be eager to get back into the NHL and TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reports that the Maple Leafs are very much interested in The Great One's services.

But could it actually happen?

Dreger spoke with TSN Radio 1050 Toronto's Mike Richards this morning, stating that there is a fit between Gretzky and the Leafs.

"There definitely is a possibility because there is some history here," Dreger told TSN Radio. "Prior to the start of the season I know that [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO] Tim Leiweke and Wayne Gretzky and probably some legal people involved in this negotiation as well went back and forth and came very close until the deal broke down for a number of reasons that remain somewhat uncertain. The belief is that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment wanted Gretzky at the time and still want him as almost an ambassador-type."

However, MLSE doesn't see "ambassador-type" as merely a figure-head or spokesperson role, according to Dreger.

"This isn't a token position," he told Richards. "They want to put him to work and they want to use him in different areas and not to pay specific attention to just the Toronto Maple Leafs."

Dreger added that it's not likely that Gretzky will be asked to fix the on-ice product of the Leafs.

"They're happy with the work Dave Nonis is doing and don't want to interfere with the hockey operations department, but when you've got someone as [high] profile as Wayne Gretzky it makes a lot of sense, I suppose, to MLSE to do whatever you can to lure him in," he said.

Gretzky and the Leafs have been linked by rumours throughout the year, including the off-season rumours as well as The Great One praising the young Leafs' response to head coach Randy Carlyle in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins.

"It's about believing in your system. The system starts with the head coach," Gretzky said of the Leafs following a gutsy Game 5 win over the Bruins. "He's got tremendous credibility after winning a Stanley Cup himself [2007 in Anaheim]. It's not a question of players saying, 'Are we sure he knows what he's doing?' Because they're absolutely positive he knows what he's doing. The credibility starts right there with the coach."

But would there be a fit between Gretzky and the team closest to his home town?

Dreger thinks MLSE is at least willing to give it another try.

"It didn't work out prior to the season but the sense I get is that there'll be another attempt and I know that the Toronto Maple Leafs - or MLSE, as it were, as the bigger company – is definitely worth listening to if you're Wayne Gretzky."