Burke to Leafs is no sure thing: Kirke

There's no guarantee that the Toronto Maple Leafs will pursue former Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke once he is allowed to talk to other NHL clubs, says Gord Kirke, who is part of the search committee looking for a new Leafs GM.

No sooner had word surfaced on Wednesday that Brian Burke's tenure as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks was over that Toronto hockey fans and reporters began speculating on how quickly he would land with the Maple Leafs.

Burke, the media-savvy executive who helped build Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup championship team, has long been rumoured to be the top candidate to fill the Leafs' vacancy for a permanent GM.

With Burke soon to be free to speak to other clubs, it seems natural to many that he would slide into the seat being kept warm by interim boss Cliff Fletcher.

Not so fast, says Gorde Kirke, the Toronto-based sports lawyer who is part of the search committee responsible for finding the Leafs' permanent GM.

"We had agreed to put [the search] on hold for a period of time, for the season," Kirke told on Thursday. "Cliff Fletcher has the complete confidence and trust of the Leafs, and [first-year-coach] Ron Wilson is doing a great job.

"Now, if something dramatic happened that [the Leafs] needed to reassess that, they would, but as of today's date there's nothing dramatic that's caused them to reassess."

Burke, 52, figures to be a hot commodity among NHL teams looking to upgrade their GM position. But Kirke, who called Wednesday's announcement "a shock," says the Leafs wouldn't try to contact Burke until he receives permission from Anaheim to talk.

Though Burke is under contract through the end of the season, that should occur in the next "week or two," Ducks CEO Michael Schulman said on Wednesday.

But even after he's declared a free man, there's no guarantee the Leafs will go after Burke, according to Kirke.

"The tampering rules are very strict, and properly so," Kirke said. "Nobody would want to take a chance on opening discussions if it weren't absolutely the right thing to do.

"And even after it's totally permissible, there may be some teams, maybe including the Leafs, that choose not to pursue it."