Report: The Leafs are Brian Burke's for the next five years

This negotiation had the drama of Tina Fey agreeing to play Sarah Palin on "SNL," but here goes: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star writes that "the deal is done" and former Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke is ready to take over as the new president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. From the Star:

With only a few final details to be sorted out, none of which are viewed as deal-breakers, the deal is all but done. The former Anaheim GM was forwarded a "term sheet" by the Leafs over the past 24 hours, which included acceptable clauses on the length of contract and compensation.

Burke's deal will include the rest of this season, then a five-year contract that kicks in next season. He made about $1.4 million managing the Ducks, and is expected to see his salary doubled in Toronto.

David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail has more on this deal, which doesn't seem quite done but is a few minor details from being signed. The same details are reported by Bob McKenzie of TSN. One door is opening, but another is closing.

Since this Brian Burke/Toronto dance started, we're sure there are more than a few puckheads who sensed that Burke has had some backroom, under-the-table communication with the Leafs about their moves since last season. It's probably conspiracy theory rubbish, but a Burke disciple like Ron Wilson coaching the team helped fuel it.

Who knows if that's true. But that talk undermines Cliff Fletcher's tenure as Leafs GM, which has surpassed expectations. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun penned a very strong column in support of his work behind the scenes:

He salary-dumped Bryan McCabe for Mike Van Ryn and Van Ryn looks like the better player. He bought out Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft. He waived Mark Bell. He hired Ron Wilson to coach (other coaching hirings -- see Tampa and Ottawa -- haven't gone so well.) He brought depth to the Leafs front office.

He moved up in the draft for Luke Schenn and was criticized for sending a second-round pick to the Habs to acquire Mikhail Grabovski, who as of last night had more goals than any Montreal player.

In between, he signed the impressive free-agent Niklas Hagman, may have overpaid for the steady Jeff Finger and probably underpaid for defender Jonas Frogren. And that doesn't count what he could have done had his no-trade players agreed to be dealt.

As Simmons wrote: "He wasn't the senile old man some painted him to be. He wasn't out of touch. He wasn't out of step." He's right, and Fletch proved them wrong.

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