Brian Burke dodged a fine yet still managed to address a handful of Toronto’s burning hockey topics Wednesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs general manager joined hockey Central @ Noon for a 14-minute interview that touched on everything from the ever-present Roberto Luongo trade speculation to the NHL GMs’ responsibility to not comment on the lockout, from the performance of Toronto Marlies forward Nazem Kadri to the big-league prospects of first-round draft pick Morgan Reilly should the lockout end and a season be saved. When asked about Sportsnet’s John Shannon’s belief that Luongo will be a Maple Leaf once the lockout ends, Burke offered the following:
“You’re talking about a player that’s under contract with another team,” Burke explained. “I emphatically deny that’s not true. There is no deal in place… for this player or any other player with the Vancouver Canucks.
“(Vancouver Canucks GM) Mike Gillis and I may disagree on things from time to time, but we agree on this one.”
Though Burke shed light on the hockey stories developing with the young Leafs signees, he refused to be baited into much lockout talk.
“We’re obligated to be quiet. It’s not just a threat of a fine. Basically, we have a team that is handling this negotiation on behalf of the owners, and we trust them and we believe in their leadership. I was in the room earlier in the summer for some of the meetings. I’ve not been recently,” Burke said.
“If these guys (the NHL negotiating committee) want me to come, they know how to reach me. I’m not going to ask them to go. If we’re getting closer and they think I can be useful and my input on hockey stuff is helpful (then they will ask).”
Burke said he was one of two general managers involved in the summer talks, the other being Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. He would not indicate how the Leafs would approach a hypothetical change to the salary cap under the new CBA.
The Leafs exec appeared on the program to promote an upcoming charity effort. Burke will be sleeping outside Thursday night with nothing but a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard as a fund- and awareness-raising initiative to support Covenant House, Canada’s largest youth shelter.
“It’s a real important cause in our city,” Burke said of the Executive Sleep. “For one night we’ll face the conditions that face homeless youth in our city.”
With no Leafs action this autumn, Burke said his focus has been split between taking care of the corporate side of the franchise, scouting amateurs, and watching the Marlies’ progress.
The Leafs’ AHL club is now 7-4-1, currently coming off a road trip and riding a four-game winning streak.
Burke admitted that Nazem Kadri, criticized in training camp by Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, has scored only one goal this season but defended his player’s one-game healthy-scratch status as a function of bloated roster numbers.
“He’s got one goal. We expect that to pick up. We didn’t think his preparation was as good as it could’ve been, and that’s probably been reflected in his performance,” Burke said. “But he is a good kid and a hardnosed kid.”
The Marlies won’t be the only source of youth for the Leafs, however, when the NHL resumes.
“If we’re fortunate enough to play,” Burke said, the Leafs would be bringing defenceman Reilly into camp. Ditto 2011 draft choice David Broll, currently succeeding in the OHL.
“Those kids deserve that shot,” Burke said. “I want to put them in a position that, if we’re able to play, the coaches have a decision to make on those players.”