Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke isn't a fan of Kovalchuk-like contracts


brianburke1.jpgMaple Leafs general manager isn’t exactly a guy that pulls his punches when discussing a topic. He’ll shoot you a glare, give you his opinion and if he doesn’t like your question he’ll let you know it too. When it comes down to business he’s deadly serious, so when Michael Traikos of Canada’s National Post asked Burke about his thoughts on Ilya Kovalchuk’s debated contract with the Devils, you better believe he’s got a few things to say about that.

“No one is going to be able to prove circumvention until one of these guys retires,” the Leafs GM said. “And by then we’ll be in a new CBA. But I’m comfortable that a number of these players are, in fact, going to walk.

“I don’t believe these players are going to play in their mid-40s. And I don’t believe they’re going to play for what they’re making in those final years. So it defies logic. It may not defy the CBA. But it defies logic to think that players are going to serve the term of all these contract s . So that’s why we don’t do them. And a number of teams don’t do them. If the league thinks that this is one that they need to look into, then we support that.”

I’m sure that Burke’s comments will invite questions from peanut galleries across the NHL world saying, “Well no wonder the Leafs don’t win anything,” but I suppose we’ll have to wait a few years to find out if he is right about players not playing out their contracts into their 40s. As for the tactic of doing these deals themselves, let’s just say that Brian Burke might not be getting a Christmas card from Lou Lamoriello, Dale Tallon, Paul Holmgren or Ken Holland any time soon.

“Do you admire a criminal lawyer who gets a murderer off on a technicality?” Burke asked yesterday. “So why would there be admiration or appreciation for finding a loophole that somehow defeats the purpose of a collective bargaining agreement that’s designed to put teams on the same footing?”

To put things in perspective here, since this metaphor provided by Burke is really out of left field, I’m assuming this makes the players the murderers and the GMs the Johnnie Cochran’s of the collective bargaining agreement. Got it.

That said, playing by the honor system when there’s nothing technically illegal about molding the rules to work for you sounds like a recipe to get screwed. Money isn’t an object for the Maple Leafs as they’re swimming in cash, so why not make that money work for you instead of against you? It seems a bit baffling.

Burke is to be admired for having his business principles and sticking to them and trying to build a winning team the “right” way is commendable, but in this brand of the NHL it’s like what noted philosopher and former wrestling superstar governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura said, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.” Like it or not, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

Habs depth d-man Redmond out six weeks with broken foot

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 02:  Zach Redmond #20 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during an NHL preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on October 2, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens have lost depth defenseman Zach Redmond for six weeks with a broken foot.

The Habs announced the injury on Thursday, adding it occurred during a recent practice.

Redmond, 28, signed as a free agent with the Habs this summer, inking a two-year deal. He’s appeared in 114 career NHL games, beginning his career with the Winnipeg Jets as an Atlanta Thrashers draft pick.

He was able to secure a roster spot with the Canadiens to begin this season, but had yet to appear in a game.

Redmond has had to overcome adversity in making his NHL dream a reality.

In 2013, he returned to game action on a conditioning stint with the Jets farm team in St. John’s after missing only two months due to a lacerated femoral artery — and the loss of nearly two pints of blood — from a skate cut.

The Jackets have been ‘sitting on 0-2’ all week, can’t wait to play again

Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, center, reacts to a penalty between Boone Jenner, left, and Jared Boll during the second period an NHL hockey game against the  Winnipeg Jets  in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Winnipeg won 3-2. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets probably didn’t need such a long break so early in the season. It’s been five days since they last played, and not surprisingly, they can’t wait to get going tomorrow at home against Chicago.

They can’t wait to get their first win either.

“It’s a big game for us,” head coach John Tortorella said, per the team’s website. “We’ve been sitting on 0-2 for a week here. It sucks. We need to have a good start and feel good about ourselves.”

A win Friday would certainly help. The Jackets kick off a tough, four-game road trip Saturday in Dallas, so the ingredients are already in place for another disastrous start to the schedule. A year ago, they started with eight straight losses, which is why Tortorella is at the helm now.

The Jackets also play Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim, respectively.

Against such tough opposition, they’ll need their goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, to be good. He played well in his last game, stopping 35 of 37 shots in a 3-2 loss to San Jose (the Sharks scored an empty-netter), but that was after he surrendered five goals to Boston in the season-opener.

On that note, it will be interesting to if backup Curtis McElhinney sees any action on the road trip. Tortorella has been known to ride his top players, including his goalie in back-to-backs, so it’s no given that McElhinney will start Saturday against the Stars.

Related: The odds say Torts will be fired first

Don’t assume Fleury will be traded, says Penguins GM

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on from the bench in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Just because Matt Murray signed an extension doesn’t mean Marc-Andre Fleury‘s days in Pittsburgh are numbered.

That was the message today from Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, after Murray re-upped through 2019-20.

“The focus seems to be on what happens with Marc-Andre, but let’s let this play itself out first,” Rutherford said, per the Post-Gazette. “Let’s not just presume that Marc is automatically out. He’s been the franchise goalie here, he is a terrific person, he’s a terrific player and I think that assumption, we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.”

This wouldn’t be such a hot topic if there was no expansion draft in June. But there is, and when it takes place, each team will only be allowed protect one goalie. And if the Penguins don’t trade Fleury, they’ll be obligated to protect him, unless he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause.

Protecting Fleury would, of course, leave Murray as a prime candidate to be chosen by Las Vegas. Unless, that is, Rutherford could strike a deal with George McPhee to, say, send Vegas a draft pick or player, in return for Vegas not picking Murray. Yes, that kind of deal is allowed.

So it’s complicated.

At this point in time, it’s quite possible that Rutherford doesn’t know what he’s going to do. The season is still young, and it remains to be seen which goalie will emerge as the starter in Pittsburgh. If it’s Murray, Fleury might want to be a starter elsewhere and Rutherford’s decision will be an easy one.

If it’s Fleury, the decision could be tougher. While keeping both goalies would be nice, it would also be expensive. Next season, Fleury and Murray will make a combined cap hit of $9.5 million, and there’s only one net.

Again, though, a decision doesn’t have to be made now.

“Our focus this year is winning,” said Rutherford, “and we’ll deal with the expansion draft at the appropriate time.”

Goalie nods: Price to make long-awaited season debut

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 13: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens stands during the anthem prior to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 13, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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That was the likely refrain from Habs fans on Thursday, as head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Carey Price‘s long-awaited season debut would happen tonight, when Montreal hosts Arizona at the Bell Centre.

Price, who missed almost all of last year with a knee injury, hasn’t played since late November of 2015 (his last appearance at home was on Nov. 22.) While he did recover to backstop Canada to the World Cup of Hockey championship, he caught a nasty case of the flu prior to the start of the regular season, and sat for the Canadiens’ first three games of the year.

Price’s backup, Al Montoya, did incredibly well in relief, going 2-0-1 with a 1.30 GAA and .926 save percentage.

Speaking of backups, the Coyotes will have theirs between the pipes tonight as Louis Domingue makes his first start of the season, in place of the injured Mike Smith. Smith was returned to Arizona today to be re-evaluated by team doctors.


— Good matchup in Boston, where Tuukka Rask and the B’s host Cory Schneider and the Devils.

John Gibson is back for the Ducks, after allowing two goals on 28 shots in a loss to New Jersey on Tuesday. He’ll be up against Steve Mason, who gets the nod for Philly after replacing Michal Neuvirth in a defeat to Chicago.

— The Stanley Cup Final rematch between San Jose and Pittsburgh has a slightly different look: Martin Jones, the Sharks’ usual starter, is in goal but Marc-Andre Fleury, who backed up Matt Murray last spring, goes for the Pens. Murray is out with a hand injury.

— It’s Braden Holtby versus Roberto Luongo as the Caps visit the Panthers in Florida.

— Colorado goes right back to Semyon Varlamov after he allowed three goals on 40 shots in Tuesday’s loss to Washington. Ben Bishop is in goal for the Lightning.

Jhonas Enroth makes his Maple Leafs debut in Minnesota. He’ll go up against Devan Dubnyk.

— The Kings will try their luck with Peter Budaj tonight against Dallas. Budaj replaces the ineffective Jeff Zatkoff, who replaced the injured Jonathan Quick. The Stars are going with Kari Lehtonen.

— After Chad Johnson started the last two games, Brian Elliott regains the net for Calgary. He’ll be up against Eddie Lack, who allowed four goals on 31 shots in Sunday’s loss to Vancouver.

Jake Allen versus Cam Talbot tonight in Edmonton, as the Oilers host the Blues.

Jacob Markstrom makes his third straight start for the Canucks, who host the Sabres. Ryan Miller will return to back up after missing Tuesday’s win over the Blues with “tightness.” For Buffalo, it looks like Robin Lehner in goal.