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Burke agrees to stay with Ducks through next season

Times Staff Writer

Brian Burke cleared up his immediate future with the Ducks by agreeing Wednesday to remain as executive vice president and general manager through next season while negotiations continue on a contract extension.

The move by Burke to serve out the final year of his four-year contract was designed to end rumors that he is in line to become the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were believed to have him atop their list of candidates.

Burke said his decision, which came after a morning meeting with Ducks Chief Executive Michael Schulman, is about creating stability, adding that there was no discussion of money or term to help solidify his status in Anaheim.

“We agreed the best thing for the Ducks is to end this media speculation and focus on the remaining year on my contract and move forward with the hockey club,” Burke said. “This would give us a solid concrete time frame to see if there’s a common ground for an extension.”

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On Tuesday, Burke left the door open for a possible job change when he said he didn’t know whether he would be with the Ducks when training camp opens in September.

The Ducks moved quickly to erase any doubts about keeping Burke, 52. The Maple Leafs were expected to ask for permission to speak to him.

“Brian Burke is the best general manager in the NHL and we always expected him to return,” owner Henry Samueli said in a statement. “Our goal is to sign him to a long-term agreement beyond next season.”

Schulman said there have been discussions with Burke over the last few months to extend Burke’s contract and that those talks would continue. Part of those talks figure to settle on ways to ease Burke’s travel schedule for visiting his grown children, who reside on the East Coast.

Neither Schulman nor Burke would give a specific time frame on when they’d like to get an extension worked out.

“I want to take as much time as needed now to work through our issues,” Schulman said. “At some point in time, when it’s apparent we’re not going to work out [an extension] and time is not going to help, then we look for the next chapter and that would be finding somebody for GM after next year.”

Burke said that his working relationship with the Samuelis is strong and that he “probably” wouldn’t have made the commitment to stay otherwise.

“If it wasn’t that strong a relationship, maybe we don’t come out in the same place,” he said. “There’s no issue here about control, there’s no issue about money. I’m not chafing under a boss that I don’t like or respect.”

For the moment, Burke said he does not want to be a candidate for any job. And that includes the Maple Leafs.

“We have a meeting of the minds here,” Burke said. “Schu and I agree this is what’s best for the hockey club. The Ducks come first in this kind of thing. Stop the speculation and get back to work.”

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eric.stephens@latimes.com


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