The Ducks announced today that Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke will remain with the team through at least the 2008-09 season, which is the last under his current four-year contract. Negotiations between the club and Burke on a contract extension will continue.
“I work for the best owners in sports,” said Burke. “After meeting with Mike (Chief Executive Officer Michael Schulman) this morning, we’ve decided to end all unnecessary media speculation and commit to working together for at least one more year while continuing to discuss my long-term future with the Ducks.”
Burke led the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup Championship, the first-ever by a California-based club. Including their run to the 2006 Western Conference Finals, Burke has led the Ducks to six series wins in his three seasons in Anaheim
. He was recently ranked as the No. 1 General Manager in the NHL in The Hockey News
Annual GM Rankings (March, 2008).
“Brian Burke is the best general manager in the NHL and we always expected him to return,” said Ducks Owner Henry Samueli
. “Our goal is to sign him to a long-term agreement beyond next season.”
“I met with Brian this morning to discuss his future,” said Schulman
. “We agreed to move forward, as planned, under his existing contract while working toward a contract extension.”
The 2007-08 Ducks went 47-27-8 for 102 points, finishing fourth in the Western Conference. The team set new club records for fewest goals allowed (184) and most home wins (28). The Ducks were the first team since the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils to record over 100 points the year following a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Burke spoke with reporters late Wednesday afternoon via conference call from his home in Orange County. Following is a transcript:
I had a meeting scheduled with [Ducks CEO] Michael Schulman for today and it was his feeling, and I have to agree, that the speculation about where I might be going or what I might be doing was probably adversely affecting our hockey club as far as the decision-making that had to take place, as far as guys coming back and so on. It was a scheduled meeting and we agreed that the best thing for the Ducks is to end this media speculation and to focus on the remaining year on my contract to move forward with the hockey club.
At the same time, we have had extensive discussions about my contract extension and this would give us a concrete timeframe to see if there was common ground for an extension. I think all of you know me and my reputation for speaking plainly: I have a great gig here. These people are special, they’ve been absolutely wonderful to me and my wife. My boss, Michael Schulman, is great and we’ve put together a pretty special front office staff and group of players. As I’ve said all along, there has never been an issue here professionally. There are some family issues that have been highlighted by people in the media. I’ve never talked publicly about them, as far as I know. But we have a solid timeframe to see if we can arrive on the terms of an extension that makes sense. I think ending the speculation right now is probably a healthy thing for the hockey club.
On speculation that Henry Samueli would not allow other clubs to seek permission to speak with him:
I think a candid answer to that is: I think the turning point is that we had a meeting scheduled for today and for the first time, speculation appeared in our media. All the speculation before of where I might be and what I might do has been in Toronto media, until yesterday. My boss said again, "Let’s figure out the best way to get you signed and let’s stop the speculation." I agree with that. I signed a four-year deal and in my mind, a contract’s a contract. This wouldn’t be any different than if a player had a four-year deal. I’m not struggling to come up with the right way to defend this or support it. I believe in it. I’m not troubled by this one bit.
On whether there was anything done over the last 24 hours that led to this commitment:
No. I thought that would be the first question: Did someone throw a bunch of money at me or did someone do anything to change things in the end? No. This is all factual and there isn’t another agenda. There has been no increase in salary for this year. In fact, [Michael Schulman] and I didn’t even talk about anything in the contract. We just said, ‘What’s best for this hockey club is to end this speculation and that gives us time to see if there’s common ground.’ No one sweetened the pot or added anything, nor would I have expected or accepted anything like that.
On whether today’s announcement was geared toward Toronto in particular:
There’s been speculation about Vancouver before they named a GM. There was speculation about Toronto. I don’t think it’s been any one team. Until today, there was no speculation in our media. Then today, our papers had stories about it. Now it’s impacting our marketplace. So, to me this is a prudent way to deal with it. It’s not directed toward Toronto. This is a time of year when guys in our line of work get bad news. I’m sure when the next vacancy happens, someone will trot my name out for that too.
On whether he foresees speculation continuing, despite this announcement:
I can’t control what people in the media do. The few efforts I have made in the past to influence how people report has generally backfired. So, we’ve reverted to the traditional General Manager/media relationship, which is try to get along and curse and scream when you don’t. This is what’s best for this hockey club. When you sign a four-year deal, your team has to come first. This is what’s best for this hockey club right now is to stop this speculation and get back to work. They can take me off any list, as far as I’m concerned.
On his working relationship with the Samuelis and Michael Schulman and whether it impacted the announcement today:
I have a contract. I don’t have any reason to suck up to the Samuelis or Michael Schulman. I’m not going to get any more money if I do that. They are special people. When I talk about them with reverence, it’s for a reason. They’ve treated me and my wife like family members and they’re great people. Michael Schulman is the best boss I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good bosses, including Gary Bettman, Pat Quinn, I’ve had some great bosses. If it wasn’t that strong of a relationship, maybe we don’t come out in the same place.
On the impact family issues might have had on discussing Toronto as a possibility:
Michael Schulman is acutely aware of the family issues and made that clear. We discussed them again. There shouldn’t be a veil of secrecy with them. I think most of the people in the Toronto media who have reported on them have been accurate and respectful, and I appreciate that. Nothing was said or offered today. I thought someone was going to assume that someone threw a big bunch of money at me or something else. There was nothing like that. This was a mutual agreement and it makes sense. The speculation is not helpful to our hockey club.
On the likely speculation that he will stay in Anaheim and then Toronto will pursue him a year from now:
Again, I can’t control what people write. We’re going to see if there is a common ground to agree to an extension. We have had extensive talks already and I’m not sure when we’ll meet next. If that’s the speculation that takes place in Toronto, I really can’t control that. I will tell you this: It is my intention to sit down and see if there is a solution for all these things. In the meantime, if people want to speculate about the Toronto job, I can’t do much about that.
On whether he fueled local speculation:
I haven’t been asked about the situation here at all by the guys who cover the team. Have I fueled it? Have I encouraged any of these stories? Have I asked people to write them? Have I ever said anything other than it’s my intention to remain in Anaheim? Find one quote, find one story where I haven’t said that. I was asked if I could state with certainty if I would be back, and I said “I don’t know.” The reason for that answer was that I was trying to be truthful. Until today’s meeting, I’m not sure what the sequence of events is because ownership controls them. If tomorrow, Team X asks for permission and ownership says, “Fine. We’d like him to explore this,” I gave a truthful answer to a direct question and I’d give the same answer again in the same circumstance. Based on my meeting with Schulman today, I would say, “Absolutely, I’ll be back next year.”
On whether he will sign an extension before next season:
I don’t know. That will depend on what happens in the next little while. I do think it makes sense to set a timeframe and Michael Schulman agreed with that. We haven’t done that yet and I don’t know what the appropriate timeframe is, whether to make a deal before Labor Day or July 1. I don’t know what a sensible timeframe is. At some point, the team should know whether I’m going to sign or not and they should go about whatever succession plan they’re going to do and that’s what they’re stuck with. The difference in Vancouver was, my wife and I knew in the Fall that ownership wasn’t interested in bringing us back. That was a different situation than this is, which is we’re going to see if we can work something out. There is no issue here about control. There is no issue here about money. I’m not chafing under a boss that I don’t like or respect. There are no issues that are team-related or financial.
On whether the speculation was unfair:
The day you folks stop caring about hockey, we’re all out of work. This is part of the job. The General Manager has to be accountable and truthful to the media, even when it’s his own situation. I signed a four-year deal and I intend to honor that deal. I intend to, in good faith, work toward a contract extension, if that makes sense. Whether the questions were fair or unfair, we’re stuck with that in our line of work. It’s all fair game