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Nonis To Remain Burke's Right Hand Man

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Dave Nonis has agreed to a restructured contract that would run through the 2011-2012 season and extend his status as Brian Burke’s right hand man.

Nonis, 43, is the Leafs senior vice president of hockey operations and GM of the Toronto Marlies but his most important job has no title. He is the ice to Brian Burke’s fire.

Nonis said three factors kept him in Toronto.

“This is an excellent situation for my wife and my family. We’ve had a very productive year and a half.

“Second is the job itself. I have a lot of responsibility which I really enjoy.

“Third, I hate leaving something undone. We’ve made some real progress. We don’t kid ourselves, there is still lots to be done, but I learned in Vancouver how satisfying it was to see the things you worked on come together.”

The two were originally paired when Nonis went to work for Burke when he was GM of the Vancouver Canucks.

Nonis succeeded Burke when he left for California and served as Canucks GM for four seasons. His biggest coup came when he landed franchise goalie Roberto Luongo in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

Nonis has been long-rumored to be seeking a return to the GM chair. He has been recognized as a contender for the GM job with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Burke gives Nonis a trusted advisor and foil. Burke has often painted Nonis as the calm, thoughtful part of the duo while Burke’s instinct is to act swiftly. Burke trusts Nonis implicitly.

The two disagree, not so often on the action, Nonis said, but on how to get there.

“People sometimes say they’re surprised we’re still friends after hearing us. It can get pretty heated but it’s important for an organization to have strong voices who want to get things right.”

When Burke was in Sweden courting goaltending prospect Jonas Gustavsson at the free agent deadline, he did so knowing Nonis could seal the deal with free agent forwards Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin.

Nonis said he still covets another GM job.

“Will I want to do it? The answer is yes. I would like to grab the reins firmly myself, but one thing that I have learned is the importance of working for an Original Six team. You are seeing it with Montreal right now, the history that surrounds the team and the depth of interest not just in the city but around the country.”

Like Burke, Nonis honed his skills at the NHL’s New York office where he spent four years as manager of hockey operations.

The expense of assembling a rock-solid team is one of the areas untouched by the 1994 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a contract Nonis helped negotiate for the league. Burke likely had a resource many other teams don’t when looking to maintain their managerial talent, the ability to offer a premier market and a salary likely commensurate with anything available elsewhere.
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