Maple Leafs Rumors: How Firing of GM Burke Affects Roberto Luongo Trade Talks

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 3:  Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks to the media during a press conference to introduce new head coach Randy Carlyle at the Bell Centre on March 3, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs opted to part ways with general manager Brian Burke on Wednesday, as first reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie.

The move has been rumored since June, but the timing—mere days before the opening of NHL training camps—makes it a tad surprising nonetheless.

Burke's firing is one of the few things that could avert the conversation surrounding Toronto away from Roberto Luongo rumors. But given the nature of the firing, that reprieve could—and is already proving itself to be—a short one.

Pierre LeBrun of had the following to say of Burke's firing:

...Despite the denial from Toronto Maple Leafs COO and president Tom Anselmi, I believe the last straw was Burke’s reluctance to trade for star Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo

That’s a sentiment shared by several NHL team execs we talked to Wednesday, who believe the rest of the Leafs' front office is pro-Luongo, but Burke wasn’t sold on him.

That's an interesting sentiment. I mean, why would Burke be anti-Luongo? He's always had a penchant for high-profile moves—almost to a malignant degree—and getting one of the league's top goaltenders would have followed that modus operandi.

Especially mere days after Luongo explicitly mentioned Burke in regard to Maple Leafs trade rumors (h/t The Toronto Sun):

"I have a lot of respect for Toronto, (general manager) Brian Burke and the Leafs. They are obviously part of the equation, there’s no denying that."

That being said, the Leafs' replacement for Burke might suggest otherwise. Per Curtis Rush of The Toronto Star, Burke has been replaced by former assistant Dave Nonis—the same man who replaced Burke as Vancouver's GM in 2004.

His first high-profile move with the Canucks? Acquiring Roberto Luongo from Florida.

Per the Curtis Rush article, Nonis claims that his past dealings with Luongo had nothing to do with the hiring/firing of he and Brian Burke. But, c'mon. Nonis was willing to pay a steep price for Luongo then—trading, among others, Canucks legend Todd Bertuzzi—and he's likely just as willing now. How could you not connect the dots here?

Eric Duhatschek of The Globe Mail certainly has, writing:

You’d have to think that whatever qualms Burke may have had about moving forward on a Luongo trade, Nonis wouldn’t share the same concerns.

It's hard not to agree. The Maple Leafs' failure to compete in the Brian Burke era was surely grounds for firing, but again, the timing raises questions. To fire him now—both right before the start of the season, and in the midst of trade talks for Luongo—seems to indicate, rather strongly, that the Canucks goalie did have something to do with it.

Whether the deal gets done is still up in the air, especially with the Panthers ever looming as a suitor. But in changing from Brian Burke to Dave Nonis, the Leafs look to have drastically improved their chances of acquiring Luongo this season.