The easy joke to make is that, should the Toronto Maple Leafs lose Rick Dudley, they'll only have another dozen executives at the ready to fill his place.
But the fact of the matter is that Dudley, who came over as director of player personnel after he lost his job when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated last summer, has been a vital part of the Leafs player development and draft strategy and can't simply hop over to a division rival right away.
Even if the Montreal Canadiens desperately need his expertise to help out newcomer Marc Bergevin.
The sense around the league is that it's a matter of when Dudley leaves, not if, as he has close ties to Bergevin from their days together with the Chicago Blackhawks and served as a sort of mentor to the recently retired player there when he was their assistant GM.
While the Leafs may not be seen as the ideal team to poach management from, Dudley is well known for being a keen talent evaluator and is always on the road watching games at various levels.
His reputation in that role is excellent.
"Toronto would be nuts to let him go," one source said last week when Bergevin was hired and the Dudley rumours sprang up almost right away. "Dudley is a genius. If Dudley comes in [to Montreal] he's the de facto GM."
That all said, Brian Burke isn't the type of GM to stand in the way of one of his staff members being promoted and this would definitely be a plum job for Dudley.
What appears will happen is that Dudley will stay on with Toronto until after the draft in late June, help the Leafs make the best pick at fifth (or higher should they move up and then begin his tenure in Montreal.
Burke will then have yet another lineup hole to fill in what is going to be a very busy summer for the organization.
There's some precedent for this type of hire then wait scenario. When the Boston Bruins took Peter Chiarelli away from Ottawa in 2006, they named him as GM on May 26 but didn't get his services until after the draft more than a month later.
One big difference between that scenario and what will happen with Dudley, however, is that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk demanded a conditional pick in compensation for giving up Chiarelli. (Reports at the time had Boston agreeing to give up a conditional third-round pick in 2007, but Ottawa never ended up making a pick along those lines.)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has since outlawed those type of pick-for-executive arrangements, meaning if Dudley goes, he goes without anything in return.Report Typo/Error