By hiring Rick Dudley, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke may be indicating he plans to use his three picks in the top 40 of Friday night's NHL entry draft rather than trade them for a centre.
Dudley, the former GM of the Atlanta Thrashers, was hired a few hours before the draft and presumably will bring with him the extensive research he prepared for the draft on behalf of the Thrashers. When the Thrashers were sold and moved to Winnipeg, the new owners elected not to keep Dudley as GM, even though he had four years left on his contract. Also let go was head coach Craig Ramsay and his assistant coaches.
The hiring was something of a surprise, since Dudley was expected to rejoin Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon, whom he worked with when they were employed by the Chicago Blackhawks. And Burke already has a large stable of lieutenants in Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle.
However, Dudley said Burke came calling "the day Winnipeg notified me and the world I was not going to Winnipeg. They wanted to start something new and that's fine." He said they have had a good relationship ever since 1999 when Dudley was GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dudley was one of several GMs involved in a flurry of trades that saw Burke wind up with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, which he used to take Daniel and Henrik Sedin for the Vancouver Canucks.
"There were a lot of people in that room [at the time of the trades]for a long time and we all had to take each other's word," Dudley said. "Brian and I spent a lot of time together."
At this point, Dudley's role has not been defined by Burke, although he is considered one of the best judges of talent in the league. Dudley, 62, is legendary for the kilometers he travelled, even when he was GM of the Ottawa Senators and later the Lightning and Panthers, to scout players.
Dudley was the assistant GM to Tallon in Chicago. He is credited with putting together much of the talent that brought the 2010 Stanley Cup to the Blackhawks. When he moved on to Atlanta, Dudley beefed up the Thrashers by making trades for former Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.
"Whatever they ask," is how Dudley described his duties with the Leafs. "I've got one advantage over a lot of people, that I've been around so long I've done everything."