Report: Wilson, Maple Leafs close to agreement on coaching vacancy

Updated: June 8, 2008, 5:15 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

It appears that the Toronto Maple Leafs may have found their next head coach.

TSN of Canada is reporting that the Maple Leafs and Ron Wilson are close to a four-year agreement that will bring the former San Jose Sharks coach to Toronto.

[+] EnlargeRon Wilson
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesRon Wilson has spent nearly two decades behind the bench with four different teams.

"We have a verbal agreement but nothing's on paper yet," Leafs interim GM Cliff Fetcher told The Canadian Press on Sunday. "It isn't a contract until it's signed by the parties. And that won't happen for a couple of days."

The Canadian Press reported on Sunday that an announcement could come as soon as Tuesday.

According to TSN, Wilson was offered the position on Tuesday after meeting with team officials but chose to return to his home in Hilton Head, S.C., to consider the offer.

Wilson, who began his NHL career as a player in 1978 with the Leafs, was recently fired by the Sharks after the team was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Dallas Stars. The 53-year-old spent five seasons behind San Jose's bench and left the club as the coaching leader in wins (206), winning percentage (.535) and games coached in the Stanley Cup playoffs (52). While at the helm, Wilson's Sharks were 206-134-45 in the regular season, but they were only four games over .500 (28-24) in the postseason, a point of contention for his firing by San Jose.

Although Fletcher has been given the go-ahead from ownership to negotiate a deal with Wilson, he is expected to be replaced at some point. The group that owns the Maple Leafs, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, is currently conducting a search.

Wilson has been coaching for 18 years, with a career record of 518-446-127 with the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and the Sharks. Wilson sits third in wins among active coaches, behind Calgary Flames coach Mike Keenan and Ottawa Senators coach and general manager Bryan Murray. Wilson also spent two seasons under former Leafs head coach Pat Quinn while the two were in Vancouver.

Wilson coached the Ducks in their inaugural season of 1993-94. In 1997-98, he led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

Wilson also has experience in the international forum as head coach of the U.S. National Team at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and in 1996, where he was behind the bench when the U.S. won the first World Cup of Hockey.

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