Burke hopes to decide by Christmas whether to stay with Ducks

10/22/2008 - NHL Anaheim Ducks

TORONTO -- Brian Burke hopes to decide by Christmas whether to accept a contract extension to stay on as GM of the Anaheim Ducks.

Burke, whose current four-year deal with the Ducks expires at the end of the season, told a large media gathering at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday that it was one of the most difficult decisions he's had to make.

"Our owners are entitled an answer [by Christmas]," Burke said. "The hold-up is all on my end and I'm wrestling with it. I'm not an indecisive person. I make decisions easily and quickly, generally. This one's been a battle. The [Christmas] time frame is accurate."

Burke, who called the Ducks' offer "generous," has long been linked to the GM job with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Veteran executive Cliff Fletcher is currently the caretaker GM in Toronto until a permanent replacement is found.

"Brian's under contract and he's a very good general manager," Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told ESPN.com on Monday. "And there's other people you could talk about, too, but we have no comment on them, as well. ...

"We'll look at who's available next spring and, hopefully, we can sign one of the really good ones."

Burke is pondering a move back to the East Coast, where he has four children from a previous marriage. He travels back to see them two weekends a month.

"I've been doing that since I went to Vancouver in 1998," Burke said Tuesday. "It's a very difficult schedule. And I've got two little ones in California. I don't see either group enough. That's the principal concern. The other is my wife's situation -- she's a very accomplished broadcaster and she can't really work in California. We're trying to figure out how to balance those things. There's no issue with the job. The Samuelis [Ducks owners] are wonderful people. I have a great job.

"This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make and that's why it has taken so long. My wife and I just have to decide what we have to do."

Meanwhile, Burke's Ducks have struggled to a 1-5-0 start going into Tuesday night's game with the Maple Leafs. He was asked whether the uncertainty of his standing as the Ducks' general manager has affected his players.

"That's not an unfair question at all," Burke said. "I talked to our players about this, I met with them before the season begins. I covered all this with them. They deserve to know what's going on. They're completely aware of the situation and I think empathetic to it. So I don't think it's been a factor at all. We've had a poor start and I'm not quite sure why because we had a great preseason. But I see signs of life, I see us coming out of it."

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle dismissed any suggestion of Burke's situation being a negative influence on the players.

"It's probably a topic more here than where we're at," Carlyle said. "Brian Burke is wrestling with a decision that's going to impact him and his family. And he's earned that right, as everybody has. It's no different than a player playing out his contract and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Simple as that. That's the way this business works. And we have to deal with the situation as it is.

"I don't think it's a distraction because everybody has been forthright and forthcoming on where everybody sits. That's the bottom line. We have 11 players in the last year of their contract. Is that any different? To us, it's not," he said.

Added Ducks star center Ryan Getzlaf: "Brian has done tremendous things for this organization as well as myself. We have the utmost respect and what he's doing. He's going to make his decision based on his family and it's his decision."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.