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Friday, June 24, 2011
No surprise that Rick Dudley is off market

By Scott Burnside

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's not surprising that former Atlanta Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley was without work for only a matter of days after the Winnipeg ownership group decided not to bring him to Canada with the team.

What is interesting is that his new posting with the Toronto Maple Leafs harkens back to one of the most dramatic draft-day deals in NHL history.

At the time of the 1999 draft, Dudley was the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He worked closely with his new boss, Brian Burke, who was then the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, in a complicated series of moves that saw Burke obtain the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.

"The day that Winnipeg notified me and the world that I wasn't going to Winnipeg, Burkie got in touch with me and we started talking at that point and it evolved from there," Dudley said Friday shortly before the start of the 2011 entry draft at the Xcel Energy Center.

Burke finessed a number of teams, including Tampa Bay and the Atlanta Thrashers, into a series of deals that resulted in Burke selecting the Sedins with the second and third picks in that fateful draft.

"We had to spend a lot of time together, and we got a certain trust level because a lot of that deal was based on handshakes. A lot of the parameters were based on a handshake. I think from that time on, we got along pretty well," Dudley said.

"If we hadn't had that relationship, the deal would never have gotten done."

It's unknown exactly what Dudley will do for the Leafs, although you can bet it will involve driving thousands of miles to chilly, dark arenas to scout hockey talent.

"I see the team as evolving into something good. And I'd like to be part of that, to be honest," Dudley said.

Does the longtime NHL player, coach and GM see any similarities between the Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks, whom he joined as a talent evaluator and worked with GM Dale Tallon to help build the 2010 Stanley Cup champs?

"Well, the Leafs are ahead of where Chicago was when I arrived," Dudley said. "There are some pieces in place. There are some very likeable pieces in place. That's a key thing."

One issue unresolved, though, is whether Dudley, a Toronto native, will be paid gas mileage in Canadian or U.S. funds.

"We haven't talked about that," he said.