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Helene Elliott

Selanne could be here longer than Burke

September 29, 2008|Helene Elliott

Teemu Selanne will outlast General Manager Brian Burke in Anaheim, or so it seems now that the dynamic right wing has signed a two-year contract that will carry him to the end of his glorious career.

Selanne, the Ducks' all-time leading scorer, will earn $3.25 million this season and $2 million in 2009-10, a salary-cap hit of $2.625 million per season. The Ducks, who dumped Mathieu Schneider's hefty salary on Atlanta on Friday, are still about $1.2 million over the cap, but that's easily fixed by trading a player for a draft pick or sending someone to the minor leagues.

"This will be an easier process. It will be a pure hockey decision that makes sense or we've got internal options that will solve it, and if we have to do that, we'll do it," Burke said.

"I think you folks know I'm not very sentimental."

No one has accused him of being sappy when it comes to hockey decisions, but sentiment will play a part in whether he will remain here.

Burke, who molded the Ducks into Stanley Cup champions by rebuilding their defense and making toughness their trademark, is in the last year of his contract. He has left a lucrative extension on the table while he weighs the benefits of a big budget and warm weather against tough travel and a long-distance relationship with his four oldest children, who live back east.

Selanne, 38, was so intent on staying that he reported to camp on an uninsured tryout agreement. His deal is reasonable: He scored 48 goals in 2006-07 and 12 in 26 games last season after his post-Cup sabbatical, and he looked sharp Sunday in scoring twice on power-play wrist shots.

The only potential drawback for the Ducks is they'd have to absorb the cap hit if Selanne doesn't play next season. His enthusiasm and desire to play for his native Finland at the 2010 Olympics hint he will play both seasons.

He didn't think of playing anywhere but here.

"This was the only choice that I had," he said Sunday after scoring twice in the Ducks' 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks in an exhibition at the Honda Center.

"Obviously, I want to finish my career here, and I'm very happy that things worked out well. I have nothing but great things to say about this organization."

Burke has many choices. Staying seems the least likely and going to Toronto most likely because he'd be close to his family. The general manager's job there would also appeal to his ego: He could be elected prime minister of Canada if he won the Cup with a team that hasn't triumphed since 1967.

Burke, to his credit, wouldn't discuss his situation. He wants the focus to remain on his team, which has plenty of work to do.

The Ducks' penalty-killing, a weakness in their brief playoff appearance last spring, allowed two power-play goals Sunday. Projected second-line center Brendan Morrison, cautious with his surgically repaired right knee, hasn't played but is penciled in for three of the last four exhibition games.

"There's a lot of hard work ahead, that's why I didn't want to miss any day of this camp," Selanne said. "There are a lot of things to prove, myself and the whole team, but I have a good feeling about this. A lot of guys are so hungry."

Selanne, now firmly rooted here, said he'd like to see Burke return too.

"Absolutely. What he has done with this organization is unbelievable," Selanne said.

"Obviously a lot of class things have happened since he came here. He's a players' GM, and I heard that before he came here. And it's great to realize how much he cares about his players."

Burke cares enough to give them an excellent chance to win this season and beyond. In signing Selanne for two years he didn't unfairly burden his successor, and he has core players Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on long-term deals. Nor did he take on a big, long-term contract in the Schneider trade.

Coach Randy Carlyle grumbled Sunday about some players lacking urgency, but he was delighted Selanne had signed.

"It brings closure to anything that was if, if, if," Carlyle said, "and that's what we lived for a good part of last year and we didn't want to start that way."

They can live with uncertainty about Burke's future because it's far enough removed to not affect them. He has given them the tools to succeed, though he may see it only from afar.

--

Helene Elliott can be reached at helene.elliott@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Elliott, go to latimes.com/elliott.

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