Hockey Goes Semi-Tough
Gil Scott has long been known as a powerful and influential player agent in the world of football on both sides of the border.
But of late, he's started to build a new empire with a growing stable of prominent NHL executives that includes Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli and Bruins coach Dave Lewis.
One of the latest additions to Scott's clientele list, meanwhile, is Maple Leaf GM John Ferguson, who is expected to receive a contract extension by the end of the month.
After JFJ received the blessing of the MLSE board of directors on May 9th to continue with his building plans despite having the Leafs miss the playoffs for the second straight season, Scott has been in talks with MLSE president Richard Peddie about working out a new deal for Ferguson, whose deal expires at the end of next season.
There have been presistent - if notoriously unreliable - reports that Ferguson's job is less than secure, and certainly it's well-known that MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and board member Dale Lastman are not supporters of the current Leaf GM.
That said, neither Ferguson nor Scott have received any indication that a new contract will not be forthcoming. Ferguson recently signed Euro prospects Nikolai Kulemin and Anton Stralman and is in the process of completing a new two-year contract with captain Mats Sundin.
The NHL salary cap, meanwhile, is expected to rise to at least $48 million from $44 million next season, and possibly go up to as high as $52 million. The Leafs are expected to be a big player when the free agent season opens July 1st - one name already linked to the Leafs is former Pittsburgh forward Alexey Morozov, currently a star in the Russian league - so any campaign to unseat Ferguson now would be based more on politics than getting the team back into the post-season.
That, of course, would hardly be new for the Leafs, a team that has always been known to be knee-deep in internal intrigue. If those sour on Ferguson are successfully able to launch a palace coup now, the respected and experienced Scott would be one of the most surprised people in the room.
Notes: There's been a lot of interest in the Morozov angle since this was first posted. He is now 30 years old and has played three years for Kazan Ak-Bars of the Russian elite league after eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 53 games this year, he scored 34 goals and added 49 assists to lead his team in scoring. He never scored more than 20 goals in an NHL season, but he has also never played in the "new" NHL. However, he also suffered a late season knee injury that might compromise his ability to be ready for training camp next fall. By way of comparison, top Leaf prospect Nikolai Kulemin scored 27 goals in 54 games this year with Magnitogorsk Metallurg.