It looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs will be left at the altar by the top two coaching free agents: Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan.
Babcock is leaning towards re-signing with the Detroit Red Wings on a short-term basis, a source told the Toronto Star.
Babcock told the Detroit News he would meet Tuesday with Wings GM Ken Holland “to re-visit everything one more time . . . I’ve talked to all the teams I’m talking to.”
Fresh off his gold-medal stint behind the bench at the world hockey championships, McLellan was expected to be introduced Tuesday as the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, according to Sportsnet.
With Edmonton going for McLellan, and Philadelphia hiring college coach Dave Hakstol, the market for Babcock is getting thinner, with the Wings in the lead ahead of the Leafs and Sabres.
Both Toronto and Buffalo can meet Babcock’s salary demands — believed to be more than $3-million a year — but neither team is in a position to be considered a playoff team, much less a Stanley Cup contender.
Babcock had initiated a meeting with the San Jose Sharks. It was the Sharks who fired McLellan, Babcock’s friend and former assistant, when they failed to make the playoffs The Sharks are closer to being a playoff team and have good young talent. But they are a tight-run team in terms of budget and may not be able to make Babcock the league’s highest-paid coach.
The St. Louis Blues also spoke with Babcock. The Leafs, Sabres, Blues and Sharks would be required to relinquish a third-round pick if they were to sign Babcock as head coach.
“I learned a lot,” Babcock told the Detroit News on Monday. “I talked to lots of good people. I kept Kenny abreast the whole time. We’ll talk one more time (Tuesday) and then I’ll sit down with my family . . . and make a decision.”
As for the Leafs, some experienced head coaches who remain available include former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, former Tampa coach Guy Boucher and former New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer, who was McLellan’s assistant at the worlds.
The Flyers, meanwhile, surprised many by hiring the University of North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol.
The 46-year-old Hakstol spent the last 11 seasons at North Dakota. He went 289-143-43 with a .654 winning percentage in 475 games. In 2014-15, he led North Dakota to a 29-10-3 record with a .726 winning percentage and a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.
North Dakota made the NCAA Tournament in every one of Hakstol’s 11 seasons and reached the Frozen Four seven times in that span, which is the most of any program in the country during that period.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall fired coach Craig Berube at the end of the season after he failed to lead them to the playoffs. Berube went 75-58-28 (.553) in two seasons with the Flyers and took them to the playoffs last season. The Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup since 1975.
Hextall’s son, Brett, played for Haxstol at North Dakota.
“He’s a proven winner and we are pleased to have him become part of the Flyers family,” Hextall said in a statement.
- With file from The Associated Press