New Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said today he never agreed to a deal to coach the Buffalo Sabres and didn’t use the team as leverage before signing an eight-year contract worth a reported $50 million with Toronto.
“I talked to lots of teams, and when you’re talking to teams, negotiation is in that process,” Babcock said this morning during his introductory news conference at the Air Canada Centre. “The hardest thing for the media to do was to figure out where I was going, because I had no idea where I was going. The reason it was because it was a hard decision. We … went back and forth so many times trying to figure out what the right thing to do was.”
When pressed if he had a deal with the Sabres, Babcock responded, “Nope. Did we work on financial stuff? Absolutely.”
Babcock was asked if he lied to the Sabres, who reportedly thought they had landed their man and were said to be livid.
“That lying word’s an interesting word to me,” he said. “You know what? I’ve been in the public eye for a long time. I don’t think that goes anywhere near who I am or what I’m about. I’ve been real straightforward and honest in the process with all the teams I’ve talked to and with my ownership. I’ll even say this. I worked for six years in Spokane, Wash. I just worked for 10 years in Detroit. As a head coach, you don’t work in places for a long time unless you have good relationships and you treat people right. So that’ll be the end of that for me.”
Babcock said he had no problems with Buffalo’s front office structure.
“If you think (owner) Terry Pegula isn’t a star, you’re mistaken,” he said. “Or that Mike Babcock and (general manager) Tim Murray didn’t have a great relationship, that’s wrong, too. In the end, I wanted to coach the Maple Leafs, and this was the best fit for my family. When you put the two together, that’s what happened.”