The Toronto Maple Leafs are now searching for a new general manager. But in reality, the team’s next GM is already on staff.
The Leafs announced Monday that Lou Lamoriello will not return as GM next season, although the 75-year-old will remain with the team as a senior adviser for the following four years.
Lamoriello – a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame – joined the Leafs in 2015 after 27 seasons as GM of the New Jersey Devils, where he won three Stanley Cups.
Team president Brendan Shanahan says he will now focus all of his attention towards selecting the team’s next general manager, although he doesn’t plan on naming Lamoriello’s successor immediately.
So who will be the next GM of the Leafs?
The top two candidates, in my opinion, are co-assistant general managers Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.
Hunter, 55, oversees Toronto’s much improved scouting department and Dubas, 32, has done an equally incredible job of managing the Leafs’ AHL team, the Toronto Marlies, which has cultivated up-and-comers such as Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott.
Both men have been instrumental in drafting and grooming some of Toronto’s top talent, but only one of them is the clear choice. That’s Dubas.
Last offseason, Colorado wanted to speak with Dubas about becoming the next general manager of the Avalanche. But Shanahan denied Colorado’s request, a clear sign that the ‘Shanaplan’ will feature Dubas front-and-centre.
If Dubas becomes Toronto’s GM, his biggest challenge going forward will be resigning budding superstars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander to contracts that don’t cripple the Leafs’ salary cap.
He will also have to work even more closely with head coach Mike Babcock as well as Hunter – at least, until he leaves the organization – no small feat for a rookie GM in hockey’s biggest fish bowl.