With apologies to the 30 other general managers across the National Hockey League, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is under the most intense microscope this week.
Tuesday night brings the NHL Draft and free agency begins this Friday, two marquee events for every GM in the league.
For Dubas, who is entering his third season as the Leafs’ full-time GM, this could be the biggest week for the 34-year-old — and that is saying a lot.
He has had numerous big weeks before, like when he, team president Brendan Shanahan and then-head coach Mike Babcock convinced captain John Tavares to come to Toronto as a free agent in 2018, and when he signed forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander to lucrative contracts.
This week, however, has a different feel to it considering what has transpired over the last few seasons in Toronto.
The Maple Leafs have failed to win a playoff series under Dubas’ watch (they actually haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2004) and for the first time during his Maple Leafs tenure, he is starting to feel the heat for his team’s performance.
Perhaps that is why, during his pre-draft conference call on Monday, Dubas announced that he wants the Leafs to become a team that is “incredibly hard to play against,” calling it a “priority” he would like to address via free agency or trades.
Tuesday night’s draft will not provide Toronto with any immediate help with that, not with the team drafting 15th overall, but even with the draft being held virtually it will provide Dubas with an opportunity to trade that pick – or other assets – to address his team’s needs.
If he can’t swing a deal to improve the Leafs’ defence corps or add a little sandpaper to the roster, Dubas’ next chance to do so will be on Friday when the free agency doors swing open.
There are a few unrestricted free agents that Dubas can sign to achieve his new view for a tougher roster, but a flat salary cap thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent him from drastically changing the complexion of the team.
It may be a vitally important week for Dubas, but with so much salary cap space tied up in his top four forwards, there is only so much he will be able to do.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.