TORONTO — Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan revealed why he elected to fire general manager Kyle Dubas during a press conference Friday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena, saying that he had a change of heart after the former GM's end-of-season press conference on Monday.
Shanahan said contract negotiations broke down after believing both parties had the framework for an extension on Sunday before ultimately deciding to fire Dubas at the team’s practice facility on Friday morning.
During the team’s end-of-year media availability Monday, Dubas told reporters that he would either return as Maple Leafs GM or would take the year off to reflect, citing the toll the season took on his family.
"We communicated a bit through text on Sunday, we had the team photo here,” Shanahan said during his opening statement. "We went up to my office, had another good conversation with Kyle. I presented him with what I thought was the framework that reflected what his agent and I had talked to and a good finishing place in an effort to get this done as soon as possible. And Kyle took it. He seemed pleased to receive that news so quickly. We then talked about the hockey team for another couple of hours and we went home.
"I had expressed to him that it was not my intention to talk to the media until I had something settled with him. I expressed that it was maybe a good idea if he didn’t either but Kyle said he really wanted to talk to the media and I respected his wishes."
Shanahan elaborates on how negotiations broke down
It all unravelled after Dubas took the podium alone on Monday.
“I think it requires me to have a full family discussion,” Dubas told reporters on Monday. “My family is a hugely important part of what I do, so for me to commit to anything without having a fuller understanding of what this year took on them is probably unfair for me to answer where I’m at. I wish I could give you more. It was a very hard year on them.”
Shanahan did not expect Dubas to be so candid on Monday and that it affected his decision to fire the 37-year-old.
“The next day though, I would say while watching Kyle’s press [conference]… I think at that point, there was a dramatic shift in my thinking as I drove home that night as Kyle expressed, he may not want to be our GM and I have to take that very seriously," Shanahan continued.
"As I said to him the day before, I understood those feelings and the pressure players are under, the pressure management, coaches, family members are under. But it was a very real possibility at that point that I would be needing to look somewhere else. As part of my job, that is what I began to do while still hoping Kyle and I would come to some resolution."
Shanahan said he didn’t have any more clarity on Tuesday and had more questions than answers after meeting with Dubas on Wednesday, but began to further feel that Dubas may not want to be the Maple Leafs GM.
“I didn’t think he was going to go and put that out to the public but nevertheless, it made it all more real and all more serious. I have no issue with Kyle’s honesty or Kyle’s emotion. Kyle’s an honest person,” Shanahan said.
Dubas declined to comment via The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
Shanahan then articulated on Thursday that he received a call from Dubas’s agent, who presented him with a new financial package than previously discussed. Shanahan did not hear from Dubas in-person for the rest of the day, but later received an email from Dubas stating that he wanted to remain as the Maple Leafs GM.
“If I’m being honest, I had gotten to a different place about how I felt about the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs and what was best," Shanahan said. "As hard as it was and hard as it is to make a significant change to someone you’re close to and someone you’ve worked with for nine years, a gap had risen within the contract status. Nevertheless, the email I had received from Kyle, I just felt differently and I felt the long-term future of the Maple Leafs might have to change.”
Shanahan then said he drove to the Ford Performance Centre on Friday morning, where he explained to Dubas that the Maple Leafs would not be renewing his contract. It appears that Shanahan is looking for a general manager with a proven track record.
“I want to be open-minded to all candidates. Certainly having an experienced general manager would be an attractive quality,” Shanahan said.
Brendan Shanahan: “I thought Kyle had a great offseason, we had some difficult decisions to make. We came into the season very well-organized, many options.”
— Arun Srinivasan (@Arunthings) May 19, 2023
Shanhan said he’d rely heavily on Maple Leafs assistant general manager Brandon Pridham during the hiring process for a new GM. He did not name Pridham as the interim GM but said he’ll be considered among the candidates for the open position.
The Hockey Hall of Famer said many of the personnel decisions that needed to be made are the responsibility of the new GM. Auston Matthews and William Nylander are eligible for extensions on July 1, while all of Toronto's "Core Four" forwards have been rumoured to be on the trade block. Matthews and Marner have no-movement clauses that will kick in on July 1, while Nylander's 10-team no-trade clause will begin on the same date. John Tavares has a full no-movement clause.
“Me removing Kyle from the position of general manager isn’t the solution,” Shanahan said. “It’s finding something that is a better fit as a solution and it’s the same on the ice.
"I think that’s what Kyle was saying, and I don’t know how you could argue with that," he continued. "If we find a way to make an improvement on the ice, then we have to explore that. That wasn’t directed at any one player or any one position or any one job specifically. We are, every single year, looking to get better. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not but that is always the goal.”