The Toronto Maple Leafs and Kyle Dubas parted ways on Friday, ending his five-year run as the team's general manager.
The decision came a week after the Florida Panthers eliminated Toronto from the playoffs in five games. Dubas was finally able to construct a roster that pushed the Leafs past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but the Panthers made quick work of them in Round 2.
"I would like to thank Kyle for his unwavering dedication over these last nine seasons with the organization, including his last five as General Manager," president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. "Kyle fostered a great culture within our dressing room and staff, and consistently pushed to make our team better season over season. We wish Kyle and his family the best moving forward and thank him for his valuable contributions."
Shanahan explained in detail what led to the decision during a revealing press conference Friday afternoon, most notably saying that he offered Dubas a new contract but had a change of heart after receiving a counter offer from the former GM's agent on Thursday.
"If I'm being honest, I had gotten to a different place about how I felt about the future or the Toronto Maple Leafs and what was best," Shanahan said. "And as hard as it is to make a significant change to somebody that you're close to and that you've been working with for nine years, a gap had risen within the contract status. I just felt differently and I felt that the long-term future of the Maple Leafs might have to change."
Following elimination, both the Leafs and Kyle Dubas seemingly wanted to get a new deal done.
Brendan Shanahan details what changed. pic.twitter.com/Y1J2VFFQNo
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 19, 2023
Shanahan also said that he was surprised by Dubas's decision to reveal publicly that he was having second thoughts about returning next season.
"I didn't expect he was going to go out and put that to the public, but nevertheless it made it all more real and all more serious," Shanahan said. "It certainly presented lots of questions. I have no issues with Kyle's honesty, Kyle's emotions, Kyle is an honest person.
"We have all had these experiences, whether it's as a player or in management, how this can impact your children, at school, or your family, so I want to be empathetic and understanding that that's a real thing."
Dubas wasn't the only front office member to leave the organization, as Jason Spezza — who served as special assistant to the general manager — submitted his resignation prior to Shanahan's news conference, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.
Toronto enjoyed tremendous regular-season success during Dubas's tenure, making the playoffs each year. The results did not follow in the playoffs, prompting annual questions about the team's roster construction as an enormous portion of its salary cap was taken up by John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Dubas made a number of moves in an effort to get Toronto over the hump in 2022-23, bringing in veterans like Ryan O'Reilly, Noel Acciari, Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe at the trade deadline. Other notable players acquired via trade in the Dubas era include Matt Murray, Mark Giordano, Nick Foligno, Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie.
It's unclear what the future holds for Dubas, as the 37-year-old said in his end-of-season media availability that he would take some time off before accepting a job with another team.
“I definitely don’t have it in me to go anywhere else," Dubas said on May 15. "It will be either [in Toronto] or it will be taking time to recalibrate, reflect on the seasons here. You won’t see me next week pop up elsewhere. I can’t put (my family) through that after this year.”
Dubas had been linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins after they overhauled their front office by firing president Brian Burke and general manager Ron Hextall in April. Barring a change of heart, Dubas figures to be off the table for the Penguins and others.
Dubas may have been the first domino to fall in what could be a transformational summer for the Maple Leafs. Head coach Sheldon Keefe faces an uncertain future, while the team's core could also see a shakeup.