The Toronto Maple Leafs shocked the hockey world on Friday, announcing the club had decided to part ways with general manager Kyle Dubas, who did not have a contract for next season with the organization.
"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," Maple Leafs 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.”
Dubas emerged into one of the brighter front office minds over his tenure in Toronto, but the team’s lack of playoff success led to constant questions whether the roster composition would be able to succeed with so much of their salary cap tied into four players.
The big question for Shanahan and the Maple Leafs moving forward is whether the next general manager will decide to stick with the team's "core four" or decide to ultimately move one of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander. Will the Leafs bring on an experienced mind? Will it be a first time GM?
Here is a short list of candidates the Maple Leafs could consider to replace Dubas:
Eric Tulsky, assistant GM, Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes have one of the most renowned front offices in the NHL, and Tulsky is a big part of their success. He has been with Carolina for eight seasons and is involved in a number of areas, including pro personnel, scouting, salary cap management and contract negotiations, making him a logical candidate to eventually move into a GM role. His reputation around the league is outstanding, as he has been credited for his creativity and finding under-valued players to fit into Carolina’s salary cap.
Brad Treliving, former GM, Calgary Flames : Treliving is available after mutually parting ways with the Flames following the end of a disappointing 2022-23 season. He had relatively good success in Calgary, going 324-238-58 with multiple 50-win seasons during his tenure. Treliving had mixed results in terms of free-agent signings and draft picks throughout his seven seasons with Calgary, but he has a track record of making significant trades, which might be part of the next steps in Toronto. His experience would be an asset for a Toronto club that is in a win-now stage. Treliving is technically still under contract by Calgary and would need the team's blessing to interview for the Toronto job, which they reportedly aren't willing to do until after his deal expires on June 30.
Mark Hunter, vice president and GM, London Knights (OHL): Hunter and Shanahan have obvious ties, as he was a key front office hire in Shanahan’s first year with the Maple Leafs in 2014. Hunter worked alongside Dubas for multiple years under Lou Lamoriello, and one year with Dave Nonis, before Hunter left the organization once Dubas was promoted to GM shortly after the end of the 2017-18 season. Hunter, a former NHL player, has had great success working with his brother Dale in London. The 60-year-old has extensive knowledge of junior hockey, was a key figure in the Maple Leafs’ early drafts under Shanahan and was a big proponent of the team drafting Mitch Marner, although his draft record in Toronto does not inspire much confidence. Outside of Marner and Auston Matthews at the top of the draft, the only other picks of note during his tenure are Timothy Liljegren, Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi and Joseph Woll.
Jason Botterill, assistant GM, Seattle Kraken: Botterill was considered to be an emerging front office star before a rocky tenure as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres from 2017-20. He was an early hire for the Kraken front office and has done a good job rebuilding his reputation as Seattle made a surprising playoff run this season. Botterill’s advocates believe he was dealt a poor hand with a tough ownership situation in Buffalo and is deserving of another chance at a GM job. That doesn’t feel like the direction the Maple Leafs will ultimately go, but he is worth a look.
MIke Futa, former assistant GM, Los Angeles Kings: The Toronto native worked over a decade in the Los Angeles Kings front office and was considered to be a critical part of putting together their Stanley Cup rosters in the early 2010s. Futa served in a variety of roles with the Kings, ranging for amateur scouting to VP of hockey operations, player personnel before being promoted to assistant general manager in 2017. Futa, who is in his mid-50s, spent a year as a consultant in Carolina last season before doing some media work in Toronto this past year. He also has experience as a GM in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack, winning executive of the year in 2004-05 prior to joining the Kings.
Brandon Pridham, assistant GM: Pridham was one of Dubas’s closest associates and is considered to be one of the brightest minds in the Maple Leafs front office, which would make him a reasonable choice. The 49-year-old assistant GM has developed a great reputation for his work with the salary cap and CBA. Pridham has been working with the Maple Leafs since 2014 and is considered to be one of the candidates for the Flames’ GM opening. He would be a logical fit if Shanahan wanted to stay in-house.
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Ryan Hardy, assistant GM: At 36 years old, Hardy is an up-and-comer within the organization and has a background in scouting. The Leafs brought him into the fold last year after a successful run in charge of the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
"He's young, he's bright, he's easy to talk to," an unnamed league source told Emily Kaplan of ESPN.com earlier this year. "He needs some polish, but he's well on his way."