'There's a lot to get done': Brad Treliving outlines priorities as Maple Leafs GM

Brad Treliving met with the media for the first time as Maple Leafs general manager at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.

Brad Treliving met with the media for the first time as Maple Leafs general manager at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. (Reuters)

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving met with the media for the first time on Thursday, a day after becoming the 18th general manager in franchise history.

Treliving previously worked as the Calgary Flames’ general manager from 2014 to 2023 and outlined his priorities to the assembled press Thursday morning at Scotiabank Arena.

“I’ve always heard about his ability as a hockey person, his assessment of hockey players, his leadership skills. I’ve always liked and admired him for the qualities he brings,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said of Treliving, joining him on the podium.

Ahead of the upcoming NHL Draft, Treliving acknowledged he has to hit the ground running and stated that building a relationship with star forward Auston Matthews is his top priority. Matthews is eligible for a contract extension with a full no-move clause enacting as of July 1. Treliving emphasized that he has a strong relationship with Matthews’ agent, Judd Moldaver.

“I’ve communicated with a few players, it’s been a busy couple of days. I’ve communicated with Auston via text. I know Judd, I have a strong relationship with Judd,” Treliving said. “Judd’s excellent at what he does. You’ll find from me, we’re not going to get into any public discourse about contracts.

“Obviously, we know where these contracts are at. Auston is one of the elite players in the world. We’re not talking about a good player in the league, we’re talking about an elite player in the world. Getting to Auston is a priority but outside of the contract stuff, number one is just getting to build that relationship. It’s not walking down and trying to arm-wrestle about contracts. It’s getting down and me getting a chance to meet with him, but more importantly, having Auston getting a chance to meet me and know what we’re about. That’s priority No. 1.”

Treliving later spoke about the urgency of reaching resolutions on contracts and doubled down on his top priority of meeting with Matthews.

“We’ll go pedal down here pretty quick. This isn’t the dating game, we’re going to push pretty hard here. There’s a lot to get done.”

Sheldon Keefe still remains as the Maple Leafs head coach and it’s been widely believed Treliving may replace the incumbent with a candidate of his own. Treliving addressed this notion, telling reporters he’s spoken to Keefe since taking the job but he doesn’t have a relationship with him, before lauding his regular season success from an outside perspective.

“My outside lens of Sheldon…I think he’s a really good coach,” Treliving said. “My view is determining whether a good guy is good, bad or indifferent, you have to work with him. You have to get to know him. We’re going to sit down and we’re going to go through it. I’m coming in with no preconceived notions.

“I think Sheldon has done a lot of really good, key things. I look at how a group of really skilled players has gotten better at checking and defending, those things you need to win. We’re going to sit down and have a thorough process and try to do it as quickly as possible and come to a conclusion.”

After seven consecutive postseason exits with a roster that has allotted 49% of its cap space to four players, there are several questions remaining about if one of the Core Four — Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavareswill be traded this offseason. Tavares and Marner each have two years remaining on their contracts with full no-movement clauses, Matthews’ clause will kick in July 1, while Nylander will submit a 10-team no-movement clause if he’s on the roster by July 1.

“You always hear these big words like "culture" and sometimes I think it gets overused and overplayed. The good thing here is we have really good players. You look at where these players were drafted. Having those players excite me. They’re world-class players. We’re going to review everything. I’m not about coming in and making a statement. You can throw a body under the tarmac, it might look good for a headline, but are you getting any better? At the end of the day, it’s about getting better and just being different doesn’t necessarily make you better.

“The other thing I’ll say on that and again, I’m coming in from an outside lens, this idea of the Core Four: my job is to protect them. I’m fiercely protective of my players. But this can’t be about the Core Four, it’s about the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

Shanahan said the Flames imposed restrictions about Treliving’s ability to participate in the upcoming draft, before stating that he has the utmost confidence in head scout Wes Clark but did not elaborate further. Toronto holds Boston’s original first-round pick (28th overall), along with fifth and sixth-round picks in this year’s draft, a star-studded class where the depth tails off around the 20th pick.

Treliving was asked about the blockbuster Jonathan Huberdeau-Matthew Tkachuk trade he swung last summer as a parable to the situation he’s now entered with the Maple Leafs. Calgary traded Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a package headlined by Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar and one year later, this trade looks like a resounding win for the Panthers, entering the Stanley Cup on the back of Tkachuk’s standout contributions.

“Matthew came to us last year, which I was appreciative of. I’ll never fault a player that said it’s time for me to move, I’m not looking to sign long-term here. So you go into the market and there were some challenges, no question. It felt like you were playing with a two and three in your hand and everybody else has a pair of aces,” Treliving said.

“Moving 25-year-old top players, we never wanted to move Matthew Tkachuk. Let’s be very clear — I didn’t wake up one day and say ‘let’s move Matthew Tkachuk!’ Circumstances presented themselves, you deal with them as best as you possibly can.”

Shanahan also addressed the autonomy that Treliving will be afforded, a key question, given how his relationship with Dubas appeared to dissolve over the course of a week. After firing Dubas on May 19, Shanahan has taken unilateral control of the organization and his regime will be inevitably tied to Treliving’s performance going forward.

“I’ve always believed in process and I’ve always believed the general manager should have a good strong process. We’ve been lucky here in Toronto. The two people I hired, Lou Lamoriello and Kyle Dubas, had a good process. They had good information from the people around them. But ultimately the decision has to be made by the general manager. Brad is a collaborative person, I think he’s looking forward to meeting our staff and so many of the resources we’ve built up here in Toronto.”

Shanahan and Treliving then took a photo, with the new general manager holding up a No. 23 Maple Leafs jersey with his last name on the back. Treliving thanked his wife and daughters for their support before leaving.

During his introductory remarks, Treliving spoke about how the franchise had always been alluring for him and his family.

“Until you’re here, you don’t understand it. It’s the Leafs. It means something.”