Kyle Dubas out as Maple Leafs general manager after early playoff exit

Kyle Dubas is absent as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The team said Friday it is “parting ways” with the 37-year-old executive, whose contract was due to expire on June 30.

“I would like to thank Kyle for his unwavering dedication over the past nine seasons with the organization, including his last five as general manager,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement Friday. “Kyle fostered a great culture within our locker room and staff, and consistently pushed to make our team better season after season.”

Shanahan was scheduled to speak to the media Friday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.

With Dubas the first domino to fall in what could be a summer of intrigue in hockey’s biggest market, attention now turns to his replacement, as well as the status of head coach Sheldon Keefe and the future of star striker Auston Matthews, both of whom have close ties to the now-defunct executive.

The Leafs won a playoff series for the first time in nearly two decades this spring when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning before retiring to underdogs Florida Panthers in a disappointing second round.

WATCH | Maple Leafs eliminated by Panthers in Game 5:

Winner of Cousins ​​Game 5 in overtime gives Panthers victory over Maple Leafs

Nick Cousins ​​scored in the first overtime to give Florida a 3-2 Game 4 win over Toronto, knocking out the Maple Leafs 4-1 in the series.

An emotional Dubas said at his end-of-season press conference on Monday that he was unsure whether to continue as general manager, citing stress from his young family.

Fans shouldn’t expect Dubas to join another club in the short term.

“I definitely don’t want to go anywhere else,” he added in what turned out to be his last media appearance as chief executive. “It will either be here or it will take time to recalibrate [and] think about it… but you won’t see me appearing anywhere else next week.

“I can’t put [my family] through it after this year.”

With Toronto since 2014

Dubas joined the Leafs in 2014 as an assistant general manager at age 28 and led the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League to a Calder Cup title in 2018.

He succeeded Lou Lamoriello as Toronto general manager in May 2018 as part of a succession plan under Shanahan.

The Leafs have enjoyed unprecedented regular-season traction under Dubas — seen as a bright young hockey mind with a forward-thinking approach to analysis — during his five years in charge.

Toronto set single-season records for wins and points, and went 221-109-42 in its tenure. Dubas hasn’t been shy about making big changes either – he fired Stanley Cup-winning head coach Mike Babcock in November 2019 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe – but has struggled to find the right mix in the playoffs until spring.

The Leafs lost in seven games to Boston in 2019, fell to Columbus in the necessary pandemic qualifying round of 2020 and lost a 3-1 lead to Montreal in a disastrous slump in 2021 before showing up promising in a narrow seven-game loss to Tampa. in 2022 which set the stage for last month’s breakthrough.

Dubas offered steadfast support for Toronto’s so-called “Core Four” of offensive talent consisting of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.

“As a person, he’s been amazing my whole time here,” Marner said of Dubas after Florida eliminated the Leafs. “Definitely a special person to have around. He cares a lot about his players and his staff.

“Something we’re all lucky enough to have.”

WATCH | Leafs win 1st playoff series in 19 years:

Tavares overtime winner against Lightning in Game 6 advances Maple Leafs to 2nd round

Toronto’s John Tavares scored the series-winning goal in overtime against Tampa Bay on Saturday night, giving the Maple Leafs a 2-1 win and a 4-2 series victory.

Core 4

His first big hit was luring Tavares, who grew up just west of Toronto, to a seven-year, US$77 million contract in free agency after just a few months on the job.

A tough negotiation with Nylander – the winger missed the first two months of the 2018-19 season – followed before eventually signing a six-year extension worth $45m the following December.

This set the stage for Matthews to sign a five-year extension worth just under $58.2 million in February 2019.

Marner was then paid seven months later with a six-year, $65.4 million pact as Toronto awarded about half of its four-star salary cap.

Dubas also made a number of trades and wasn’t shy about changing course, realizing early on that Toronto needed more guts and playoff experience.

He acquired Stanley Cup champions Jake Muzzin in 2019 and Ryan O’Reilly in 2023 in a bid to help the Leafs reach the milestone.

Tight against the cap, Dubas also found players in the basket, including veteran forward Jason Spezza and hometown product Michael Bunting.

Commercial deadline for renovations

Dubas remade the roster ahead of this season’s trade deadline by adding O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe, continuing a trend of draft picks heading for immediate help.

It has also had its fair share of misses, namely the signing of goalkeeper Petr Mrazek and the trade of oft-injured keeper Matt Murray.

Distribution center Nazem Kadri — twice suspended in the playoffs with Toronto — in Colorado might be justified at the time, but he became a key contributor in the Avalanche’s Cup victory last June.

Nick Foligno, meanwhile, was injured and only played 11 games for the Leafs after being acquired at the 2021 deadline.

Dubas finally seemed to have it right this spring in the Leafs’ six-game win over Tampa that exorcised a generation of playoff demons, but Florida’s emphatic 4-1 second-round triumph saw most of those good vibes fade quickly.

Although he was unable to unlock a winning formula in Toronto, the GM’s passion was never in question.

Dubas was filmed chewing with Lightning fans on this show this spring, wildly celebrating the Leafs finally getting past the first round and throwing a water bottle in disgust at the Panthers’ loss.

“I’m an emotional person,” Dubas said in his final remarks to the media as general manager. “I’m deeply passionate… I know some people might not like it or care about it.

“But it’s me.”

Marlies coaching staff released

Meanwhile, the Toronto Marlies will not renew the contracts of head coach Greg Moore and assistants AJ MacLean and John Snowden, the club announced Friday.

The decision for the Maple Leafs’ top affiliate came less than 24 hours after the club was eliminated from the American Hockey League playoffs in a three-game sweep by the Rochester Americans.

Moore has just completed his fourth season as coach of the Marlies, while MacLean has been in his role for eight years.

Snowden, meanwhile, had been with the organization for five seasons — three seasons as head coach of the third-tier ECHL Newfoundland Growlers and two with the Marlies.

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