Who runs the Leafs? It is important for players and agents to know soon

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First off, hands up if you’ve been watching the conference finals thus far and wondered if the Maple Leafs have the strength up front, strong defense and goalkeeping to make it into the NHL Final Four and beyond .

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Though Tampa Bay took some of Toronto’s opening round of six games and the hard-hitting Florida Panthers utterly dominated, it seems the Leafs need more despite their deadline additions. That either has to be found internally, by coaxing your stars into higher gear and maximizing young talent, or convincing free agents — or those looking for a trade — that Bay St. is still the place to be place is.

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But much of that is now in doubt after an apparently failed frontline power play ended with Brendan Shanahan sacking Kyle Dubas as general manager on Friday. Dubas, who prided himself on civil, calm negotiations with players that were never publicly known, obviously mismanaged his own pact.

And just like that, the Leafs don’t have a key man for contracts, trade talks and the draft, let alone finding a coach that needs to be part of their leadership manhunt.
If special assistant Jason Spezza’s decision to step down after his boss’s departure affects other Dubas loyalists, Shanahan could host a job fair in June.

The team’s website showed a split senior management cadre Saturday morning – President Shanahan, with Brandon Pridham as assistant GM (for now), Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser as head of player development and Ryan Hardy as head of farm teams after Marlies’ coaching staff was fired Friday.

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However, all under Shanny owe their positions to Dubas, and the former admitted that many employees felt “wounded” by Friday’s announcement.

In this uncertainty, negotiations loom for ten unrestricted free agents and the final year of contracts for Auston Matthews and William Nylander. How do player representatives handle the dialogue — and who do they speak to when they’re unsure if there’s a new direction at the Leafs? Are they still playoff worthy? Will the next GM ruin everything?

“If a player wants to be in Toronto and the offer is fair, I’m making a deal with the devil,” a prominent matchmaking agent told the Sun. “(But) there are players who would never play for the Leafs and even if Jesus were in charge, they wouldn’t sign for top dollar.

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“Toronto would always try to win, so I will work with anyone in charge as long as my client is open to it.”

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A call to Judd Moldaver, Matthews’ agent, was not immediately answered.

As far as summer side shows go, it won’t be as bad as the headline-grabbing Harold Ballard circus, though one could fault the MLSE owners here for not being more proactive in getting a cherished nine-year-old hockey executive on the go prevent.

During his time here, Dubas had left his mark on virtually every aspect of the operation, from the farm system to the I and T points on $52 million contracts for Matthews, Nylander, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Defenders Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie. That $40 million of that went to the Core Four forwards, most of whom struggled against the Panthers, is verified by Dubas’ successor.

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Of course, who ends up taking the bench is another concern, both for the incumbent Leafs and potential UFAs. Presumably, Shanahan will sort out Sheldon Keefe’s situation and final year of his contract by next week, when it emerged he, and not Dubas, would be the first victim of the postseason review.

Shanahan, who appears to have weathered annual criticism from his own chief executives and is leaving his contract running for two more years, was due to speak to other key employees in the next few days ahead of June 30, when many existing contracts expire.

“Some of these decisions have to be the responsibility of the new GM,” he said.
That’s why Shanahan wrote in block capitals when he officially posted the job posting for the vacant GM that “experience is required.”



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