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Maple Leafs’ Former Employee Claims: It’s Not Kyle Dubas’ Fault

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a plan to build a Stanley-Cup challenging team. Then COVID-19 came. Should Kyle Dubas be blamed for the problem?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a tough spot. Whether the fans agreed or not, things were going more or less smoothly until COVID-19 cut the heart out of the Maple Leafs’ organizational plans. The salary cap was supposed to rise each season, and the percentage of salary-cap space the highest contracts on the team were supposed to lessen.

It didn’t happen. The salary cap is stuck at $81.5 million and unlikely to move for the foreseeable future. Now, instead of becoming more “team-friendly” contracts, the contracts for John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander have become “team-gutting” contracts. Now it seems that the heart – or part of the entrails – of the team will have to be cut out to save the rest of the team.

Related: Five Maple Leafs Who Are a Lock for Their Olympic Teams

The Maple Leafs’ Defense Is the Core of the Problem Moving Forward

Given the salary-cap issues note above, the key problem of the immediate future has come to a head with defenseman Morgan Rielly’s expiring contract. Given all the circumstances, the Maple Leafs’ salary-cap space simply can’t keep up with the team’s needs. They can’t afford to retain Rielly – unless …

It’s clear with the recent signings of solid NHL defensemen recently that Rielly’s financial ask for the team – and this is likely with a home-team discount – will be around the $7 million mark. During this offseason, some of the top NHL defensemen all signed conracts for more than $9 million a season. These signees included Seth Jones (Chicago Blackhawks), Dougie Hamilton (New Jersey Devils), Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche), Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Darnell Nurse (Edmonton Oilers). All this suggests that Rielly’s contract would be around – as I noted – $7 million.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs NHL
Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs NHL

The Maple Leafs can’t afford it. Even patching up the team when first-line left-winger Zach Hyman departed for the Oilers has proved tough. Like him or not, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas has worked hard to fill the team’s roster with viable but cheaper, more-interchangeable parts.

That work has been necessary; however, it’s also become an “arduous chore” as Howard Berger noted in his September 3 “Between the Posts” post.

Interesting Comment About General Manager Kyle Dubas by Former Employee

In his post, Berger quoted an unnamed former Maple Leafs’ employee who spoke about the job Dubas has done with the team. This unnamed former employee had this to say:

“Kyle is a good man; he takes too much of the heat for decisions made by the hockey department.”

Auston Matthews & William Nylander

The employee also added, “He (Dubas) is, understandably, a bit stubborn when it comes to the high draft choices he signed (Nylander, Matthews, Marner). Unfortunately for the Leafs, the pandemic stunted any growth in the cap figure. Which obviously wasn’t foreseeable when the contracts were negotiated. And, Kyle did well by keeping trade and movement restrictions out of all three. That said, he has no alternative but to make a move he’d rather not make before [the 2022–23] season.”

What Might That Move Be, If Anything?

We have no idea whether this insight is accurate or not. Certainly, part of the logic makes perfect sense. For whatever that’s worth, it’s an interesting take on the Maple Leafs’ salary-cap situation. What will happen is another matter. We’ll see.

Related: Quickly Gone Maple Leafs Nick Foligno Seemed Like a Plan at the Time



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  4. gfinale

    September 6, 2021 at 9:24 am

    Ok, so Dubas doesn’t take responsibility for the heat but then he can’t take any of the credit either. Typically a GM ultimately makes the decisions but apparently Dubas doesn’t. He’s not really a NHL GM which is what many have been saying. It appears Shanahan should be taking some heat and credit and some other people they’ve brought on, about a year ago 1 or 2 who had been REAL NHL GMs.

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