When the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Lou Lamoriello would not be returning as the team’s general manager next season, the rumour mill began to churn immediately.
The move wasn’t exactly surprising, with rumours of Lamoriello having a three-year contract as the Leafs’ GM being floated over the past few weeks. Lamoriello, now 75, came to the Leafs in 2015 after resigning from his position as the general manager of the New Jersey Devils, a role he’d held since 1987. However, he will stay on with the Leafs as a senior adviser, though his exact duties and responsibilities are not clear.
Lamoriello’s time in Toronto was the most successful of the post-2004 lockout era, with the team making the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, setting franchise win and point totals while also drafting Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in 2016.
The decision ultimately rests with team president Brendan Shanahan in naming the third GM of his tenure, after Lamoriello and Dave Nonis, who was fired in 2015.
Here are four candidates who could be next in line:
1. Kyle Dubas
The assistant general manager for the Leafs, Kyle Dubas rose to prominence while rising up through the rankings of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Starting as a scout in his teenage years, Dubas was eventually named as the team’s general manager by age 25. He turned around the franchise from a basement dweller to one of the OHL’s top teams, winning a West Division championship in his third and final season.
Dubas has served as one of the faces of the so-called ‘analytics movement,’ embracing adding numerical analysis to traditional scouting and coaching models.
Still just 32 years of age, Dubas would be the second-youngest GM in the NHL, after John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes.
2. Mark Hunter
The Leafs’ current director of player personnel, Mark Hunter joined the Leafs in October 2014.
Similarly to Dubas, Hunter honed his executive resume in the OHL, coaching both the Sarnia Sting and London Knights, while becoming a co-owner of the latter alongside his brother Dale. A veteran of 628 NHL games with the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, St Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and Hartford Whalers, Hunter coached the Knights to the 2011-12 OHL championship.
Under Hunter, who is in charge of the Leafs’ draft board, Toronto has selected Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Timothy Liljegren with their first-round picks, while also picking up regular NHLer Travis Dermott.
Hunter’s ability to run a successful OHL franchise could pave the way to him getting the GM job.
3. Chuck Fletcher
While Dubas and Hunter seem to be the frontrunner candidates for the job, the Leafs’ decision to not name an immediate successor opens the possibility that external candidates may be considered.
Chuck Fletcher was the GM of the Minnesota Wild for the past nine seasons before not having his contract renewed after the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Winnipeg Jets this season.
During his time in Minnesota, the team made the playoffs six years in a row while achieving three 100-point seasons. A graduate of Harvard University and having held positions as well in the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks organization since 1993, Fletcher’s experience in an NHL front office is among the largest of any available candidate.
The son of former Leafs GM and current senior advisor Cliff Fletcher, his family ties to the organization could give him a slight leg up.
4. Kelly McCrimmon
The current assistant GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, Kelly McCrimmon is another name which has been creeping into various GM searches over the past year.
The head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings from 2004 to 2016, McCrimmon made the league finals three times, winning in 2016. He’s been a key part in building the NHL’s best-ever expansion team, amassing the league’s fifth-best record which is currently just 10 wins away from a Stanley Cup.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 22, 2015
McCrimmon’s name was tied to the Leafs for a front-office role in 2015, before making the decision to ultimately stay in Brandon for another season.
The Leafs will want to get somebody in place soon, with the NHL Draft taking place next month and free agency following shortly after.