(Photo credit: Michael Miller)
As the regular season winds down, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs has nothing to do with players or coaches. Instead, it's about the future of general manager Lou Lamoriello.
The former GM of the New Jersey Devils came over to the Maple Leafs in 2015 to help guide the franchise through a rebuild that included embracing the youth within the organization and bringing in head coach Mike Babcock to show the kids what it takes to win. The team made a surprising run to the playoffs last year and has now taken the next step towards becoming a true contender for the Stanley Cup as opposed to just being a fringe playoff team.
But as the team continues to have success on the ice, there is a lot of uncertainty about Lamoriello and his position with Toronto.
At 75-years-old, Lamoriello is a lot closer to the end of his career in the NHL than he is to the beginning. With an expiring contract — he signed a three-year deal when he took over as General Manager in 2015 — there has been no word on the future of the three-time Stanley Cup-winning executive with the Leafs.
According to a report from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, team president Brendan Shanahan has yet to even speak with Lamoriello about his contract.
“No decisions have been made. I haven’t spoken to any of the particulars,” Shanahan reportedly told Friedman. “We are concentrating on the rest of the season and the playoffs. Any decisions about the organization won’t be made until after the season is over.”
Who's up next?
Should he not return as GM of the team after the season concludes, it is possible that Lamoriello remains with the organization in a different role within the front office. There is also a belief within the NHL that a succession plan could be in place that would see Leafs assistant GM and the current GM of the AHL's Toronto Marlies Kyle Dubas take the reins of the roster.
Should Dubas not be given the GM title, other in-house candidates include fellow assistant GM Mark Hunter and the assistant to the GM Brandon Pridham.
Be it this summer or further along, it appears the Leafs won't go outside of the organization to find the next GM of the team. Both Shanahan and Lamoriello have built up the front office with staff members they both respect and have groomed to lead the organization into the future. With the next man to take over the team likely to be someone already familiar with the roster, it's not that surprising to see Shanahan keep plans close to the vest.