Leafs GM Dubas: No plans ‘to go anywhere else’

    Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.

Kyle Dubas doesn’t know whether he’ll return as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But it’s the only position he would consider taking in the near future.

Dubas is on an expiring contract that’s yet to be renewed — in part by Dubas’ own choice. He spoke candidly about approaching the next chapter of his career during the Maple Leafs’ end-of-season media availability on Monday and how it won’t include a change of address.

“I definitely don’t have it in me to go anywhere else,” Dubas said. “It’ll either be here or it’ll be taking time to recalibrate, reflect on the seasons here. You won’t see me next week pop up elsewhere. I can’t put (my family) through that after this year.”

Having conversations and getting feedback from loved ones — Dubas is a married father of two — will play a primary role in how he proceeds from here.

“It requires me to have a full family discussion,” Dubas said of making his decision. “My family is a hugely important part of what I do, so for me to commit to anything without having a fuller understanding of what this year took on them, it’s probably unfair for me to answer. It was a very hard year on them.”

Dubas said he would speak further with Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan in the coming days to gauge where the organization is at as well in terms of moving forward. The 37-year-old joined the Leafs’ front office in 2014 as an assistant GM and was promoted by Shanahan to his current role in 2018, replacing Lou Lamoriello in the process.

“I’ve had a good, long relationship here with Brendan and the owners. I’ll speak to them in the coming days. It’s been a very taxing year (on my family) and that’s obviously very important to me. And then we’ll all make our decisions and roll from there.”

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe was also brought on by Dubas after the general manager fired Mike Babcock in 2019. Dubas was GM of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2011, when he originally hired Keefe to coach that team. Dubas then brought Keefe to Toronto as coach of the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate, and finally over to the job with the Maple Leafs.

Keefe said on Monday he was giving Dubas space in figuring out his next path.

“Kyle and I have a lot of history,” he said. “I believe in a lot of the things he’s done here that have put us in positions to succeed. I’m hopeful that [contract] gets worked. Out of respect to him, I’ve left him alone and let him really sort through the things he needs to sort through and go through the process himself.”

Toronto has a long offseason to contemplate what went wrong. The Maple Leafs were ousted from postseason contention last week by the No. 8-seeded Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, a series in which Toronto fell behind 3-0 before losing in five games. It was a crushing disappointment given the Maple Leafs had advanced in the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years after topping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Toronto had previously made six consecutive first-round exits from the postseason.

The sting of how things ended clearly remained with Dubas, and he pledged to learn from another bout of frustration.

“Perhaps the path needs to shift slightly,” he said. “It needs to be adapted slightly. And you get in between persistence and full belief versus being a little too staunch and rigid. And I think that’s the question I would take the time for myself in reflecting on the year.”

Dubas has remained staunchly behind the Maple Leafs’ core of talented forwards — largely Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander — for years. He’s repeatedly defended them against lagging playoff performances, which resurfaced again in the series against Florida.

Matthews and Tavares each failed to score a goal vs. the Panthers, while Nylander and Marner combined for three goals and six points. The Maple Leafs failed to tally more than two goals in any game against the Panthers, a primary factor in their early exit.

It’s long been a topic of discussion in Toronto about whether the time has come to trade a piece of Toronto’s core to help reshape the roster. Dubas was asked about that possibility again on Monday and shared it wasn’t out of the question.

“I would consider anything with our group here that would allow us a better chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Dubas said. “I would take nothing off the table at all. And I think everything would have to be considered.”

That assumes, of course, that Dubas returns to call the shots. Right now, he’s in limbo. But Dubas does have the support of Toronto’s longest tenured player to stay on.

“I think the world of Kyle,” said defenseman Morgan Rielly, who’s spent his entire 10-year career with the Maple Leafs. “I thought what he did for our team this year, whether it be his first meeting in training camp through the trade deadline right through to when I spoke to him three minutes ago, he’s a world class GM. I’m not in charge of what happens with his contract but everything he did was in the team’s best interest, and he put us in a position where we had a chance to play and to win and to succeed and ultimately the players are the ones that were on the ice at the end of the season.”

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