The Toronto Maple Leafs started Thursday night with a first-round pick. However by the end of the night, they made no pick. But in the process, their GM Kyle Dubas not only showed he’s the right man to lead the Maple Leafs, he showed his greatness in the process.
The Maple Leafs sent their first-round pick along with goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the Blackhawks’ second-round pick. The Maple Leafs was 25th. The Blackhawks pick was 38th. The Blackhawks with the 25th pick took high school defenseman Sam Rinzel.
On the surface, this seems like a brutal loss for the Maple Leafs as they had to trade their first rounder. But in reality, this trade is a huge win. The ramifications of this deal go way beyond the surface.
Dubas’ Greatness On Display
No matter which team we talk about or which GM we talk about, the story is the same. All GM’s make mistakes. Dubas has made several mistakes in his Maple Leafs’ tenure.
While mistakes generally define tenures like this especially in a big market like Toronto, it only resembles a part of the story. Good GM’s recognize their mistakes. Great GM’s do something about their mistakes. This is why what Dubas did on Thursday deserves praise.
Many GM’s let pride get in the way hoping that their previous move will eventually work out. They made the decision. They have to live with the decision for better or worse. Sometimes they don’t have a way out.
In the Mrazek case however, Dubas in making the trade not only acknowledged it was a mistake, he went and did something about it without waiting. In the process, the Blackhawks took on the full cap hit of $3.8 million for the next two seasons clearing off much needed cap space. As of Friday morning, they have around $10.2 million in space to work with.
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The Maple Leafs still get to pick early on Friday holding the 38th pick. The difference between pick 25 and 38 is minimal. It’s even more minimal in a year where there is a wide variance in opinions on the prospects available. There’s a good chance the player the Maple Leafs would have targeted at 25 will be there at 38. This isn’t as big a loss as many will make you believe it is. In fact, they can still get a difference-making prospect out of it.
As for Mrazek, Dubas thought he could help the Maple Leafs get to the next level. It just didn’t work out. You could see the logic at the time. But it was a mistake. Mrazek now gets to go to Chicago and has a chance to be their starter. As for where the Maple Leafs go in net, they now have options thanks to Dubas’ willingness to admit an error.
The Maple Leafs with the extra cap space can now look at both free agency and the trade market for starting goalies. Darcy Kuemper is going to market. The Maple Leafs would love to add a Stanley Cup winning goalie to their team. They now have a realistic chance of being in the mix for him although they will have plenty of competition.
There are other options too. Ville Husso is out there. So is the goalie they had that led them to the playoffs last season in Jack Campbell. The Maple Leafs should try to take another run at him with the newly found cap space.
Unless something unforeseen comes up, it’s reasonable to expect one of Kuemper, Husso or Campbell to be the Maple Leafs’ starter in 2022-23. If Dubas didn’t clean up the Mrazek mistake, this outcome may not have been possible.
Making the Right Choice in Net
No matter what the Maple Leafs did this offseason, addressing their goaltending was their top priority. Making the right move here could be the difference between another early exit and a deep playoff run. A most-important decision will have to be made.
The Maple Leafs know Campbell the best. They will have to decide if he’s the best option for them or if Kuemper/Husso is the way to go. They will have to factor in the next contract when making that choice. But no matter what, it has to be the right one. Another early playoff failure could lead to more wide-spread changes throughout the organization. (Author’s note: Husso’s rights were traded to Detroit on Friday morning.)
Dubas Right Man to Lead
The team will not take this decision lightly. They will look at these options and make the best possible decision with the information they have available.
Had it not been for Dubas’ leadership in correcting the Mrazek mistake, the Maple Leafs wouldn’t be in this better position of being able to choose a quality goaltender. That shows he is the right person for this position.
Dubas has had a lot of pressure to handle knowing there is a constant cap crunch. Yet he’s always working trying new things in an effort to make his team better. The evidence is there. The Maple Leafs are getting closer and closer to breaking through. Once they break through, they’ll be around for a long time. They’re too good not to break through eventually.
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There is a big difference between being good and being great. Dubas is showing that he is great at his job. The postseason results aren’t there yet. But it’s coming. His willingness to do things even if it means admitting failure from before shows a lot more about him than most other things do.
The Maple Leafs have a great GM in Dubas. Soon the hockey world will find that out too.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.