Reading Between the Lines of Kyle Dubas’ Press Conference

Kyle Dubas addressed the media on Wednesday ahead of the NHL entry draft. He was asked some questions in regard to the present state of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the ongoing negotiations with their RFAs and UFAs, and the team’s plans both short and long term.  

Related: Maple Leafs’ Matthews, Marner & Nylander Contracts Are 3 of NHL’s Best

Of course, what Dubas said could be taken to mean many things. Only he knows what the messages were that he was trying to convey. All the rest of us can do is speculate. Our goal today is to try and interpret what Dubas did and didn’t say.

On The Maple Leafs Goaltending Situation

On the subject of Jack Campbell, Dubas stated:

 “We continue to speak to Jack. It is no secret that goaltending is a priority for us.”

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“We will continue to speak with him and them through the weekend and be well prepared going into next week for where we want to go with it.”

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
What will the team do with Jack Campbell? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When asked about Petr Mrazek, Dubas replied:

“If I am forecasting and betting on him, do I bet he was the goalie he was last year in 20 games, or the goalie he was for the 270 before — which was a .910 save percentage guy who can give his team a chance to win? I would probably bet on the larger sample.”

Related: What Joe Sakic Means to the Avalanche

The one sentence that jumps out at us amongst those two quotes is “It is no secret that goaltending is a priority for us.” That surmounts pretty much everything else he said. What he didn’t say was that getting Campbell signed is a priority, which appears to mean that Dubas is prepared to or is already looking elsewhere for a starting goalie.

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As for Mrazek, the key was that Mrazek is a “guy who can give his team a chance to win.” GMs and coaches use that phrase when they are talking about backup goalies. It has been speculated in the media that Dubas might be okay with a duo of Mrazek and Kallgren to start the season. Today, we know that wasn’t the case.

Listening to what Dubas said did not align with that idea. And, seeing him move Mrazek at the draft to the Chicago Blackhawks confirmed our thoughts about Dubas’ message.

It remains even more obvious to us now that Dubas feels the Maple Leafs need a starting goalie, or at the very least two goalies with the potential to win the starter’s job. More surprises are on the horizon.

On the Status of Ilya Mikheyev

“….it has been a great three years for him in Toronto.”

“… a free agent and will look to cash in”

“We will continue to stay in touch with him in case the market changes.”

Related: Maple Leafs’ Mikheyev Must Use Failed Trade Request as Motivation

To us, it’s pretty easy to see that Dubas expects Ilya Mikheyev to be gone. If there’s any small chance he returns to the Maple Leafs, it would be because he didn’t get the offers he expected to get and was willing to play for a lot less money than he’s asking for we wish him luck with his next team. It doesn’t seem hopeful for his return.

On the Status of Rasmus Sandin

“ I would put he and Timothy Liljegren in the same spot. They are massive parts of our future. They are significantly younger than other full-time members of our defense core. We need them to continue to take steps.”

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
What happens to Rasmus Sandin? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“ ….he is a supremely talented player and very competitive. We need him to continue to take the steps that we need for him to assert himself not only into an every night player — which he had largely become before he got injured in Nashville — but to become a top player in our group, especially as our players age ahead of him. That is our major focus with him and our only focus on him. We see him and Timothy as massive parts of it moving ahead.”

Then when Dubas was asked about potential offer sheets, he said:

“If there is going to be an offer sheet, the sooner, the better so we can make our decision and move on.”

Using his own words, Dubas feels Sandin and Liljegren are both “massive parts” of the Maple Leafs’ future. That suggests to us that his intention is to keep Sandin. 

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Change Their Pattern and It Starts With Sandin

The kicker is his answer to the offer sheet question. It tells us that they are not prepared to retain Sandin if the cost is too much. If Sandin gets an offer sheet the team will look at what it is and decide whether to match or not. 

On the Salary Cap Situation

 “It is all going to depend on what the situation is. It is a very fair question, but if we need to create cap space to improve our team, I think we know, based on the conversations that we have had, that we would be able to move a lot of our players if needed for good value or move them along.  We are in a good spot that way.”

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot might be moved if the Maple Leafs need to make salary-cap space.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This, to us, is the most telling answer that Dubas gave in the whole presser. In the past, Dubas has acknowledged the team had salary cap issues that they had to carefully work around. Now he is staying “if we need to create cap space to improve our team……we would be able to move a lot of our players…..for good value or move them along.”

Of course, there are the players that most fans feel are expendable, and Petr Mrazek was one of them. He’s gone. Justin Holl and Alex Kerfoot remain, and they could be moved as well. 

But, with the way Dubas answered could that be taken to mean he would be willing to move a player such as Jake Muzzin or William Nylander? 

Could there be a big blockbuster move in the making?

If so, this could be an interesting, and exciting, summer. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]