Lamoriello stepping aside after three seasons as Leafs GM

The Toronto Maple Leafs got what they needed from Lou Lamoriello, who will step aside after three years as the team’s general manager. Lamoriello, who made his name turning the New Jersey Devils from a perennial flop into a three-time Stanley Cup champion, was brought in to instill a winning culture throughout Toronto’s organization after decades of futility, and his decisions helped shape Toronto into a franchise many see competing for a championship in the coming years. Lamoriello will now assume a senior adviser role with the Maple Leafs, who have some good internal candidates to take over as general manager.

Lamoriello’s position in Toronto was always supposed to be a temporary one, with his move to senior adviser after three years written into his contract. However, there was some uncertainty about whether he was done building the Maple Leafs roster to his satisfaction after they failed to win a playoff series in either of their postseason appearances. Lamoriello oversaw the drafting of Auston Matthews and added some important pieces like starting goaltender Frederik Andersen to Toronto’s roster through trades and signings, but his tenure also contained some questionable decisions, like giving inexperienced defenseman Nikita Zaitsev a seven-year contract worth more than $30 million or signing enforcer Matt Martin for four years and $10 million.

Whoever assumes the role of Maple Leafs general manager will be responsible for ironing out the kinks on Lamoriello’s roster and taking Toronto to the next step of winning some playoff rounds and competing for the Stanley Cup. As to who that next GM will be, team president Brendan Shanahan has said he will consider internal and external candidates. Internally, the Maple Leafs have been grooming young assistant GM Kyle Dubas for some time now, while much of their improved player development has been attributed to fellow assistant GM Mark Hunter. External candidates could include people like Ron Francis, who was recently fired by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Toronto’s next couple offseasons will be crucial for shaping the franchise’s direction, with the star trio of Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander all due for big contract extensions coming off their entry-level deals. The Maple Leafs must also address the apparent holes in their defense if they hope to go further in the postseason, and it will be up to the next GM to figure out how to fit everything under the salary cap. Regardless of what the next GM does, should Toronto fulfill the potential many see in its young roster and actually win a championship in the near future, Lamoriello’s fingerprints will be all over that Cup.