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Kyle Dubas out as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs after 5 seasons

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas speaks to media during an end-of-season availability in Toronto, on Monday, May 15, 2023. The Maple Leafs were eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the Florida Panthers on Friday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

TORONTO (AP) — Brendan Shanahan started the week wanting to keep Kyle Dubas in the fold.

A stunning, roller-coaster five days culminated with the Toronto Maple Leafs now looking for a new general manager ahead of what could be a defining summer for the success-starved Original Six franchise.

Shanahan, the team’s president, fired his 37-year-old GM on Friday, bringing an end to a tumultuous stretch that began with Dubas stating publicly Monday he wasn’t certain he wanted to remain in the role.

The Maple Leafs said in a press release issued earlier in the day the organization was “parting ways” with Dubas, whose contract was set to expire June 30, after five seasons in charge.

In a detailed opening statement that lasted more than 11 minutes at a press conference later in the afternoon, Shanahan said he decided to move on from Dubas that morning. The decision came despite the GM sending an email the previous night indicating he wanted to stay on board — albeit with an increased salary demand via his agent.

“At that point ... I had gotten to a different place about how I felt about the future,” Shanahan said. “As hard as it is to make a significant change to somebody that you’re close to ... the email that I received from Kyle, I just felt differently, and I felt that the long-term future of the Maple Leafs might have to change.

“Slept on that and woke up this morning, drove to Kyle’s office ... and informed him that we were not going to be renewing his contract.”

With Dubas the first domino to fall in what is shaping up to be an intriguing few months in Toronto, attention now turns to his replacement, along with the status of coach Sheldon Keefe and the future of star forward Auston Matthews, who both have close ties to the now-departed GM.

Toronto won a playoff series this year for the first time in nearly two decades. The Maple Leafs eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing to the underdog Florida Panthers in a disappointing second-round showing.

“Going throughout the year, the way that the team was managed, I had no issue,” Shanahan said. “Kyle did an excellent job. When the season did end ... I had expressed to Kyle that night that as disappointed as we all were, that I thought he had done a good job."

An emotional Dubas said Monday he wasn’t sure if he would continue on as GM, citing the stress on his young family.

“Definitely don’t have it in me to go anywhere else,” he added at the time. “It’ll either be here or it’ll be taking time to recalibrate (and) reflect.”

Dubas joined the Leafs in 2014 as an assistant GM at age 28. He managed the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup title in 2018. He took over as Toronto general manager from Lou Lamoriello in May 2018 as part of a succession plan under Shanahan’s direction.

The Leafs experienced unprecedented regular-season success under Dubas — viewed as a young, bright hockey mind with a forward-thinking approach to analytics — over his five years in charge.

Toronto set single-season records for wins and points, and went 221-109-42 in his tenure. Dubas also didn’t shy away from big moves — he fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock in November 2019 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe — but struggled to find the right mix in the playoffs until this spring.

The Leafs lost to Boston in seven games in 2019 and fell to Columbus in the 2020 pandemic-necessitated qualifying round. The team blew a 3-1 lead against Montreal in a disastrous 2021 collapse before showing promise in a tight, seven-game loss to Tampa in 2022 that set the stage for last month’s breakthrough.

Dubas offered unwavering support to Toronto’s so-called “Core Four” of offensive talent consisting of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.

“Unbelievable throughout my whole time here,” Marner said of Dubas after the Leafs were eliminated by Florida.

Matthews also trumpeted what Dubas brought, while defenseman Morgan Rielly was firmly in their now-former general manager’s corner earlier this week.

“I think the world of Kyle,” Rielly said. “World-class GM.”

Dubas' first big splash was to lure Tavares with a seven-year, $77-million contract in free agency after just a few months on the job in 2018. A tough negotiation with Nylander followed before he eventually signed a six-year, $45 million extension. That set the stage for Matthews to ink a five-year extension with a value just under $58.2 million. Marner then got paid with a six-year, $65.4-million pact as Toronto allocated roughly half its salary cap to four stars.

Dubas also wasn’t shy about changing course, realizing early on that Toronto needed more grit and playoff experience. He acquired Cup winners Jake Muzzin in 2019 and Ryan O’Reilly in 2023 with an eye towards getting the Leafs over the hump.

Dubas remade the roster before this season’s trade deadline by adding the likes of O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe. He appeared to finally get it right in the Leafs’ six-game victory over Tampa that exorcised a generation of playoff demons, but Florida’s emphatic 4-1 triumph in the second round saw most of those positive vibes quickly fade.

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