Published On: Mon, Apr 30th, 2018

10 moves that will define Lamoriello's tenure in Toronto

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Lou Lamoriello’s tenure as ​​​​​​Toronto Maple Leafs general manager was short, but over the course of those three years, the club’s fortunes and future shifted dramatically.

Hired by team president Brendan Shanahan on July 23, 2015, the eventual Hall of Fame executive took the helm of a franchise in the throes of a rebuild, a process that many hoped would finally bring the Maple Leafs not only back to relevance, but ultimately rival the great success stories of the NHL’s salary cap era.

After bottoming out (with a purpose) in his first year on the job, Lamoriello’s Maple Leafs have improved season over season, with certain key moves along the way considered critical to that success, and maybe a couple others seen as potentially burdensome as the club moves on under new management.

An honorable mention off the top: Selecting Auston Matthews first overall in 2016 was obviously a franchise-altering event, but we can’t pump Lamoriello’s tires too hard for that one. Making that pick is like hitting a hole in one in mini putt where the cup sits directly at the bottom of a narrow funnel.


Time will tell whether the other picks made under his watch in 2016 and 2017 – none of whom have cracked the NHL lineup – will pan out.

Trading Phaneuf to Ottawa

With Phil Kessel having already been jettisoned to Pittsburgh by the previous regime as part of a big move in a different direction, Lamoriello pulled off another seismic deal seemingly out of nowhere with the rival Ottawa Senators.

Gone was Dion Phaneuf and a host of spare parts in exchange for, well, a bunch of other guys who would never suit up for Toronto. In essence, the deal saw Toronto not only part ways with its captain but also shed a boatload of salary while taking on some pieces that would be quickly discarded.

The Maple Leafs went on to finish dead last that season, allowing them to draft potential future captain Matthews.

Locking up Kadri, Rielly


Lamoriello locked up a pair of core, young players, signing defenseman Morgan Rielly and forward Nazem Kadri to six-year contracts.

Rielly’s deal is worth $30 million ($5-million cap hit), while Kadri’s is set at $27 million ($4.5-million cap hit), both of which have provided excellent value for Toronto, and will for years to come.

Acquiring franchise goalie

Later in 2016, Lamoriello concluded the goalie tandem of James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier wasn’t going to cut it, leading him to acquire Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a pair of draft picks, including a first-round selection that year.

That pick was used by Anaheim to add forward Sam Steel, who has yet to make his NHL debut.

Andersen was immediately signed to a five-year, $25-million contract extension, and Toronto has ridden him hard over the past two seasons, as no other goalie has faced more shots from the opposition.

If the Maple Leafs are going to reach the promised land anytime soon, it’ll be on Andersen’s back.

Gotta have grit


Try as they might to navigate the waters of a new speed- and skill-based NHL, the Maple Leafs could not resist committing money and term to tough guy Matt Martin, who was signed to a four-year, $10-million contract on July 1, 2016.

Martin appeared in all 82 regular-season games and six playoff contests in the first year of his deal, but dressed for only 50 this past season, and none in a first-round series loss to Boston. Still, he was protected from the expansion draft, with skilled forward Brendan Leipsic landing in Vegas.

Only two years to go on this one; not Lou’s finest moment to be sure.

Extending Zaitsev for a long, long time

Speaking of questionable decisions …

No Maple Leafs player has a longer-running contract than defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who signed a seven-year, $31.5-million deal on May 2, 2017 after having completed his rookie season.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the Russian took a step or three back this past season, the first under his new deal.

Zaitsev has a modified no-trade clause that will come into effect beginning in 2019-20 as well, meaning he’ll be harder to move over the final five years.

Adding veteran experience


As free agency opened in 2017, Lamoriello announced two big signings on consecutive days.

Fresh off a Cup win in Pittsburgh, defenseman Ron Hainsey was brought aboard on a two-year, $6-million deal, and a day later, forward Patrick Marleau – long in search of hockey’s greatest prize – surprised many by making the move from San Jose to Toronto on a three-year, $18.75-million deal after two decades in Northern California.

Both did all that could be asked of them and more during their first seasons in blue and white, and will be counted on to bring the kind of leadership and experience needed to go deeper in the playoffs in 2019.

Team-friendly deals for Hyman, Brown

Also last summer, the Maple Leafs extended a pair of restricted free agents with solid deals for the team: winger Zach Hyman at four years and $9 million, and Connor Brown for three years and $6.2 million.

In order to succeed in the salary cap era, you need secondary scoring on the cheap, and having Hyman and Brown signed to these deals as the likes of Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner come up for big-money deals is huge.

A new GM will be on the job if and when Toronto makes good on years of hope, but Lamoriello’s legacy will only be boosted by what he was able to accomplish while working for Shanahan, a player he drafted second overall in 1987 back in his New Jersey days.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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