Hired as the Leafs general manager in 2015 by a player-turned-president he once drafted, Lou Lamoriello has, in only three seasons, put his stamp on Toronto’s future.
Brendan Shanahan brought in his old compadre to help oversee a scorched-earth rebuild, one in which the team intentionally tanked during Lou’s first campaign at the helm — which yielded the No. 1 selection in 2016 as the Leafs drafted a cornerstone centreman in Auston Matthews.
After bottoming out, Lamoriello was looked to be a guiding force through the next two seasons of the rebuild. He did just that, putting the Maple Leafs in position to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the early 2000’s and posting back-to-back 100-point campaigns, including a franchise-record 105 in 2017-18.
Whether he sticks around with Toronto in an advisor role or sails off into the sunset, boasting a legacy as one of the game’s greatest executives, Lou’s stint with the Maple Leafs will be remembered as, for the most part, a positive and productive one.
Here’s a timeline of the major moves that marked, for better or worse, Lamoriello’s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs:
February 2016: Shipped out Dion Phaneuf
Through some miraculous work, Lamoriello was somehow able to shed the polarizing blue-liner along with his $7-million-per-year cap hit without retaining any of Phaneuf’s salary. In a nine-player “Blockbuster,” the Leafs moved their Captain to the Senators for a bunch of dudes who were quickly shipped out or buried in the AHL. The deal opened a lot of much-needed cap space and lifted the team from underneath a contract it would have likely been stuck with through 2021.
April 2016: Re-signed Nazem Kadri
Toronto’s GM was able to lock up Kadri to a team-friendly six-year, $27-million deal ($4.5-million cap hit), which has proven to be an absolute bargain as Kadri has rounded into a solid top-six guy — and one of the better two-way centres in the Eastern Conference. After signing the extension prior to 2016-17, Kadri posted back-to-back 32 goal campaigns — his previous high in a single season was 20.
April 2016: Re-signed Morgan Rielly
Maybe not a true No. 1 defenceman, but a damn good No. 2, Rielly re-upped with Toronto at the same time as Kadri and is under contract through 2022 at a comfortable cap hit of $5-million per season. The 24-year-old is Toronto’s best blue-liner currently on the roster, and posted a career high 52 points last season.
June 2016: Acquired Frederik Andersen
Lamoriello, who knows first hand how important a reliable, game-stealing goalie is to any team, made sure he got the man he wanted. Lou sent a couple of draft picks — of which the team was starting to stockpile — including a first-rounder for the then-Ducks netminder and immediately inked Freddy Andersen to a favourable five-year, $25-million deal. Andersen has arguably been the team’s MVP and a top-10 NHL goaltender over the past two seasons, posting a .918 save percentage while facing the most rubber in the league over that span.
May 2017: Extended Nikita Zaitsev forever
Though it’s still early, as they say, this one may turn out to be the biggest blemish on Lamoriello’s tenure in Toronto. Zaitsev was inked to a seven-year, $31.5-million contract after a strong rookie season and is under control at a $4.5-million cap hit through 2024. Oh, and the blueliner was granted a modified no-movement clause for the final four years of the deal, too.
July 2017: Signed Patrick Marleau
Toronto needed to throw a proven veteran with speed and skill into a group of speedy, energetic underlings, so who better than the future Hall of Famer? Marleau inked a three-year, $18.75-million contract after 19 years with the San Jose Sharks and seems to be out-skating Father Time (for now) with 27 goals, including five power play tallies, during his first season in Toronto.
Summer 2017: Extended Zack Hyman and Connor Brown
Lamoriello secured a couple of not-so-flashy yet essential pieces to club-friendly contracts in the form of Brown and Hyman. The latter was locked up for four years at just $2.25-million per, while Brown is signed through 2020 at just $2.1-million per season.
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