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Kyle Dubas shifts focus away from the Leafs going after “big names”

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Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
We’ll file a lot of what Kyle Dubas said about the trade deadline during his brief media availability under things Leafs fans didn’t want to hear. In addition to not really having much of an update on Matthews, Muzzin, or Murray, nor did have an update on his own contract status, Kyle Dubas took some air out of the room when he nudged his audience in the direction of not going after a big name target at the trade deadline.
From Kyle Dubas:
“Some of the larger focus is always on the bigger names, but we have to look at the people who may improve us overall and not just the big names per se.”
So there is a lot to interpret here and that’s what I’m going to wrestle with now. For one this certainly doesn’t exclude the possibility of the Leafs going after a big name target, it’s just hedging his bets a little to say that there might be someone more likely to improve the Leafs than a big name and that will be the priority. When two of the big names left are Patrick Kane with a wonky hip and Ryan O’Reilly with a busted foot, it’s entirely possible someone who isn’t being held together by model airplane glue is the better option.
There is also the matter of who is considered a big name. I’d certainly assume that Timo Meier and Jakob Chychrun are big names. Those previous two players mentioned would also fall into that category, and possibly players like Jonathan Toews have the household name element to them. What of Brock Boeser though? Or Jake McCabe? Conor Garland? These are all players who are significant by trade deadline standards, but their status as “big names” is highly debatable.
There is also the fact that Kyle Dubas isn’t an idiot. He doesn’t look at this team and see the need to throw more 4th line options and 7th defensemen into the Leafs mix, he’s likely targeting the middle of the roster as a smart GM would. The trade deadline is mainly about having your current third line become your fourth and make it so the bottom defensive pairing needs to put on a show to grab 12 minutes of icetime a night.
Really at this point, I think this is more of an acknowledgment that only one team can land Timo Meier and the Leafs probably aren’t in on Chychrun. Both are reasonable ideas to float even if Leafs fans don’t want to hear them.
So exhale.
As we’ve come to see from Kyle Dubas he makes a fair number of good decisions it’s just that some level of patience is required on the part of Leafs fans, and I can’t think of a sports fandom that is more justly fed up being told to be patient.
As things sit right now, there are a number of teams like the Sabres, Panthers, Islanders, Predators, and possibly the Flames that could see their status as a team pushing for the playoffs change in the next two weeks. That opens up a number of potentially worthwhile players that could hit the market at the 11th hour and the Leafs won’t have spent their assets.
There’s also something to recognizing that players like Ivan Barbashev, a player who is decidedly not a big name, can bring a lot more to the Leafs than just a pure offensive talent. If the Leafs are willing to wait out the market they won’t have to pay a premium for a player who would make Toronto a better team, in theory.
In a lot of ways Kyle Dubas didn’t do himself any favours by the press conference, but re-signing Conor TImmins for two more years at $1.1M should buy him a bit of trust. Kyle Dubas’ carefully selected words will never play as well as the Brian Burke bluster even if the Burke bluster was never lived up to.

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