Kyle Dubas didn't get any satisfaction watching the Tampa Bay Lightning climb within two wins of a third consecutive Stanley Cup.

If anything, the fact his Toronto Maple Leafs had the two-time defending champions on the ropes in the first round of the playoffs this spring made it worse for a general manager sitting on an increasingly hot seat.

"We just have to focus on ourselves," Dubas said Wednesday after GMs met ahead of the NHL draft. "We didn't get it done."

Toronto, which hasn't advanced in the playoffs since 2004, led Tampa 3-2 in the series and 3-2 in the third period of Game 6 before losing in overtime.

The Leafs then had plenty of opportunities early in Game 7 on home ice two nights later, but couldn't connect on the way to a crushing 2-1 loss that resigned the franchise to a seventh straight series defeat.

The Lightning went onto sweep the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the next round and beat the New York Rangers in six prior to falling to the Colorado Avalanche in the final.

"The 'what ifs?' don't really help," Dubas said. "It doesn't help cure the sleepless nights or make you feel any better ... probably a little bit the other way. 

"We just have to focus on ourselves and avoid that same feeling and avoid these same questions."

Another question posed to Dubas when he met reporters at a downtown Montreal hotel was if he felt his job was on the line more so in 2022-23 than in years past.

Toronto set club records for wins and points last season, but still couldn't get over what's become a confounding playoff hump. 

There are big questions surrounding the team's goaltending heading into free agency next week, while there's also plenty of work to do rounding out a roster that looks set to lose some significant pieces — namely netminder Jack Campbell and winger Ilya Mikheyev.

"It's a fair question," Dubas replied to the query about his job security. "I feel it's on the line every year, and I'm judged at the end of every season. I don't necessarily feel there's more of a pressure. 

"It is a very important thing for me personally to help deliver for the organization."

He added the pressure doesn't change day-to-day.

"The end goal is that we're having success when it matters in the playoffs," Dubas said. "As much as we want to just fast-forward all the way there, if we skip all the steps we'll fall well short. I don't treat (the coming season) any differently. I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver. 

"That'll never change." 


The Leafs signed restricted free agent defenceman Timothy Liljegren to a two-year contract last week that carries a tidy average annual value of US$1.4 million.

Negotiations with fellow Swedish blue-liner Rasmus Sandin continue, but there's a chance Toronto's first-round pick at the 2018 draft could hit the open market and be tempted by a offer sheet.

The Leafs would then have the option to match the contract signed with another club to retain Sadin's services or receive compensation for the lost RFA.

"If there's going to be an offer sheet, the sooner the better, so we can make our decision and move on," Dubas said.

Free agency opens July 13.


All's quiet on the J.T. Miller front. 

The 29-year-old forward has excelled with the Canucks and led Vancouver in scoring with career highs in goals (32), assists (67) and points (99) last season. 

But with a year left on Miller's current deal, questions loom over whether the team can afford to extend him long-term. 

Canucks GM Patrik Allvin said he's had good talks with the player's camp, although a new contract getting signed ahead of the draft isn't likely. 

"I guess anything could happen," he said. "We'll wait and see."


In a perfect world, Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland would have more certainty when it comes to Evander Kane. 

This isn't a perfect world. 

Instead, Holland has been having lots of discussions about the controversial winger he signed to a one-year, $2.1-million deal with the Oilers in January. 

Kane went on to put up 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 43 regular-season games and added another 13 goals and four assists in 15 playoff appearances. 

"I'm not here telling you I'm close to any kind of a deal," Holland said. "You can wake up tomorrow and things have changed. But is there a possibility that he's on the (free-agent) market July 13? Absolutely."

The Oilers already know they have a hole to fill in free agency, the GM added. With Mikko Koskinen signing in Switzerland and Mike Smith's future unclear, Edmonton is going to need a goalie. 

"I met with Smitty, had breakfast with him the other day. He's banged up. He's banged up pretty bad," Holland said. "So, obviously I'd like to, in the next 10 days, have done something."


As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, concerns grow around whether Russian NHL players will be able to return to North America this fall. 

Holland said as far as he knows, Oilers defenceman Dmitri Samorukov remains in Edmonton. But he doesn't know where forward prospect Matvey Petrov went after finishing the Ontario Hockey League season with the North Bay Battalion. 

On the eve of the draft, Edmonton was still considering how the conflict would weigh into its draft considerations. 

"I've talked to (director of amateur scouting) Tyler Wright about that," Holland said. 

"We're going to talk again ... we'll play it by ear." 

The Canucks expect Russians Vasily Podkolzin and Andrei Kuzmenko to be in Vancouver ahead of training camp in September, Allvin said. 

Belarusian prospect Danilla Klimovich is already in town, he added, opting to stay to "get the appropriate training" during the off-season. 

Dubas said it's hard not to view prospects from that part of the world through a different prism given the current conflict.

"There's so much uncertainty," he said. "It's a situation I've not encountered.

"It is something that you consider."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2022.