As teams that are lucky enough to still be alive in the NHL postseason get ready for what should be a fantastic round two, teams on the outside looking in have already began the process of looking towards next year. Â The Toronto Maple Leafs are among the latter, having already been busy shoring up their goaltending depth in the past few weeks with the signings of Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens.
The Leafs aren’t the only team already looking to next year, and they seem directly related to another team that is doing the same.
Reports have surfaced this morning, courtesy of TSN’s Darren Dreger, that the Tampa Bay Lightning have intensified their search for their new GM, and Leafs Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations Dave Nonis appears to be the front runner for the job that was vacated when the Lightning fired Brian Lawton earlier this year.
Nonis is widely regarded as one of sharpest young minds in the business, and has worked alongside Leafs GM Brian Burke for most of his NHL career, riding shotgun with the brash GM in Vancouver, Anaheim, and most recently Toronto.
He also had a brief stint as GM of the Canucks, a run that was highlighted by the trade that brought Roberto Luongo to Vancouver.
Nonis has played an integral role with the Leafs since his arrival, focusing a lot of time and energy to the Toronto Marlies hockey club. Â He is also regarded as one of the main reasons the Leafs have had such positive results dipping their toes in the college free agent market, and for his key role in the formulation of the Phaneuf blockbuster:
Nonis was there undercover to get a close-up view of Dion Phaneuf as the Leafs and Flames were in the final stages of negotiating a massive seven-player swap that was consummated Jan. 31. Before the deal was made, GM Brian Burke wanted Nonis, his trusted right-hand man, to assess whether there was a flaw in the erratic Phaneuf’s game so enormous a trade would be inadvisable.
Nonis’s response? Most of Phaneuf’s errors were errors of commission made trying to make something positive happen. So the Leafs made the deal.
The loss of Nonis would certainly be a big blow to the Toronto Maple Leafs if he were in fact hired as General Manager of the Lightning. Â As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the Lightning have officially asked permission to speak with Nonis, but it’s a move that Burke certainly wouldn’t block, or stand in the way of.
Burke did a similar move for Joe Nieuwendyk when the Dallas Stars came knocking a few years ago. Â While it similarly qualified as a loss of another front office man many in the league refer to as a future top mind in the game, Burke would not stand in the way of Nieuwendyk’s dream of becoming a GM in the league, and will likely do the same for Nonis, if it reaches that point.
There is news this morning that Steve Yzerman has been shortlisted by the new Tampa Bay Lightning owner, and if Yzerman shows interest in the job, one would believe he may have the advantage over Nonis.
Yzerman is currently employed by the Detroit Red Wings, an organization he played for his entire career. Â However, with an extension for Ken Holland set to be announced, and guys like Jim Nill deeply rooted, Yzerman may have to look outside the Wings organization if he is to become a GM in the National Hockey League. May I be the first to say let us hope.