General Manager Kyle Dubas addressed the media on the eve of the 2018 NHL Draft, discussing the amount of trade talk, possible moves on the draft floor, the plan for free agency, and much more.
It seems the top two picks are locked in. Given the volatility after that, how loud has the debate been among the group as far as what you might be able to do at 25?
Dubas: I think it’s a lively and fluid situation, for sure. It’s tough to predict right now — Even with the top two picks locked in – what’s going to be there or not at 25. We try not to have our people do too mu undue prognosticating, which we aren’t especially good at, in my experience, the day before the draft. We’ll just be prepared as possible and be ready for when we get onto the floor tomorrow night for whatever happens, and we’ll just roll from there.
Would you look to move up at all?
Dubas: It would totally depend on what is available. We’ll see where things fall on the draft floor. We’re not opposed to anything.
Without Hunter being a part of this process, how has it sort of changed for you guys in how you’ve been preparing for this?
Dubas: Well, I think we’ve relied heavily on our area directors of scouting, and we have a lot of very good people involved, whether it is Reid Mitchell, Brandon Pridham, and now Laurence Gilman, plus our area directors of our staff. It’s been a really smooth process. They’ve worked extremely hard at it in the last month, which has been a relief for me. The way they’ve handled it has made my life quite easy, and they’ve been very prepared. The days have kind of just rolled on. Our process, I think, has been good. We’ll see tomorrow night how it all plays out and go from there.
Miro Aaltonen is heading back to Europe. That’s a tough loss, obviously, and tough to compete, maybe. Does this put an extra incentive for Frederik Gauthier or even drafting a center moving forward?
Dubas: If we draft a center tomorrow, we can’t count on him, certainly. If anything, it creates some incentive for our internal people. It’s another depth spot that opens up for us, and we had kind of counted on Miro challenging for a spot on the Maple Leafs next year for sure. He was great for the Marlies. We appreciate his efforts. I don’t begrudge his decision whatsoever. I think it makes our situation more lucrative for both centers and wingers in free agency that are maybe looking at our situation, so that will help us as we come into July 1st. That will increase our focus on that on July 1st, as well.
Was that a hockey decision or a personal decision for him to go back?
Dubas: What we were told by Miro and his people is that he wanted to be featured on the number-one scoring line in the KHL, and I don’t begrudge that. That was his decision that was relayed to us via his agent and himself. We appreciate his efforts and what he did with the Marlies, and wish him well.
There is not a lot of time between the draft and the courting period of free agency. Does it help that you have your area directors in place and you can already start to look ahead to that courting period?
Dubas: I think the key thing with the courting period is that we have Dave Morrison, who has more experience than just about anybody on our staff. He, combined with Troy Bodie, Mike Penny, Tom Watt and Jim Roque – our pro staff – were in all last week. They’ve been very, very well prepared and ready for free agency. We feel very, very good about where we are heading into that Sunday at midnight, and we’ll be ready for that. You are always trying to keep abreast of who is signing and who isn’t – just keep our eye on it and be ready for anything come Sunday night.
Does it kind of remind you of in college with that recruiting period? Is this kind of a similar thing?
Dubas: It’s interesting. The league has put this in recently, and if anything, it is good for the media – and I mean that seriously — and good for attention on the game because there is no gap in between. There is people tracking where people are flying and going. I think as much as you can keep the momentum of your season and your public relations rolling along, it is only good for the league to keep it in the public eye. It makes things a little bit hectic for us. We have our development camp next week as well. Our development staff will handle that and I’ll put my whole focus on free agency.
In regards to your own free agents, you said you are keeping your lines of communication open. Have you indicated you will circle back possibly?
Dubas: The conversations are always rolling. We are in constant dialogue right now with our own free agents and with their representatives to get a sense of where they are at and where their head is at heading in. We’ll see how things shake out coming next week.
Do you anticipate signing the rest of your RFAs?
Dubas: I think, by and large, that is what we are going to work towards. There are a few that we won’t. We had a few trickle out yesterday and we’re working on those situations here today. The qualification deadline is on Monday. At the very least, we’ll have news on that on Monday afternoon, about who we have qualified and who we haven’t, and we’ll roll from there.
How about Marincin? Is he going to be back with the organization?
Dubas: We are in discussion with Marty’s people to see where he stands or not. He proved in the playoffs that he is a very, very valuable member of any organization. I know he’s had a turbulent ride here, and it was great to see him start to earn his confidence this year with the Marlies – start to skate, make more plays, very, very solid defensively and excellent on the penalty kill, as he always has been. But I think our whole organization was impressed with how Marty’s game grew. He’s not a young prospect by any means – he’s a 92 born – but we are happy with where Marty is and I think he’d be a valuable member for us going forward.
Have you made any headway with William Nylander?
Dubas: At this time, I’m going to meet with Lewis Gross here in the coming days. We’ve got lots of time and patience to work with that. There is no real end date in my mind. We’ll just keep working towards it. William is an important part of what we do here.
With that cap locked in at $79.5 million, are you happy with what you have and hope to do this summer at that number?
Dubas: We have lots of cap space this summer, so that is always nice. Using it effectively is the next part of it and that falls on me and our management team, but I’m confident that we’ll use it properly. We’ll take stock of what our various different options are and then use it appropriately to help move our franchise forward. That’s the mode that we are in now – trying to get it moving forward. We are happy with our coaching staff, happy with our players. It’s an asset for us right now. Our plan is to use it effectively.
What did you see out of Calvin Pickard that led you to want to bring him back?
Dubas: I think you have to make a decision on the goalies. Depth at the goaltender position is always a good thing. He played very well. The goaltender that was his partner there just happened to have the best season of any goalie in the league and was named as goaltender of the year. We were kind of spoiled in that regard with the Marlies this year. With Calvin, he is an elite character person with good experience. He is obviously a good goaltender as well. He will help out our depth and compete with the guys above him on the depth chart and be ready come the Fall.
Do you anticipate a trade of one of them?
Dubas: It’s nice to have those assets. It’s very hard when you don’t. Lou, in his time here, the goaltender trade for Freddy was an outstanding deal that is paying dividends for us and will continue to. I think we would rather have depth in that position rather than worry about trying to scramble and fill it. We are happy with our depth there right now and if there is something that is enticing for everybody, we’ll maybe look at it. For now, we are content with our depth.
Pierre Dorion said today that things are pretty active trade talk wise. He’s in a whole different situation than perhaps you are right now, but is it busy for you as well? Are you hearing more than usual?
Dubas: I mean, this is my second time heading into the draft in this position. My first time in the full-time role. I’d say it is probably equal to 2015, just from my previous experience. It doesn’t seem… we were in a different spot then as well. We were completely rebuilding and everything was on the table. We had a big trade in the works that didn’t come to fruition for a couple more days after the draft and on the eve of free agency. Right now, we are in active talks with everybody. Teams are stating their intentions and what they’d like to do. There have been a few trades already, of course. We are just monitoring everything and seeing if there is a trade that can improve us.
That interview period with free agents – are there extra things you can do to try to stand out from some of the other teams competing for these guys?
Dubas: I don’t think so. Not until we get to Saturday night or Sunday morning. We will see who is available at that time, and then we will kind of chart our resources from there in terms of what we are going to do.