Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager

Speaking to Elliotte Friedman at the site of the Heritage Classic on Saturday night, Kyle Dubas discussed the latest update on Jake Muzzin, whether he will consider adding a goalie before the trade deadline, and the controversy around Michael Bunting’s Calder Trophy eligibility at age 26.

One of your favourite teams is the Hamilton Ticats. What is it like to be here preparing for this event?

Dubas: It’s pretty cool and very unique. It is 11 or 12 years now that we have been coming here as season ticket holders. It started off with a group of friends at university, and now our family. To be able to play a game here where we have spent more time as fans than anywhere else is a really cool experience for my family.

My wife is from Hamilton. I lived here as well prior to going to the Leafs — after university, when I was still with the Soo. It is a great opportunity and very unique. I never expected to be playing an NHL game in Hamilton at Tim Hortons Field. We’ll just enjoy it.

A week ago, you were asked about goaltending, and you said it is not your priority. Has it changed with what has happened since then?

Dubas: The reality is that we have obviously had an injury in the meantime to Jack Campbell.

With regards to Petr, he didn’t have a good night on Thursday night, but he has played nearly 300 games in the NHL and been a .910 goaltender over the 300 games. It is not as though he has played a year or two and now he is struggling for the first time. He is a veteran guy who has been able to overcome this in the past.

We believe that he will, and then we will get Jack back and healthy. At the same time, I think our fans and everybody saw the other night that Erik Kallgren can come in and play as well, and Joe Woll has already played this year and played well for us.

We feel we have four guys that can all come in and play. Jack and Petr are the two proven NHL guys. That is what our focus is on.

Has Jake Muzzin’s timeline become any clearer over the last week?

Dubas: The positive is that he is back, skating, able to get through that, and not have any setbacks while doing that. It is his second concussion in short order. With concussions, I know everybody in the league handles them very cautiously, but especially when they happen in quick succession.

I don’t pretend to be a doctor or have the ins and outs of that. There are people far more qualified than I who the league employs and our team employs. We just care about his health and getting him healthy. Once he gets to the point where he feels like he is ready to get himself back into competition, we will probably get him some conditioning games with the Marlies before we put him back in the lineup.

There has been a lot of debate about Michael Bunting, the rookie of the year, and his age. Do you have a position on that?

Dubas: I have known him for a long time. My position would be as it pertains to Michael, his age… An older player won the Calder Trophy not that long ago at 23-24. They were coming from playing in the KHL.

Michael, if you look at the players he is contending with, I know they are four or five years younger than him, but Michael Bunting, until he was 17 years old, played AA hockey. Some of those players, when they were 17 years old, were playing in the best development programs in the world and already playing professional hockey.

He made his AAA debut at 17 years old and played for the team that finished second last or last the year before. We were lucky enough to find him in the Soo at that time and bring him in. To me, his path has not been as fortuitous as others.

Certainly, he did not have the exposure to developmental opportunities as some of those other people did. To me, that should be taken into account. Some of these guys are coming from the best development programs in the world — the U.S. national development program, or some of the best programs in Europe.

Michael had to go the very long way around to get there, and I think that should be taken into account. He is having a great year. Anyone who is trying to discount him just needs to be enlightened a little bit on his path.