Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Waiting to Offer Steve Yzerman or Pat Verbeek?


Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Waiting to Offer Steve Yzerman or Pat Verbeek?

We are now three weeks away from the NHL Draft and the Toronto Maple Leafs remain without a general manager.

By now you’ve heard potential candidate names like Mark Hunter, George McPhee, Mike Futa, and most recently, Jeff Gorton. As each day passes, though, it seems more and more likely that the Leafs will eventually name Mark Hunter as their general manager, as the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons suggests Babcock is pushing for.

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But what if the Leafs have another plan in mind? One that involves waiting for the Stanley Cup Finals to finish so they can make an offer to either Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, or assistant general manager Pat Verbeek?

On the surface, this sounds like a very farfetched idea. But if the Lightning win the Stanley Cup things might change for Yzerman — although I highly doubt it. With three years left on his contract, he looks set to stay in the Sunshine state for the foreseeable future. But with the Leafs clearly showing that they have an infinite budget with the Mike Babcock signing, perhaps they will make an attempt to dump the money truck on Yzerman?

The counter argument against this is an easy one: why leave a potential dynasty in Tampa for the rebuilding Leafs?

Jun 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman talks with media during media day the day before the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps a Stanley Cup would be enough for Yzerman to move on and allow him to take on a new challenge where he could once again be able to construct a roster like he has with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Team Canada.

Again, Yzerman is a complete long shot in my opinion. However, given the way the Leafs came out of left field to scoop up Babcock, the idea of them making a similar pitch to Yzerman is interesting food for thought.

The more likely candidate to arise after the Stanley Cup Finals, though, is Lightning assistant general manager and director of player personnel Pat Verbeek.

Under the tutelage of Yzerman, Verbeek has risen through the ranks in Tampa and has become one of the best talent evaluators in hockey. Working closely with Yzerman, he is responsible for all the team’s professional scouting and aids in player procurement.

In the case of Verbeek, he is similar to Maple Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter. Both are excellent evaluators of talent and seem set to become general managers one day.

Aside from his keen eye for talent, Verbeek shares a familiarity with Brendan Shanahan, Mike Babcock and Mark Hunter that could make him a legitimate dark horse in the Leafs general manager search.

Going all the way back to the Hartford Whalers, Verbeek and Hunter spent two seasons together playing for the Whalers from 1990-1992. Although Hunter was not a steady fixture with the Whalers like Verbeek was, the two did spend 74 games together.

Later in his career from 1999-2001, Verbeek played two seasons with Leafs’ president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan while with the Detroit Red Wings. During their two seasons together, Verbeek certainly impressed the right people, since the Red Wings would eventually bring him back as a scout following his retirement. From 2006-2010, Verbeek scouted for the Red Wings and worked for Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock.

While I don’t know if they all got along with one another, the familiarity is certainly there to draw a connection between Verbeek and the Leafs’ brain trust. Given his ability to evaluate talent, I’d be surprised if the Leafs did not reach out to Verbeek following the Stanley Cup Finals.

However, as TSN‘s Darren Dreger suggested, the Leafs could opt to go without a GM and decide to make decisions by committee. But he believes that would just eventually lead to Shanahan becoming the de facto general manager.

Although much of this is speculation, the longer the Leafs go without a general manager, you have to believe they either have something big they’re waiting on, or, they’re just going to roll with what they currently have.

Next: Analyzing the Maple Leafs Salary Cap Situation