Toronto Maple Leafs

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Maple Leafs extend Shanahan’s contract through 2024-25

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The Toronto Maple Leafs announced an important contract extension on Tuesday, but no, it’s not for Mitch Marner.

Instead, it’s for the man behind the plan to bring in players like Marner. The Maple Leafs handed Brendan Shanahan a six-year extension as team president (and alternate governor), which means that extension runs through 2024-25.

It’s easy to get lost in the particulars of the contract squabbles involving Marner and William Nylander, and two straight postseason defeats to the Boston Bruins, and forget that the Maple Leafs have come a long way since bringing in Shanahan in April 2014. The team’s press release does a nice job of quickly summarizing that success:

The 50-year-old native of Mimico, Ontario first joined the club in April 2014. Since then, the Maple Leafs have earned three consecutive playoff berths (2016-17 through to 2018-19), while recording their most points in a single season (105 in 2017-18) and consecutive 100-point seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19) for the first time in franchise history.

The “Shanaplan” involved bringing in Mike Babcock as head coach and convincing Lou Lamoriello to come aboard, and then eventually pass the torch as GM to Kyle Dubas. During that time, the Maple Leafs have made some significant moves, most notably landing John Tavares in free agency.

Of course, the biggest tests lie ahead.

The Maple Leafs must solve the riddle of the Marner contract situation, and the salary cap crunch that is likely to result. Who will they trade to make room for the bigger names, or will this situation demand that the Maple Leafs trade a big name to make it work? Dubas likely carries the heaviest burden in making all of that work, but Shanahan’s almost certain to have some say, even if it’s more of a big picture outlook.

Dubas did what he could to squash rumblings about Babcock’s future, explaining that the Maple Leafs “are all in on Mike, and Mike is all in on us.” Still, the perception is out there that the head coach and GM diverge on some key matters when it comes to running a hockey team, and those rumblings will grow louder during every inevitable rough patch in 2019-20, and possibly beyond.

[Babcock did what he could to clear the air during a volatile time in March.]

Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe also hovers in the background, in part because he might buy into Dubas’ vision more than Babcock, but also because other NHL teams might try to snatch him up as their next head coach.

So, basically, Shanahan faces difficult challenges both on the ice with cap management and behind the scenes with managing people. This has largely been a success when it comes to rebuilding a lump of clay (or worse) into a consistent playoff team, yet it’s arguably even more difficult to make the leap from “good” to “great.”

There could be many more growing pains along the way, but overall, it’s easy to see why the Maple Leafs have so much faith in Shanahan, and the Shanaplan.

(We might be getting to the point where it’s time to retire Shanaplan, though, as great as that word splice is.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hockey luminaries attend Red Kelly’s funeral in Toronto

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TORONTO — Family, friends and many of hockey’s most luminous names bid farewell to Red Kelly at the NHL great’s funeral Friday.

The eight-time Stanley Cup champion played 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups with each team. He died at 91 on May 2, exactly 52 years after helping the Maple Leafs win their last Stanley Cup in 1967.

Honorary pallbearers at the funeral included Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Bob Baun, Dick Duff, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon, Eddie Shack and Jim Gregory.

”He was a hero to us all,” said McDonald, who played for Kelly when he coached Toronto in the 1970s. ”We all looked up to him … how he lived his life. He showed us the way. … Red never swore. It was, ‘Wholly smollerinos … son of a sea cookin’ bottle washer.’ That’s the kind of gentleman he was, through in through.”

Also at the funeral were Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas, Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and former Toronto captain Wendel Clark.

”As much as he loved the game and he gave great service to the game and to this country … family was always first,” Bettman said. ”That’s something I always respected about him. Great, great man.”

Leonard Patrick Kelly started his hockey career as a defenseman but switched to center after his trade to Toronto. He served in the Canadian Parliament and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

”It was the ability to be the person he was that was so important,” former Toronto teammate Baun said. ”Red never did change, always such a great guy, very thoughtful and caring. He was as honest as the day is long.”

Kelly’s No. 4 is retired in Toronto and Detroit, and his statue is part of Legends Row outside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, where memorabilia and a book of condolence were on display Friday.

Kelly is survived by Andra, his wife of 60 years, four children and eight grandchildren.

Tavares injures side and will miss worlds for Canada

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TORONTO (AP) — Maple Leafs center John Tavares injured his side while practicing with the Canadian team and will miss the upcoming world championships in Slovakia.

Hockey Canada said Thursday it contacted the Maple Leafs and it was agreed it was best for him to return to Toronto for further evaluation of his oblique.

Such injuries usually require at least a few weeks of recovery. It wasn’t immediately clear how the 28-year-old star was hurt.

The news on Tavares came shortly before the Maple Leafs said defenseman Travis Dermott will have shoulder surgery and miss at least six months. He won’t be available until mid-November at the earliest.

Dermott had four goals and 13 assists in 64 games this season, plus a goal and two assists in seven playoff games.

Tavares was one of the few stars on Canada’s roster. He had a career-high 47 goals with 41 assists in 82 games during the regular season. He added two goals and three assists in the playoffs.

Tavares has played on three previous world championship teams. He was on Canada’s championship team at the 2014 Olympics, where he injured his left knee and missed the rest of that NHL season.

Canada opens world championship play against Finland on Friday.

Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly dies at age 91

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TORONTO (AP) — Red Kelly, the defenseman-turned-center whose Hall of Fame career included eight Stanley Cups while playing for Detroit and Toronto, has died. He was 91.

Kelly’s family said in a statement that he died Thursday in Toronto.

Kelly spent nearly 13 seasons with Detroit, helping the Red Wings win four championships from 1950-55. In 1954, he was the first winner of the James Norris Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top defenseman.

After being traded to Toronto during the 1959-60 season, Kelly became a forward and scored at least 20 goals in each of his first three full seasons with the Maple Leafs. Toronto won the Stanley Cup four times from 1962-67.

While with Toronto, Kelly was also a member of Parliament. He was elected as the Liberal MP for York-West in 1962 and again in ’63.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PHT Morning Skate: Meaning of NHL regular season; Kadri regrets cross-check

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for April 25

• Format not to blame for wild Round 1 upsets. (Sportsnet)

• The cascade of issues that not having a Canadian team in the playoffs creates. (Angus Reid Institute)

• Perhaps your favorite team is out and you’re looking to cheat on them with a new team. Here’s a bandwagon guide. (CBC)

• The regular season means nothing. (FiveThirtyEight)

• Torn ACL likely to mean Zach Hyman will miss the beginning of next season. (NHL.com)

• Mike Modano getting himself into eSports. (TSN)

• A timeline of the recently-ended Calgary Flames season. (Calgary Sun)

• The tragic consequences of the NHL’s science denial. (The Atlantic)

• The seve…. eight deadly sins of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Deadspin)

• The Washington Capitals’ Russian contingent heading to the World’s after their shocking playoff exit. (TSN)

Craig Smith is none too pleased with the Nashville Predators season ending in Round 1. (Tennessean)

• Game 7 controversy could have a ripple effect in the college game. (Jamestown Sun)

• Dubas not playing games after Maple Leafs tossed. (The Score)

Nazem Kadri regrets his silly cross-check. (TSN)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck