August 29, 2003 – After a prolonged search, and with training camp just weeks away, the Maple Leafs introduce John Ferguson Jr. as the 12th general manager in Maple Leafs history. His selection is immediately questioned by some members of the Toronto media who say he is too inexperienced for the job. Adding to the intrigue is the fact the previous GM – Pat Quinn – remains as the team’s coach.
Sept. 10, 2003 – Ferguson’s first significant move is to sign free-agent Joe Nieuwendyk to a one year contract. Nieuwendyk would contribute 22 goals and 50 points in 64 games that season.
March 3, 2004 – With the team gearing up for the playoffs, Ferguson trades for New York Rangers defenceman Brian Leetch. In exchange, the Leafs up Maxim Kondratiev and Jarkko Immonen as well as a first-round pick (Kris Chucko) in the 2004 draft and a second-round pick (Michael Sauer) in the 2005 draft. Leetch plays well but is not re-signed in the summer and instead signs with Boston.
March 9, 2004 – Ferguson claims a struggling Chad Kilger off waivers from Montreal. Kilger responds with some high-energy play and the following season scores a career-high 17 goals.
March 9, 2004 – Ferguson picks up some more experience when he trades for Ron Francis from the Carolina Hurricanes, giving up a fourth-round pick (Jared Boll) in the 2005 draft. Francis’ contributions are minimal, however, and following the season-long lockout the future Hall of Famer retires.
April 4, 2004 – The Leafs set a team record for points with 103, compiling a record of 45-24-10-3 and finishing second in the Northeast Division. After a spirited seven-game win over Ottawa in the opening round, the Leafs are defeated in six games by the Philadelphia Flyers.
June 30, 2004 – With the league on the verge of a lockout, Ferguson re-signs 39-year-old goaltender Ed Belfour to a three-year deal. Belfour, though, undergoes back surgery prior to the lockout and his injury status requires the team to pay his salary for the duration of the work stoppage.
July 30, 2005 – Coming out of the lockout, a cautious Ferguson waits to gauge the new market before jumping into the free-agent pool. But after most of the top talent is quickly secured by other teams, Ferguson finally does a deal, acquiring Jeff O’Neill from Carolina for a conditional fourth-round pick (Reto Berra) in the 2006 draft.
August 5, 2005 – Ferguson re-signs fan favourite Tie Domi, though it is widely speculated that the GM was told to by MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum, a friend of domi’s. The impression that Ferguson doesn’t have full control of hockey decisions begins to erode his credibility in Toronto.
Also that day, Ferguson takes a gamble in signing free agent Jason Allison, who hadn’t played in two years because of back trouble and the lockout. Though he earns 60 points in 66 games that season, the lumbering centreman proves too one-dimensional in the "new" NHL and a hand injury ends both his season and tenure as a Leaf.
August 11, 2005 – Ferguson again gambles, signing free agent Eric Lindros to a one-year deal. The much-ballyhooed return of the oft-injured Lindros to his hometown is short-lived, however. Despite some early season heroics, Lindros’ history repeats itself and injuries limit him to just 33 games.
February 11, 2006 – With both Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe approaching free agency, a pro-active Ferguson re-signs Kaberle to a five-year deal worth $21.25 million. The yearly average of just more than $4 million would prove to be a good deal.
April 16, 2006 – The Leafs miss the playoffs, finishing the regular season with a record of 41-33-8, good for 90 points and fourth in the Northeast Division.
April 20, 2006 – Shedding the perceived millstone around his neck, Ferguson fires Quinn after the team fails to make the playoffs. Ferguson eventually replaces him with Paul Maurice, who had coached the team’s AHL affiliate Marlies that season.
June 24, 2006 – In one of the most controversial deals of his tenure, Ferguson acquires goaltender Andrew Raycroft from Boston in exchange for Tuukka Rask, a young goalie many consider a future star. Though Raycroft would set a team record for wins (37) in a season in 2006-07, he fails to become the dominant No.1 goalie the team needs, forcing Ferguson to trade for Vesa Toskala the following year.
June 28, 2006 – Ferguson rewards defenceman Bryan McCabe with a five-year, $28.75 million deal. While McCabe scored 68 points that season, the deal raises eyebrows because it is $7 million more than Kaberle, considered the better player. Both McCabe and Kaberle are also given no-movement clauses.
June 30, 2006 – Ferguson corrects a couple of mistakes by buying out Domi and declining the option on Belfour’s contract.
July 1, 2006 – Ferguson makes his biggest splash, signing free agent defencemen Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina to multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts. While Gill is given a relatively modest $6.3 million over three years, Kubina gets $20 million over four years; a deal many consider to be over-valued.
October 7, 2006 – In a minor deal, Ferguson signs free agent Boyd Devereaux, who begins the season playing in the AHL for the Marlies. After 30 games he is promoted to the Leafs, where he records 19 points in 33 games. A former Stanley Cup champion with the 2002 Detroit Red Wings, Devereaux becomes a steady contributor to the Leafs.
February 27, 2007 – With the Leafs in danger of missing the playoffs, Ferguson acquires Yanic Perreault from Phoenix in exchange for Brendan Bell and a second-round pick in the 2008 draft. A faceoff specialist, Perreault contributes just five points in 17 games.
April 8, 2007 – Though the team improves its points total to 91, the Leafs miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their record of 40-31-11 leaves them third in their division.
May, 2007 – The MLSE board decides to recruit a mentor to help Ferguson. Those considered for the job include Scotty Bowman and John Muckler, but in August, the team decides not to enact the plan.
June, 2007 – After being promised an extension to his contract, the MLSE board opts not to grant one, leaving Ferguson with just one year on his deal.
June 22, 2007 – Tacitly acknowledging that Raycroft might not be up to the job, Ferguson trades a first-round pick (Lars Eller) and a fourth-round pick to San Jose for Toskala and forward Mark Bell. While Toskala emerges as the team’s top goalie, Bell must first serve a 15-game suspension for violating the NHL’s substance abuse policy and faces a six-month jail term once the season ends.
July 1, 2007 – In what is hailed as a good move, Ferguson signs free agent forward Jason Blake to a five-year, $20 million deal. Blake had scored 40 goals the previous season with the New York Islanders, but shortly before the season is to begin he announces he has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. To his credit, Blake continues to play but his goal output drops significantly and by mid-season he has just nine goals.
November 27, 2007 – With the team struggling and the fans clamouring for change, Leafs president Richard Peddie is quoted on the front page of a Toronto newspaper admitting that hiring Ferguson was "a mistake." Though publicly humiliated by his boss, Ferguson downplays the drama, calling it "background" noise.
January 14, 2008 – After a disastrous road trip through California in which the Leafs lose all three games, reports emerge that the Leafs are talking with Cliff Fletcher as a possible replacement for Ferguson. Fletcher previously was GM of the Leafs in the 1990s.
January 22, 2008 – Ferguson is fired and replaced by Fletcher.