Lamoriello on Dubas, Leafs: ‘I hope they enjoy all the success in the world’

Chris Botta calls in to The Jeff Blair Show to provide insight from an Islanders' perspective on the impact of John Tavares’ departure from New York.

It would be easy for New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello to harbour some ill will towards his former club in Toronto.

The veteran executive helped usher in a new era for the Maple Leafs, building up a contender during his three-year tenure as the team’s GM before it was announced in late May that he wouldn’t be returning in the role. Moving into the office of the Islanders’ president of hockey operations — and taking over GM duties soon after — he then saw his new club’s crown jewel, captain John Tavares, walk out the door as a free agent to join the house Lamoriello built.

But despite any optics that might suggest the Leafs’ former manager is bitter about relinquishing his new franchise’s foundational piece — and to his former organization, no less — Lamoriello made clear Saturday that this simply isn’t the case.

“I’m happy for them,” Lamoriello said of the Leafs in an interview with’s Mike Zeisberger Saturday. “There are very good people there. Starting with Larry Tanenbaum, ownership was always tremendous with me in giving me the autonomy there to do what I thought was best for the organization. And my relationship with [coach Mike Babcock] was impeccable.

“When it comes to them, I hope they enjoy all the success in the world … except when they play the New York Islanders.”

Though Lamoriello’s first significant loss as head of the Islanders helm came at the hands of his Leafs successor, Kyle Dubas, the longtime manager said the organizational shuffle in Toronto did little to change his relationship with his younger counterpart.

“I think Mark [Hunter] and Kyle were ready as far as leadership goes. It was [Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan’s] decision,” Lamoriello said of the front-office changes. “As for my relationship with Kyle, there was never an issue.

“He remains a good friend.”

The Islanders GM spoke about losing Tavares to free agency during an interview with Sirius XM’s Gord Stellick and Rob Simpson Thursday, lamenting the loss of the captain but stressing the Islanders are simply focused on turning the page.

There’s no question the Islanders now face a fair few obstacles on the path back to contender status, with the focal point of their offence gone and the club’s new top option — last year’s rookie sensation Mathew Barzal — set for a different challenge as the name topping opposing defenders’ to-do lists.

However, despite the fallout resulting from No. 91’s absence, Lamoriello said Saturday that he respects Tavares’ decision to move on.

“In my dealings with John, he proved himself to be a sincere, honest young man,” Lamoriello told Zeisberger. “He earned the right to test free agency, and that’s what he did.

“I don’t specifically know the reasons for John’s decision, but you have to respect his right to make it. I certainly respect him.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.