TORONTO – On the eve of the Toronto Marlies’ home opener Monday, brand-new AHL GM and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Laurence Gilman held court.
Gilman’s healthy NHL resume most recently includes being one of the architects of the expansion draft rules followed for Vegas and, soon, Seattle.
He was hired by the Maple Leafs towards the end of May, replacing some of the experience lost from Kyle Dubas’s staff when Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter departed. But the executive maintained a low profile last spring, preferring to watch the Marlies’ championship run from a distance.
MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum told Gilman that if Dubas won the Calder Cup, that would make his job as the Marlies’ next GM that much more difficult.
Gilman shook his head.
“You know, you get so few opportunities to win anything in this business, the benefits that get garnered by the players, the coaches and the entire organization is such an amazing thing, I told him, ‘Hey, if we can win it, we should win it’—and I’m thrilled to be here now to try and win it again,” Gilman said.
“Truthfully, my biggest task is not to screw it up. It is a well-run ship.”
Here are five things we learned from Gilman’s 15-minute chat with local reporters Monday.
Keep an eye on goaltending depth
Considering Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard combined for the AHL’s stingiest GAA last season and were paramount to the Marlies’ championship run, there is concern about the organization’s goaltending depth.
Sparks has graduated to the majors, allowing six goals but holding on to win his 2018-19 debut in Chicago Sunday, but both Pickard and Curtis McElhinney (stellar in his Hurricanes debut) were plucked off waivers before they could join the AHL.
“We knew there was a possibility one or two could get claimed,” Gilman said. “With goaltenders, it’s a situational thing. Guys get injured; teams have needs. That’s the way it goes. The system dictated itself and kept those players in the league.”
Gilman & Co. released reclamation project Justin Peters from a PTO and have signed Jeff Glass to be Kasimir Kaskisuo’s partner in the nets.
Welcoming Sam Gagner was a ‘no-brainer’
The Vancouver Canucks have loaned Ontario native Sam Gagner to the Marlies instead of making him a Utica Comet. Gilman reminded that the Canucks can recall their veteran forward at any point, but the two clubs have an understanding that Gagner will be returned to the Marlies whenever they deem him an AHLer.
Gagner carries a steep cap hit but has already produced three points in his first two games with Toronto.
“He can play as a No. 1 centre, No. 1 distributor here,” explained Gilman, who worked with Sam’s father, Dave, in Vancouver. “We didn’t think twice about it.”
Cone of silence shrouds Nylander talks
Dubas has publicly credited both of his assistants, Gilman and cap wizard Brandon Pridham, for their advice and assistance during what is proving to be a lengthy tête-à-tête with RFA William Nylander, who is approaching a full week without NHL action.
Dubas told Prime Time Sports that he leans on Gilman’s wisdom, considering the 53-year-old has been involved in negotiations with the Canucks, Jets/Coyotes and San Antonio Rampage in the past.
“He’s exceptionally bright. It’s amazing. Notwithstanding the fact I’m a little older than him, I learn from him every day, but any of the nuances that are going on with that negotiation, it’s not appropriate for me to comment on it at this time,” Gilman said.
“Fortunately, in this organization, Brandon Pridham is the point person on the contract negotiations and salary-cap matters. He’s as sharp as anybody I’ve encountered. I’ve known him for 15 years. I think this organization is lucky to have him. My job is to lend a hand wherever that may be, whether that’s helping Brandon on that front or more importantly here with the Marlies on the player development side.”
Where do Borgman and Rosen go from here?
When the Maple Leafs signed Swedish pros Andreas Borgman, 23, and Calle Rosen, 24, in the spring of 2017, many believed their experience would give them a leg up on the competition for a spot on an NHL bottom pairing.
A year in to their North American development, neither has stuck. Both begin 2017-18 in Gilman’s farm system. We asked Gilman where the two left-shot defenders go from here.
“Every player here has NHL aspirations, irrespective of where they came from or how old they are. The job for someone like me,” he said, “in the context of the players, it’s to give them the tools they can use to get to the National Hockey League as fast as possible.
“There may be times those players aren’t getting to where they want to be as quickly as they’d like. It’s my job to give them older advice or push them at some point.”
Yay for Newfoundland!
The Leafs’ newly affiliated ECHL Growlers are more than just an awesome logo. They’re a critical extension of player development.
Gilman said fans should look no further than 23-year-old forward Mason Marchment, who joined the organization on an AHL two-way deal, and impressed so much with the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears that he became a key weapon in the Marlies’ 2018 Calder Cup win.
“Now he’s at the point where he’s a bona fide prospect on an NHL entry-level contract,” Gilman said.
“In a salary cap world, it’s incredibly important to develop players so you have a young pipeline of efficiently salaried players that can come in, and we’re going to be devoting a great deal of time and energy [to the Growlers]. I’ll be at their opener Friday night.”