Lou Lamoriello leaves Devils to become Maple Leafs GM

ByKatie Strang ESPN logo
Friday, July 24, 2015

The Toronto Maple Leafs have already made headlines this summer, landing coveted coach Mike Babcock and trading Phil Kessel, but they made perhaps their biggest splash yet when they announced that Lou Lamoriello will become the team's general manager.

The announcement came moments after the New Jersey Devils issued a release that Lamoriello had resigned from his post as team president to "pursue other opportunities."

The Devils will receive a third-round draft pick from the Maple Leafs as compensation forLamoriello, a source confirmed to ESPN.com.

Lamoriello recently stepped aside as the Devils' longtime general manager to make way for his successor, Ray Shero, whom the team hired in May. Lamoriello is leaving the organization after 28 years, three Stanley Cup championships and 21 playoff appearances.

The 72-year-old Lamoriello said the opportunity presented a "different challenge."

"I can assure you it was not an easy decision for a lot of different reasons," he said at a news conference. "I've always said anything easy isn't worth it; anybody can do it."

A source told ESPN.com that team president Brendan Shanahan first broached the possibility of joining the Maple Leafs with Lamoriello a few weeks ago.

The move to Toronto was shocking, but it fills a void that has persisted all summer as Shanahan has searched for the right general manager.Before Lamoriello's hiring, the Leafs' front office had employed a collaborative approach to offseason decisions, with assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, director of player personnel Mark Hunter and salary-cap specialist Brandon Pridham all weighing in on important matters.

Lamoriello said Dubas represents the team's front-office future.

"I think he's a young fellow who has tremendous abilities," Lamoriello said. "If he doesn't become general manager here -- I'm not going to be here forever -- it's his fault."

Shanahan and Lamoriello have a strong relationship that dates back to 1987 when the Devils, under Lamoriello's leadership, drafted the future Hall of Famer second overall. Shanahan returned to the Devils for the final season of his career in 2008-09 and has always spoken of the respect he has for Lamoriello.

"If I could map out or draw out a description of the kind of person that we wanted, it would be Lou," Shanahan said Thursday. "I've always thought that there are certain advantages to hiring people on their way up that are looking to prove themselves and have that sort of hunger and energy to make a name for themselves. But I do think that we were lacking in some experience."

The move also signals a significant culture change, something that Shanahan has been vocal about needing for a Leafs club that has spiraled into dysfunction in recent years. Lamoriello is known as tough-minded and stubborn in his managerial ways, and he is known to put a concerted emphasis on character within the dressing room.

Shanahan is still setting the vision, but now it's Lamoriello's job to execute it.

"We know the roster needs some work," Lamoriello said. "You have to have a foundation before you can go anywhere. Yes, it could be slower, there could be more pain, because there could be more subtractions sometimes than additions to get that foundation with the right culture going forward."

Although Lamoriello said he was told he would have autonomy as GM, Shanahan made it clear in conversations "the kind of environment and organization" of collaboration he was building. Lamoriello is OK with Shanahan not wearing a tie to work every day and might have to let Hunter keep his facial hair, and he is fine with sharing decision-making responsibilities.

"No one makes any decision without consulting the people that are around them and their supporting staff," Lamoriello said. "Everybody works together. They don't work for each other. Everybody will be part of every process."

Of his departure from New Jersey, Devils co-owner Josh Harris realized that Lamoriello couldn't have been happy with the way the organization was going.

"When you're used to having absolute control of an organization, then you don't have it anymore, it had to be difficult for him," Harris said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. "It's easy to see why he might consider taking over a great team like Toronto. We're out to build a winner, an elite hockey team, and it has to start with a strong organization in place."

Lamoriello served as interim coach of the Devils on three occasions, most recently during the final 46 games of the 2014-15 season, along with assistant coaches Scott Stevens and Adam Oates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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