The Toronto Maple Leafs are unlikely to name a captain before the NHL season begins, general manager Kyle Dubas told TSN on Wednesday.
"Not from the outset, I think," Dubas told reporter Bob McKenzie. "It's a very important honor to be the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs or any team that has a strong history."
Toronto has not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016. Center Auston Matthews was thought to be in line for the role, but that may have changed when the Maple Leafs signed free agent center John Tavares this offseason. Tavares was captain of the New York Islanders for five seasons.
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"The way that I look at it is, I want to get into it day to day with these people and see who's best suited to handle that if we do determine that we need somebody to handle that," Dubas said. "If we feel we have a void in leadership because we don't have a formal captain, then it's something that I think we can address. But I do think we have excellent leadership in the room, Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey being the veteran-most leaders, and then adding John Tavares certainly helps; he has experience as a captain, as does [Marleau (with the San Jose Sharks)]."
Video: Debating who should captain the Maple Leafs
Tavares said talk of becoming captain was not part of his contract negotiations, and Matthews multiple times this offseason said he would be OK with whatever decision is made by management, including coach Mike Babcock.
"In the end, Kyle, [Mike], everybody, they're preaching patience," Matthews said July 26. "In the end, they'll figure something out, but it's not something I focus on. I just focus on getting better."
Phaneuf had been Maple Leafs captain since the 2010-11 season. Last season, defenseman Morgan Rielly and forwards Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov were alternate captains. Bozak (St. Louis Blues) and Komarov (Islanders) left this offseason as free agents.
"We hope that all of our young players, whether that's Morgan, William [Nylander], Jake Gardiner, Auston and Mitch [Marner] can continue to evolve as leaders as well," Dubas said. "I don't put a huge amount of emphasis on it. I've always thought that in studying teams, they were always best when they are patient with naming their captain and not rushing to name somebody then having to make a move later to take it away and all the drama that can come with that."
The Maple Leafs begin training camp Sept. 13 and open the regular season Oct. 3 against the Montreal Canadiens.
"It is a very important decision and not one that I think can be rushed whatsoever," Dubas said.