Rick Zamperin: Where do the Toronto Maple Leafs go from here?

A week has passed since we watched the last seconds of the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ 2019-20 coronavirus-pandemic shortened season tick down to zero.

Toronto’s exit from the National Hockey League‘s best-of-five playoff qualifier at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets was the latest in a long line of recent early post-season exits, even though the 3-2 series defeat wasn’t technically considered a playoff — it still felt like it.

Now, just like they have after each the team’s first round playoff eliminations over the last handful of years, many Maple Leafs fans are demanding change.

Read more: Blue Jackets knock out Maple Leafs with 3-2 series win

Some fans are calling for the club to dismiss general manager Kyle Dubas, the architect of the team, while others want Dubas to trade away some of the team’s young and handsomely paid star players.

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Leafs president Brendan Shanahan has already given Dubas a vote of confidence so it appears the GM is safe for the time being, and that also means rookie head coach Sheldon Keefe isn’t going anywhere either.

The team’s top four paid players — Auston Matthews, captain John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander — earn a combined $40 million, or about half of the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap.

Let’s be frank here, Toronto will not trade Matthews, 22, the team’s leading goal scorer and point getter who is on most nights the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon.

Tavares was heavily courted by the Maple Leafs two years ago and was made captain of the team before this past season and is a point-a-game player who is still in the prime of his career.

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In his end-of-season news conference with the media, Dubas made it a point to lash out at those who criticized Marner’s performance in the series against Columbus, so don’t expect Mitch to be in another uniform anytime soon.

After a horrendous 2018-19 season, the first two months of which he spent on the sidelines waiting for a fat new contract, Nylander enjoyed a career year with 31 goals — one of only 17 players to hit that mark during this shortened season — and likely ensured an extended stay in Toronto.

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