After weeks and weeks of rumors regarding the future of former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter, the highly respected National Hockey League executive has just shocked everyone with his decision.
According to a breaking news report from the London Knights organization of the Ontario Hockey League, Hunter will return to the ranks of the London Knights as general manager effective immediately. The team's current general manager Rob Simpson, has been named associate general manager following the move from Hunter, the organization has not stated as much but this is clearly a demotion for Simpson.
Hunter has released a statement regarding the decision:
“I am very happy to be back in London,” said Hunter as per the London Knights official website. “We have a strong group within our organization and I look forward to returning to work with everyone to develop an even stronger team for our fans and for our city and the community.”
The move comes as a shock as rumors had linked Hunter to a number of organizations including the New York Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings. The word around the National Hockey League however was that Hunter either wanted a position as a general manager or a guarantee in place that he had a direct path to the general manager's position. There was speculation that he could have been pegged as the replacement for Lou Lamoriello in New York and Ken Holland in Detroit at the end of their respective deals but those offers either never materialized or Hunter rejected them. It's unclear if any offers for purely a role as an assistant general manager were offered to Hunter but reports would suggest he would not have taken those anyways.
Hunter instead now moves back to the team that he owns and operates as vice president of the organization and one that he has had a lot of success with during his time there. Hunter has been known as a tremendous evaluator of talent and has helped mold some talented young players into NHL standouts, including Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.
As a result of this move there is now some concern among fans in Toronto that a fractured relationship between the Leafs and Knights could result in some missed opportunities for the organization. It's no secret that Hunter was not happy about being passed over for the Maple Leafs' general manager's position, a position now occupied by Kyle Dubas, and any animosity between himself and Dubas could result in the Knights making things harder for the Leafs.
As for Rob Simpson who seems to be getting the worst deal out of anyone involved in this situation it sounds like he will remain active in the day to day operations of the Knights despite being replaced by Hunter.
“Rob and I will be working together every day in order to achieve the goals of our organization,” said Hunter. “He has done an outstanding job in all facets of his position and I look forward to continuing to work with him on all elements within our organization. We are excited for this upcoming season and look forward to bringing another competitive team forward to entertain and excite our fans.”