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Report: Shanahan authorized to rebuild Maple Leafs; Kessel, Phaneuf not in plans

Mark Blinch / USA Today

The Toronto Maple Leafs appear set to join the ranks of the rebuilding.

Team president Brendan Shanahan, who is believed to endorse the idea of a major overhaul of the roster, received approval from the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board to initiate such a process in a recent meeting, according to Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail.

Kelly writes:

New Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was hired with a mandate to remake the team. From very early on, he’d realized that if the club aspired to be a Stanley Cup contender, it required a major overhaul.

But he needed the evidence of the season to persuade his employers fully. After the Leafs’ recent slide out of contention, the club’s given him that.

Then he needed the board to endorse his vision of a barren short term in the interests of a competitive future. In that meeting, he got that as well.

What this means is that the club is committed to selling off as many assets as possible with a view to freeing up cap space and building slowly through the draft - a process that could take anywhere from three to five years, at the very least.

Management is believed to have targeted the likes of Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, Jonathan Bernier, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Jake Gardiner as core players to build around, yet will not go as far as to label anyone untouchable.

Further to that, Kelly reported Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf - key pieces acquired in former general manager Brian Burke's building process - are not in the team's plan, and the goal is to trade them at some point before the March 2 deadline or in the offseason in exchange for top prospects and draft picks.

Toronto sits in 25th place in the league standings, prime position for a top draft pick in 2015. Based on this report, they may be in line to spend a few more offseasons hoping for lottery balls to bounce their way.

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