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Phil Kessel celebrates one of his two goals on Tuesday. New front-office hire Mark Hunter will help the Leafs find more stars.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It makes little sense even in a salary cap league and even with any other excuse you can think to build in.

Hockey's top-revenue franchise – a financial giant, really – has been passed by the minnow, at least in terms of amassing and developing some pretty promising young talent.

Which is as vital a part of team-building in the NHL as there is.

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By the latest figures from Forbes – which we'll assume for argument's sake are accurate – the New York Islanders were the league's poorest team a year ago, earning only $61-million (U.S.) after collecting what revenue-sharing they're allowed.

The Toronto Maple Leafs? They were listed as having taken in a little more than $140-million, a conservative estimate even with the huge chunk they share with the NHL's weaker teams.

Now they'll finally start putting some of that heft to work.

On the ice, Toronto ran all over the Isles in Long Island on Tuesday, ringing five goals past netminder Jaroslav Halak in the first 40 minutes in a convincing 5-2 win.

Phil Kessel was the catalyst, with two goals and an assist early to put the game away, ending any talk of a slump after he went a couple games without a point.

Off the ice, however, there was a more important development. Leafs president Brendan Shanahan added another piece to his increasingly complex management puzzle, persuading London Knights general manager/co-owner Mark Hunter to bring his brain power to Toronto as director of player personnel.

NHL teams have tried to woo Hunter and brother Dale away in the past – and the Washington Capitals did, briefly, in the case of Dale, for a short, colourful stint behind their bench.

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The Leafs' advantage here was that they are the Leafs, with the younger Hunter wooed by the promise of fixing the team he cheered for as a boy, and by the ability to pick his role, which for now merely gives him control over the franchise's pro and amateur scouting departments.

He was also enticed, of course, by an enormous payday, rumoured to be in excess of $1-million annually on a long-term deal. The Isles can only dream about giving that kind of cash for someone deep on the executive depth-chart.

Hunter specializes in finding and developing talent, something they have done in London better than any other amateur team the past 12 years.

The fact there are 27 former Knights – an incredible 4 per cent of the NHL – currently in the top pro league speaks volumes.

There have been calls for the Leafs to go this route for years, to outspend their rivals off the ice now that they no longer can on it, due to the cap.

Former GM Brian Burke made noise about doing so, but ended up being bogged down by wanting to reward pals with jobs, to adhere to his own internal rules and to follow hockey's various other old-school codes.

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Shanahan appears to have no such hang-ups. He simply wants to win, and he has owners who will benefit immeasurably if he can ever get this thing turned around and get consistent playoff dates.

The Leafs may have thumped the Isles on this night, but it was telling looking at the rosters that the financially challenged of the two teams was more loaded with highly touted prospects and blossoming stars.

That has to change.

But if Shanahan gets his wish and if Hunter's scouting exploits pay off, it won't even be possible down the road, not with all of Toronto's advantages and not with a new mindset focused on the long haul.

The organization that traded away its first-round picks in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2011 – and traded away the players it picked in 2002, 2005 and 2006 for very little – will tell you it's done with the Band-Aid solutions and crippling short-term panics.

Shanahan hasn't said much, but what he has said is they're going to try to build the right way – and that starts with baby steps like bringing in one of the best scouts in the sport.

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That, and a whole pile of money, of which there's lots to spare.

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