Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf has been the subject of trade talks for the past few seasons, and a deal was finally consummated Tuesday as he was sent to the Ottawa Senators in a nine-player deal.
The move was officially announced by the Sens on Twitter, and it featured Phaneuf, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert and defenseman Cody Donaghey getting shipped to Ottawa in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg and a 2017 second-round pick.
TSN's Bob McKenzie simplified the deal and broke down why it made sense from Toronto's perspective:
Keys for TOR: Losing long-term $ commit to Phaneuf; get prospect Tobias Lindberg and 2nd rd pick; getting NHL D in Cowen to replace Dion.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 9, 2016
Per the Senators, no salary will be retained by either team in the deal, which is significant since Phaneuf has five years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $7 million per season, according to NHLNumbers.com.
While the Leafs took on over $7 million in 2015-16 salary in the form of Greening and Michalek, per NHLNumbers.com, they will both come off the books quickly as free agents in 2016.
According to McKenzie, trade rumblings regarding the veteran blueliner started to ramp up recently, and a deal came together quickly.
The 30-year-old Phaneuf is a three-time All-Star and the former captain of the Maple Leafs. He has posted three goals and 21 assists to go along with a minus-four rating in 51 games for Toronto so far this season.
He has topped the 40-point plateau in a single season on five different occasions, and the former Calgary Flames first-round pick has 32 games of playoff experience to his credit as well.
Despite Phaneuf's positive qualities, he was an albatross of sorts for a Toronto team that is tied for last in the NHL with 47 points.
Even so, Damien Cox of Sportsnet commended Phaneuf for the manner in which he handled himself during his tenure with the Leafs:
Despite everything, should be said that Dion Phaneuf was pure class as a Leaf. As a captain and a Leaf.— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) February 9, 2016
Ian Mendes of TSN 1200 believes Phaneuf is best off in a situation that doesn't require him to anchor the defense, which is what he has been asked to do in Toronto for the past seven seasons:
Phaneuf would be a good fit on a team where he doesn't have to be No. 1 guy. (But he's being paid like one). https://t.co/zn4UaaKfBL— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) February 9, 2016
With Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot carrying the top-pairing load, Phaneuf should be able to slot in nicely next to Cody Ceci on the second pairing.
The Maple Leafs still look to be a couple of years away from contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and while Phaneuf was their best all-around defenseman, trading him likely speeds up that process.
It also continues a pattern of trading large contracts, which Chris Johnston of Sportsnet noted:
The #leafs have traded David Clarkson (with five-plus years left), Phil Kessel (six years) and Dion Phaneuf (five-plus) inside 12 months.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 9, 2016
The money that was tied up in Phaneuf could be spent better on multiple players, and it will eventually be needed when it comes time for Toronto to sign its top young talent to contract extensions.
Phaneuf wasn't of much use to the Leafs anymore aside from mentoring younger players, but when it comes to a Senators team that is just four points out of the playoffs, he could be the missing piece that puts them over the top and into the postseason.
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