Dion Phaneuf signed a seven-year, $49 million contract extension in December to be the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top defenseman and captain long term, but he might actually begin that new deal with a different team.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported Sunday that the Leafs are shopping Phaneuf, with the preferred destination being a Western Conference club.
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Phaneuf is a quality player who’s capable of logging 25-plus minutes per game, but he’s not a true No. 1 defenseman because his defensive zone performance has been unimpressive over the last few years. He’s out of position too often and commits too many turnovers. He’s an asset on the power play with a heavy shot from the point and good play-making skills, but he doesn’t have $7 million-type of talent.
This is why Toronto might have to lessen the financial burden on teams interested in acquiring Phaneuf if a good hockey deal (receiving NHL-ready players in return instead of draft picks/prospects) is to be completed.
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A couple of teams in the West need a top-four defenseman and also have the salary-cap space needed to acquire Phaneuf.
The Edmonton Oilers, Phaneuf’s hometown team, lack a physical, two-way presence on their blue line and have the assets to make a deal work. Their Alberta rivals, the Calgary Flames, also need a top-four blueliner. Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke is a fan of Phaneuf and acquired him from Calgary when he was Toronto’s general manager in 2010.
These Phaneuf rumors aren’t likely to be the only ones surrounding the Leafs in the weeks leading up to the 2014 NHL draft in June and the start of free agency on July 1. It was reported last week that the Leafs are “eager” to talk trade.