Just a solid hour after TSN insider Bob McKenzie indicated some smoke coming from the Maple Leafs camp on a Dion Phaneuf deal, the Senators announced the acquisition of the Toronto defenseman in the biggest trade the NHL has seen in recent memory.
Nine players are moving in the deal between the two Canadian cities. Not only that, no salary is being retained on either side, so this deal is just a straight player-for-player acquisition for both sides.
#Sens get Phaneuf, Frattin, Bailey, Rupert and Donaghey in exchange for Cowen, Greening, Michalek, Lindberg and 2nd-rounder in 2017.— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 9, 2016
Out of the trade, the Senators are getting four additional players alongside Phaneuf from the Leafs, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert along with defenseman Cody Donaghey. All four are prospects are currently playing with the Marlies, Toronto's minor league team.
The biggest get for the Leafs player-wise, outside of dumping massive amounts of salary, is 25-year-old defenseman Jared Cowen, the ninth overall pick by the Senators in the 2009 draft. Alongside Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, and Tobias Lindberg, plus a 2017 second round pick, are being shipped to Toronto in the deal.
Clearly, however, this trade was not about acquiring players for the Maple Leafs, but jettisoning salary room for the future. Phaneuf was often not given a fair shake with the Maple Leafs as the captain of the Toronto squad. His seven-year, $7 million-per-year contract through the 2021 season signed before the 2014-15 year was going to be a problem for any defenseman in his late 20s regardless of their talent. Phaneuf, while talented, was certainly not the No. 1 defenseman Toronto wanted him to be.
Phaneuf, now 30, was often held responsible for the problems plaguing Toronto in recent years. Though his point totals have been stagnant as of late, with three goals and 21 assists this year, Phaneuf is most certainly still a usable defenseman. Especially on a Senators team that boasts Erik Karlsson, who is almost a shoe-in for the Norris Trophy this year, Phaneuf has the potential to flourish in a diminished role that he was never given with Toronto.
Phaneuf's contract was always one of the biggest points of contention for Leafs fans. With that gone from the books, Toronto has the ability to go after the big fish Steven Stamkos, if they should want to bring him back to his home town before the trade deadline.
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