When Tim Leiweke brought on Brendan Shanahan as the Toronto Maple Leafs president, major on- and off-ice moves were expected to follow, and we’ve certainly begun to see that. Last week the team fired its assistant coaches and gave head coach Randy Carlyle a contract extension. Now the wheels appear to be veering toward a significant roster shakeup.
The Leafs are shopping captain Dion Phaneuf to Western Conference teams, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.
Starting in the 2014-15 season, Phaneuf’s salary cap hit is $7 million annually until 2021, and if the Leafs were to move the 29-year-old, they’d likely have to retain some salary to get a deal done. In April, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he expects the 2014-15 salary cap to be around $70 million.
Leiweke recently told Sportsnet 590 The Fan that “no one is untradeable,” but even if the Leafs retained some of Phaneuf’s salary, there would need to be a generous sum headed back the other way for a trade to work.
For all the flak Phaneuf receives from Leafs Nation, he is a top-end defenceman who can help many teams. Here are a few potential landing spots should the Leafs indeed move him.
Edmonton Oilers: The current Leafs captain would be a great fit with the Oilers for several reasons. Their blue line is a mess, allowing the most goals against in the NHL in 2013-14, and Phaneuf would immediately become the team’s best defenceman. Like captain Andrew Ference, Phaneuf possesses valuable leadership qualities and would be a solid mentor for a young offensive-minded defenceman like Justin Schultz. Also, Phaneuf is from Edmonton, which could endear him to the fan base.
The Oilers have a handful of talented, young forwards they could use as bait to land Phaneuf -- namely Sam Gagner, a player long rumoured as a trade target of the Leafs. Gagner signed a three-year deal last summer and has a no-trade clause for the 2014-15 season.
Potential trade chips: Sam Gagner ($4.8M until 2016), Nail Yakupov ($925,000 until 2015), David Perron ($3.8125M until 2016)
Dallas Stars: Stars general manager Jim Nill recently told the Dallas Morning News the team is hoping to add a top-two defenceman in the off-season, which means Phaneuf will be on their radar. The Stars have a solid crop of young forwards, led by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, but their blue line is thin compared to the top teams in the West. They have Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, Sergei Gonchar, Aaron Rome, Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth and Kevin Connauton all under contract for next season and need to sign restricted free agent Brenden Dillon.
The entire Stars blue line combined for a mere 11 points in a six-game series loss to the Anaheim Ducks and will look to add an offensive punch from the back end.
Potential trade chips: Alex Goligoski ($4.6M until 2016), Rich Peverley ($3.25M until 2015)
Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane became a minor headache for the Jets last season, and a change of scenery might benefit both the Jets and the skilled forward. With Nikolai Kulemin and Mason Raymond likely headed to free agency, the Leafs will need to fill a hole or two on the wing. Kane would fit that bill.
The Jets have a decent crop of defencemen already, so Phaneuf wouldn’t necessarily need to be the go-to guy, but he would undoubtedly help Winnipeg’s 25th-ranked power play.
Potential trade chips: Evander Kane ($5.25M until 2018), Dustin Byfuglien ($5.25M until 2016), Mark Stuart ($2.625M until 2018)
San Jose Sharks: After failing to live up to post-season expectations yet again, it’s no secret the Sharks must do something to shake up the organization. With Dan Boyle and Scott Hannan set to become UFAs on July 1, San Jose needs to add experience to assist Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Phaneuf is still one of the most dangerous defencemen in the offensive zone and has years of experience running a power play.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau recently signed extensions equipped with no-movement clauses, but based on how things have unfolded in the playoffs, Sharks management could explore the option of moving one of their veteran forwards.
Perhaps Thornton, a native of London, Ont., would be willing to waive his NMC in order to play in his home province.
Potential trade chips: Joe Thornton ($6.75M until 2017), Patrick Marleau ($6.66M until 2017), Brent Burns ($5.76M until 2017)
Colorado Avalanche: Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman told Sportsnet 960 The Fan Monday that Colorado is a potential destination for Phaneuf, and that makes sense. The Avalanche relied on its goaltending too heavily last season, and it ultimately cost them in the first round of the playoffs. Colorado needs to add to its defence core.
According to Friedman, the Avs were interested in acquiring the Florida Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov earlier this season, and Phaneuf is a tier above the young Russian. The Avs have several standout forwards who would be of interest to the Leafs. If they re-sign pending UFA Paul Stastny to a lucrative deal, they might have to unload one of their younger stars so they don't run into cap trouble.
Potential trade chips: Ryan O’Reilly (pending RFA), P.A. Parenteau ($4M until 2016)
Calgary Flames: As odd as this might sound, it’s not crazy to think Phaneuf might land back with the Flames -- the team that drafted him ninth overall in 2003 and the one with whom he spent the first four-and-a-half seasons of his NHL career. It’s no secret Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, the former Leafs GM, is a fan of Phaneuf's. He was the man to pull the trigger on the blockbuster trade in 2010 that sent him to Toronto.
Despite their poor finish in the standings, the Flames have plenty to build on when it comes to defence. Mark Giordano, Kris Russell and T.J. Brodie all had impressive seasons for the Flames. Those three are left-handed shots like Phaneuf, but he prefers to play the right side, so it could work on the ice. The big question is, Do the Flames have anything the Leafs would be interested in?
Potential trade chips: Jiri Hudler ($4M until 2016), Mikael Backlund ($1.5 until 2015)