Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamiorello doesn’t appear to be as crafty as some make him out to be.
After the Maple Leafs dealt away defenceman Dion Phaneuf on Tuesday morning, some wondered if Lamioriello’s recent public praise of his former captain was an attempt to build up value on the trade market.
However, the 73-year-old executive quickly dispelled that notion in a guest appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday and insisted it was genuine.
“He deserved every bit of (praise),” Lamioriello told co-hosts Bob McCown and Chris Johnston on Prime Time Sports. “He deserves that. I also told (Dion) that when I told him about the trade. I wouldn’t want that to be misinterpreted.”
Lamiorello said Phaneuf’s command of the dressing room, work ethic, and how he handled young players on a rebuilding team stood out in the five months or so they spent together in Toronto.
But he admitted that Phaneuf’s age combined with the length remaining on his contract made him an appealing player to deal from Toronto’s perspective because of uncertainty surrounding where the salary cap might end up in the next few years.
“(We) knew it would hurt our team by taking a top-four defenceman out of our lineup and not replacing him,” he explained. “We knew it wouldn’t be good for today. We’re doing things for today but are not losing sight of tomorrow. And at different times, tomorrow takes a priority of today.”
Lamiorello clarified that the Phaneuf trade came together quickly with Ottawa after the two sides initially discussed another unnamed player and credited Senators general manager Bryan Murray for his professionalism in their discussions.
“This has not been worked on for a month,” he said. “(We) wouldn’t want (Phaneuf’s) name out there. I don’t like that. You have to respect a player. If this was going to happen, it had to happen the way it did, in a short time.
“Ive known (Murray) a long time, even prior to me coming to the league. You’re honest. You’re upfront. If someone is looking for a player and you think it’s right and you try and make it work, it has to be good for you.
Phaneuf will make his Senators debut on Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.