A lot has been said about the 32-year-old defenceman over the last 10 days. First he was asked by the Senators to waive a no-movement clause for the expansion draft – and declined – and then his name emerged prominently in trade rumours during the NHL’s draft weekend.
As a result, Dorion figures he should probably clear the air.
"I think I wanted to wait until after the draft here because teams have been phoning on him," Dorion said Saturday afternoon. "From there, we would explore all avenues and then I’ll probably reach out to him in the next week and just talk to him. We had a great conversation (about the expansion draft request).
"Dion’s as good of a pro as I’ve ever seen in my career."
The lines of communication will have to remain open if the Senators continue trying to trade him. Phaneuf recently submitted a list of 12 teams where he can be dealt and it’s believed that some of the interest on Day 2 of the draft came from an organization not included on it.
Despite all of the speculation, Dorion believes he has a good working relationship with a player who had to adjust his no-trade list to facilitate the blockbuster deal that sent him from Toronto to Ottawa in February 2016.
"They’re not easy conversations when you ask someone (to waive a no-move clause), but he understood," said Dorion. "It was a man-to-man conversation. There was no bulls**t. When we talked to him I explained to him: ‘I said it’s not that you’re the fourth-best defenceman on this team, Dion.’ It’s ‘we want to try to top keep our top-four intact.’
"It was a big part of our success because of our top-four last year. I think if you look at Nashville it’s a big part of their success."
When Phaneuf refused to waive his no-move clause, the Senators were forced to expose Marc Methot in the expansion draft. The popular defenceman was then claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights.
While disappointed to see Methot go, Dorion doesn’t blame Phaneuf for the loss of Erik Karlsson’s defence partner.
"That’s his right and I respect the right that Dion can say, ‘No,"’ he said. "Isn’t it a good thing that someone wants to be in Ottawa? I think it’s a good thing that people want to be in Ottawa. I think it’s a good thing that Dion still wants to be part of what we’re trying to build here.
"So I’ve got no problems with Dion."
The Senators are coming off a season where they lost to Pittsburgh in double-overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
They will have a different look in the fall. Dorion is currently in the market for some help on the blue line and will presumably need even more if he winds up trading Phaneuf, who has four years remaining on a contract with a $7-million AAV.
During the playoffs, Phaneuf spoke glowingly of his move to Ottawa and seemed to be fitting in well with his new team. He also made a positive impact during the first playoff run of his career to extend past the first round.
"He’s a character guy," said Dorion. "I think people forget like when we were struggling a bit, what he did in Dallas (on March 8), I don’t think I could ever forget. He went up to Jamie Benn – probably arguably one of the best players in the league – and fought him. Showed that ‘I don’t care if we’re in your building, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.’
"That says a lot about Dion Phaneuf."
At this point, it’s unclear where things head from here.
Dorion was working the phone right until the end of Saturday’s draft and had a conversation with Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake on the draft floor. There was nothing to suggest the trade talk would stop here.
At minimum, the Senators GM plans to call a couple agents at Newport Sports Management in the days ahead regarding restricted free agents Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ryan Dzingel. That group also represents Phaneuf.
He plans on phoning the player, too, and even joked that he’d be willing to make a trip to his "compound" on Prince Edward Island.
"I don’t need to go through an agent," said Dorion. "Everyone knows when we exposed Bobby Ryan (in the expansion draft) I phoned him personally, when we exposed Alex Burrows I phoned him personally, when we exposed Marc Methot I phoned him personally. I’m not going to hide behind anything. When I have something to say to someone I tell them in their face or I tell them in their phone.
"That’s the way I was raised and that’s the way … at least you get people’s respect, you don’t hide behind people. And I’ll reach out to Dion at some point in time, and I’ll just explain to him, ‘Don’t worry, you’re welcome in this room.’ I told him over the phone: ‘Dion, I’ll shake your hand, there’ll never be an issue ever again.’
"Not that there was one, but there won’t be an issue."