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Columnist: Time for Leafs to trade Phaneuf

May 10, 2013, 2:03 PM EDT

Dion Phaneuf Getty Images

For one Toronto columnist, Dion Phaneuf‘s bad pinch during overtime of Wednesday’s Game 4 that led to the Bruins’ game-winner, and a 3-1 series lead for Boston, was the last straw.

Writes David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail:

The pinch on Boston winger Nathan Horton wasn’t even the first time that night that Phaneuf went for the big hit at the blueline, missed and created a Bruins scoring chance. He also gambled with the puck too often in the third period, creating anxious moments.

Phaneuf is 28. He’s been in the league eight seasons, yet continues to make the same mistakes as when he arrived.

The longer Phaneuf stays on the ice, the greater the chance one of those egregious decisions leads to a loss. He played 31:14 on Wednesday – minutes worthy of a No. 1 defenceman – and should not.

Hence, Shoalts believes general manager Dave Nonis should put the Maple Leafs’ captain on the trade market “no later than the NHL draft at the end of June.”

And if you think Shoalts is overreacting, he isn’t alone in raising the possibility of moving Phaneuf.

Writes Tim Wharnsby of

His latest mistake simply magnified the fact that, in his eighth year, this hard-hitting, smooth-skating defenceman continues to make the same mistakes he did as a raw rookie with the Calgary Flames in 2005.

The 28-year-old Phaneuf has one more season left on his $6.5-million-per-year contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis will have to make a decision on Phaneuf in the next several weeks because a lot of the blockbusters these days are made at the NHL draft.

Phaneuf isn’t the only big name on the Leafs’ roster who can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Sniper Phil Kessel is in that boat, too.

At this point, it may be easier to see Kessel re-signing, given Nonis recently awarded a big contract extension to linemate Joffrey Lupul.

Related: Phaneuf takes responsibility for OT goal

  1. rsl22 - May 10, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I’m no real Phaneuf fan….but the team is finally moving in the right direction and just made the playoffs for the first time in years…..and they’re calling for trading the team captain?

    Toronto, a) you were never going to beat Boston to begin with, and b) good luck finding a defenseman that’ll play 25+ minutes a night, and finish top 10 in scoring, I hear there are plenty available.

    He can be better, but trading him is not the answer.

    • tycobbfromfangraphs - May 10, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      Perhaps you missed the part where he is a upcoming UFA? If you can’t get him resigned ASAP, do you actually risk him playing out his final year and leaving for nothing? And how much is it going to cost to get him to give up his 1st shot of FA $? The same goes for Kessel, the Leafs would be irresponsible not to consider a trade with both of these situations. They need to get them signed yesterday, or start trade talks. This should come down to how much $ is it gonig to cost to get them both to say yes to the Leafs and no to listening to free agent offers.

      • stratomaticfan - May 10, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        Why do people get up in arms about losing someone for nothing? Normally a) you only get draft picks who are not as polished as the player, so if you’re not rebuilding, it’s not incredibly helpful to your team for a few years, and b) do people realize that by not trading him, you get the year worth of production as a legitimate part of your team rather than losing him from your current roster?

        If you want to win now (which I believe they do), you don’t trade a guy for the future. He may not be a top notch guy at his position, but he does bring a lot to the team.

      • tycobbfromfangraphs - May 10, 2013 at 7:58 PM

        Something>Nothing, not a hard concept to understand

    • tdrusher225 - May 10, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      I agree his faults are visable, but he is still an ultra-talented player. Personally, I think his biggest issue is that he tries to do too much. He’s always looking be aggressive and make the big play, and it often costs him. If he just let the game come to him and stopped constantly trying to force the issue, you’d see a much more sound and useful player.

  2. packerswin96 - May 10, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Phaneuf is terrible, that was just one of many mistakes he made that game!

    • timsabourin - May 10, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      tell me about it, the worst was him accidentally running into 10 bruins and stopping 6 shots before Reimer had a chance to save them.

      • imleftcoast - May 10, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Playing 31 minutes. I thought Canuck fans were nuts.

    • elvispocomo - May 10, 2013 at 6:45 PM

      Considering his price tag and his ability, he’s not that good. I don’t know if I’d say terrible, but with the cap going down next year I can’t see why any team would take him at that price.

  3. nosefacekillah - May 10, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Dion would benefit greatly from not being “the guy”. His game is not suited to being the captain, he has too much high risk in it.

  4. ethanmacleod1685 - May 10, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Still confused to why this guy is still a leaf let alone the captain, this is Joffrey Lupul’s team in my eyes

    • andrewsabourin13 - May 10, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      he’s still a Leaf because he hasn’t been traded or released, pretty simple concepts

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 10, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      There is no law that your captain must be your best player. Being points or goals leader does not always equate with being a team leader. I do not know enough about Dion’s qualities to judge him in his leadership role. I do know the last Leaf C to hoist the Cup was clearly not their most skilled player, though he is in the Hall of Fame.

  5. 19to77 - May 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    Trading him is the wrong move. They need to keep adding defense. He’s terrible as a #1D playing nearly 30 min per game. But he’s actually a solid defenseman when he plays around 20-22 minutes. They don’t have the depth to let him do that, so the fix is to add a couple dedicated shutdown guys. Grant Clitsome, Douglas Murray, Rob Scuderi, Ben Lovejoy and Mark Fistric are all UFAs – adding one or two guys like that would let Carlyle dial back Phaneuf’s minutes and let him take the offensive risks a little more easily because he doesn’t have to worry about being freaking everywhere.

    I’m with Ethan on the captaincy, though. Lupul is the real leader. Phaneuf should relinquish the C at least.

    • cwal123 - May 10, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      Phaneuf at 6.5 or more after next year? NO. He plays #1 D by default and make the team vulnerable leaving Reimer to bail him out. Next year they pick up offense from a full season of Gardiner and resign Franson. Also resign Gunnarsson and Fraser once you know they will both be back healthy. At least one of the following cracks the line up next year, Rielly, Percy, Blacker or Holzer. Not sure about O’Byrne, expect more from him. Add one shut down UFA, not sure who that would be at this point and here is the defense for next year.

      UFA – TBD


      Captaincy goes to the obvious choice, Lupul. A trade will bring some return and save you at least 6.5 for UFA D and resigning RFA/UFA’s.

      • kingjoffrey19 - May 10, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        Yes Phaneuf makes some mistakes, but who doesn’t? This guy is a top 10 d-man in the league, and the Leafs would be nowhere without him. the defence you posted above would be absolutely awful, and the leafs would get out shot even worse than they are now. i do agree however that we need to add a shut down d man through UFA, but it just pisses me off when people say we need to trade Phaneuf. It just makes Toronto fans and media look stupid. remember a few months ago when people were saying trade Kessel? people just need to shut up and support the team instead of constantly suggesting to trade our best players

    • ethanmacleod1685 - May 10, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Well said

  6. pastabelly - May 10, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    The defenseman who just backed up when Krejci skated in needs to share the blame pie. That was pretty awful. The Leafs big problem is at the blue line and in goal. They are a faster team than the Bruins and can hit with them. With Marchand and Seguin playing like crap, the Bruins are lucky to be up 3-1. Tuukka has been the difference.

    • bruininnh1984 - May 10, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      The defenseman was backing up so that he could stay in the passing lane because Krejci’s first instinct is to pass the puck because Lucic was crashing the net. Give Krejci credit for waiting until the absolute last minute to shoot the puck. Reimer should have had that shot though. I do agree with the fact that the Bruins are lucky to be up 3-1 because they looked gassed in that overtime.

  7. jaybird22seven - May 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Dion has very little hockey sense !!!
    He is slow and is out of position almost all the time. His only attribute is his size. The risk of having him on the ice really out weighs the reward. In other words he is a cement head !!!

  8. phillyphanatic77 - May 10, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    I’ve never been a big fan of Phaneuf. Frankly I think he’s overrated. But if he’s available at the draft there will certainly be suitors. And one of those suitors would probably be Paul Holmgren. Phaneuf is a physical defenseman with a booming shot, two characteristics the Flyers brass seem to covet. I’ve been trying to imagine who the Flyers would target in a trade this summer and a big name player, like Phaneuf, fits the bill. Holmgren had a close relationship with Burke, so if he was in charge this would be more likely, but if Nonis shops Phaneuf then I can see the Flyers as a viable destination.

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