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Nonis: Kessel, Phaneuf extensions not on ‘front burner’

Jul 26, 2013, 9:01 AM EDT

Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf Getty Images

Recently re-signed Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis has already made his mark on the team in his first seven months on the job, but his biggest test is still ahead of him.

The Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, a defenseman who logged 25:10 minutes per game in 2013, has just one year left on his contract. On top of that, their leading scorer, Phil Kessel, is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Locking those players up or otherwise preparing the team for losing one or both of them could be the difference between the Leafs continuing on their current upward path or stumbling, but regardless of what Nonis’ plans are, it doesn’t sound like he will act soon.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s not on the front burner right now,” Nonis said when asked on Sportsnet 590 about the possibility of signing one or both of them over the summer.

Kessel seems content to simply wait and see what happens, but he’s also happy in Toronto and open to staying for the long haul.

Meanwhile, Nonis is likely focused on re-signing restricted free agents Nazem Kadri, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser, although he said he’s not close to inking any of them.

To be fair, none of these matters are urgent, but these are also situations where a prolonged stretch of no news can increase the chances of bad news.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    With his linemates already locked up I have to think Kessel is next, but Phaneuf could end up being a rental if the Leafs are sellers.

  2. soj83 - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    In my opinion, they are both great players, but not the 2 you build a championship contender around. Toronto has been improving in the last few years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them signed by next summer, but Nonis may be waiting to see what he can get for either of them at the deadline. Nonis knows that Toronto isn’t a cup contending favorite right now, but a few years down the line with their young players and the right players, they could become a dominate team for a few years.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      Kessel is a 25-year-old 30+ goal scorer. He’s not the type of guy that is going to be the face of a Cup-contending Leafs team but would certainly be a big part of it. The Leafs would be crazy to get rid of him.

    • jhmiddleton81 - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      I agree with you that Dion is not a player you win a stanley cup with as a #1 defenseman, I would ideally rather have Keith Yandle from Phoenix as my #1 Defenseman personally, but I totally think Phil Kessel is a player you can win a championship with. He matured so much last season starting off the season on an 8-10 game goal less drought and still finishing top 5 in the league in points is impressive and he will finally become a 40 goal scorer with elite speed. The biggest thing I have seen from Phil though is the fact that he now has a 200 foot game, and back checks and plays defense now. Phil is their Franchise player, he is comparable to the great wingers in the game, even though he is a touch undersized at 6′ 190.

      • dueman - Jul 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        I’ll give you a thumbs up for your comments on Kessel, but you are wrong about Phaneuf. Are there better defencemen out there? Sure there are, but that doesn’t change the fact that Phaneuf is one of the top ten defencemen in the league. People like to dump on him but stats are stats. Yes there are areas where he needs to improve (like give away’s) but there are a lot of area’s where he excels. Over all he’s a pretty darn good defenceman to have on your team.

      • jhmiddleton81 - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        Oh he is a very good defenseman no doubt about it, I like Dion myself although wish he would hit the net more, I’m calling into question if he is a better captain than my personal favorite Joffrey Lupul and is overpaid by maybe 1.5 million, but the way money is thrown around nowadays, someone would pay him

    • tdrusher225 - Jul 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      I would agree with you on Phaneuf being you’re #1 defenseman. Kessel is not the type of player, ideally, you want to build around, but he is certainly a player I want on my team if I’m building a winner. Now if you’re paying him in the 7-8 million range, I can understand the hesitation but that may be what you have to pay to keep him around.

  3. dueman - Jul 26, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    I think this is a situation where a prolonged stretch of no news has increased the chances of a bad article. lol This is the middle of July! Nonis has an arbitration hearing to deal with on Monday with Frasor in which, one way or another, he will be signed. Then he has until September to sign Kadri, and Franson, and then he has almost an entire year to sign Kessel, and Phaneuf! If he plans on trading any of them he has until the trading dead line of this coming season, which won’t even start until October. In my opinion, I’m thinking that the only player that might be traded would be Phaneuf, and I even doubt that, because he is a pretty important piece on the Leaf team. All in all, I think that you’re just jumping the gun, and trying to create drama in Leaf land.

  4. 19to77 - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Man, that Clarkson deal really hamstrung their cap situation when you consider all the people looking at raises in the next year. Kessel will jump to somewhere north of $7m, Kadri and Franson are up for sizeable increases and if Toronto resigns Phaneuf it certainly wouldn’t be for any less than the $6.5m he’s making (worth it? I don’t know, but either way he’s not taking a pay cut). All that, and Ryan’s forgotten someone – James Reimer’s up at the end of the year too. He’s last season’s MVP and making only $1.8m right now.

    All that would be fairly easy to accommodate with $12m in cap space, but they gave nearly half of that to David Clarkson – a man basically everyone but the Toronto Star thinks is hugely overrated. I’d have sooner stuck with Mikhail Grabovski.

    • jhmiddleton81 - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:55 AM

      Yeah that screwed up their flexability a little bit, but the cap should go up 8 million over the next couple of years and he basically replaced Grabovksi and Macarthur with Bolland and Clarkson (look up their salaries combined they’re identical) but those two new guys fit the system much better as well as their roles

      • dueman - Jul 26, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Beat me to it!

      • 19to77 - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        Bolland’s absolutely an upgrade over Macarthur, but Clarkson’s a third-liner bordering on second, who they’re paying as much as Joffrey Lupul. Grabovski had the potential to bounce back and earn his salary. Clarkson will never look good at that number.

        Kadri’s emergence and Bolland’s acquisition fixed their centre depth and they already had three potential 30-goal wingers and several big, physical forwards. What they need is defensive depth. The smart move would have been to trade Grabovski for a defender, or failing that buy him out and use the cap space on one instead of Clarkson. They play Phaneuf 25 minutes a night and it often shows. They need a bonafide #2D to eat some of those minutes, and instead they got a guy they HOPE will chip in 25-30 goals but very likely won’t.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Jul 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM

        How long were they supposed to wait for Grabovski to “bounce back” offensively? His 60 points season was the fluke. He’s a 40-50 points guy. That’s it. He’s not good defensively.

        Clarkson will be a 40-50 point guy, for less money. But he’ll add a ton more toughness and he IS good defensively. No one stays on the Devils that long if they’re a defensive liability. Clarkson was a big part of the Devils’ cup run a couple years ago.

    • sunderlanding - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      They do have 2 mil comming of the books in buyout money next year, so if they can sign everyone with the money they have this year they could give Kessel as much as a 2 mil increase (7.5 cap hit) next year and still be fine. There cap situation isn’t that bad.

  5. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Jul 28, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Is Phaneuf that bad really? Do people even look at stats anymore? Look at his defensive stats. Hits, blocked shots, takeaways.

    PK Subban 38 Pts, +12, 51 Hits, 49 BkS, 10 TkA
    Zdeno Chara 19 Pts, +14, 101 Hits, 64 BkS, 12 TkA
    Shea Weber 28 Pts, -2, 112 Hits, 90 BkS, 14 TkA
    Dion Phaneuf 28 Pts, -4, 131 Hits, 91 BkS, 15 TkA

    If those are Norris caliber D-men… How on Earth could a player as bad as Phaneuf have similar stats?

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