I remember when the Toronto Maple Leafs first acquired Dion Phaneuf. I was still in high school, and I came home from class and went straight to TSN’s website. It was my tradition, as I would check up on all the sports news that I missed during the day.
The first image on the hockey area of the website was a picture of Phaneuf in a Flames jersey. This may sound crazy, but I knew in that moment that Phaneuf was a Maple Leaf. Don’t ask me how or why, I just had a feeling. The trade was Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie to Toronto.
Niklas Hagman, Ian White, Jamal Mayers and Matt Stajan were sent to Calgary. It was a blockbuster trade that left both teams and the league reeling from the potential ramifications. That was in 2010. Six years later, Phaneuf was once again involved in a massive trade that shook the league and the two teams involved.
But this time, Phaneuf was not coming to Toronto. Instead, he will be making the trip to Ottawa to join the Senators as they begin a late push in order to try and make the playoffs. Other players shipped off to the nation’s capital include Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey. None of those players were probably in the Leafs plans going forward, which is what made them expendable.
The Blue and White also netted a significant return for Phaneuf. Let’s meet the newest Leafs and see what each could bring to the club.
Cowen is a very interesting case. He’s the former ninth overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and was picked primarily because of his size. A solid six-foot-five defenseman is hard to come by in today’s NHL, and the Senators thought they had found a gem.
He’s been held back throughout his career by his skating and by frequent injuries. This year has seen the Senators fall out of love with the young defender, and he has become a frequent healthy scratch. Cowen is however, a salvageable asset for the Maple Leafs. He’s only a mere 25-years-old, and might flourish with a new system and scenery. Mike Babcock may be able to coach him back to prosperity and if not, his contract isn’t on the books past 2016-17.
Colin Greening and Milan Michalek
The Leafs picked up a pair of forwards as part of this deal as well. Michalek has been productive when he’s healthy, but more often than not he finds himself on the mend with some form of injury. He’s only played in the full 82 games of an NHL season once in his career, which came back in 2013-14.
Greening on the other hand, is a 29-year-old forward who has spent the majority of this season in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators. He has 13 points in 41 games and will most likely serve as a depth forward for the rest of the year on the Blue and White.
Tobias Lindberg and the 2017 Pick
He’s the highlight of this trade for the Maple Leafs. Lindberg is a a six-foot-three winger, who has some great offensive upside and is having a fine first season in the AHL. He has 22 points in 34 games and should help a deep Marlies roster as they prepare for a deep run into the playoffs.
Lindberg is considered an above average prospect, and what you may not know is that there is a Leaf connection that helped bring him here. Last season he played for the Oshawa Generals where he was an offensive dynamo who went on to win both an OHL championship and the Memorial Cup. Who was his coach in his only year of junior? None other than current Leafs assistant coach DJ Smith.
Babcock said assistant coach DJ Smith gave Tobias Lindberg, who he coached in Oshawa, a good review: “He better be right, eh? (Laughs)"
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 9, 2016
The Maple Leafs also acquired a 2017 second round pick from the Senators through the deal. It’s never a bad thing to have as many picks as possible, especially when your team is in the middle of a full scale rebuild. Another win for Toronto is the fact that Toronto will not retain any money on Phaneuf’s contract.
While it is too early to call a surefire winner in this trade, early thoughts suggest both teams won in their own way. Toronto got rid of the massive Phaneuf contract and came away with a young prospect and pick. Ottawa receives an elite defenseman who is prepared to win now and can help them as they make a push for the playoffs. They were also able to unload some of their own troubling contracts.
It’s never a dull moment in the world of the Maple Leafs. With the trade deadline drawing closer, the question on everyone’s minds is who’s next?