Welcome back to Leafs Daily, where we will be covering the Leafs on as close to a daily basis as we can, all season long. So far we’ve had a good start to the season despite the wealth of Leafs coverage options. Check out our review of week one, and our post on the Joy of Low Expectations.
The Leafs are off until Friday, which is pretty weak, but hopefully they’ll be lots of baseball to tide us over. In the meantime, there’s a pretty big rumour that the Leafs and Kings are talking trade.
Phaneuf to the Kings?
Yesterday on Hockeybuzz Eklund reported that the Kings and Leafs were in talks about Dion Phaneuf. Now, the Kings are off to a bad start and they missed the Playoffs last season, while the Leafs would very clearly like to move Phaneuf because he’s blocking the ascension of their young players, has a massive salary and is part of the old core which failed massively. As much as I like him as a player, he is not long for Toronto.
The Kings have only about $3 million in cap-space and Dion makes $7 million until 2020-21. This won’t necessarily kill the deal though, because the Kings have Alec Martinez signed to a $4 million cap-hit until the same year, meaning that if they got traded for each other, Phaneuf would only cost the Kings $3 million above what they already have in sunk costs.
Now, Martinez and Phaneuf are an interesting comparison. Phaneuf gets a ton of ice time, but he plays a ton of special teams, meaning he only averages second-pairing ice-time at 5v5, where he scores at a rate equal to his ice-time but struggles in possession.
Martinez plays bottom pairing minutes at 5v5, but he out produces his ice-time in terms of both points and Corsi. Still, he’s a 20 point dman who plays lower in the lineup, while Dion is a 30-40 point defenseman who has traditionally played high in the lineup.
That being said, an advanced stat comparison shows that last year in 2o less games, Martinez scored more ES points than Phaneuf, had a better Corsi, harder zone starts and an almost double p/60 while being two years younger. While this might end the discussion, if we go deeper we learn that Dion plays tougher matchups on a worse team and is overused, while everyone on the Kings has amazing possession stats.
If Dion went to LA, I think that he’d excel playing behind Muzzin and Doughty, while Martinez could be a very useful addition for the Leafs. So what would it take to get this deal done? Can the two players be straight-out swapped for each other?
Ultimately, I think Martinez for Phaneuf is a move that could work for both teams, but there would have to be a little more going on. I think you can make an argument that the difference in salary makes them roughly equal in terms of trade value, so the Leafs would have to offset the deal by taking back a bit more salary. Looking at the Kings salary structure, there’s no obvious person the Leafs could take back, but I think there is a good fit here.
The reason to do this trade if you’re the Leafs is to clear out that big contract, while adding a player who may be useful, but who also could probably be easier to move out later for some younger assets and/or a draft pick.
Also, if the Leafs were interested in being really crazy/creative, they could expand the deal and send Bozak to LA and bring back Dustin Brown, who’s contract is so brutal it would also necessitate the Kings giving the Leafs a first rounder and/or top prospect. I’d say that is unlikely, but it does seem like the kind of value-laden asset building move the Leafs might like. Anyways, with a week off, it’s something to think about.
Would you trade Phaneuf if you were the Leafs GM? Would you rather keep him and see how he does under Babcock? Let me know!
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.