The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs have pulled off the first major trade of February, sending Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf to Canada’s capital in a trade that involves nine players and a draft pick.
Heading to Ottawa is Phaneuf, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, as well as defensive prospect Cody Donaghey. Coming back to Toronto is defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg, as well as Ottawa’s 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft.
No salary is retained by either team.
Phaneuf is the major name in the trade. He becomes the first Maple Leafs captain to be traded since Doug Gilmour went to the Devils back in 1997. While Phaneuf had a modified no-trade clause that made a move difficult, Ottawa was on the 10-team list of places where he would accept a trade, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Ottawa was rumored to be looking for help on the blue line, with struggles across the board outside of Erik Karlsson. Cody Ceci has been a work in progress, Patrick Wiercioch hasn’t flashed the potential he was showing last season and Cowen was a bit of a mess this season and has seemed disinterested at times.
It’s been said that the Sens were hoping to find someone who can play with Ceci both to shore up that pairing and to help Ceci’s development. Phaneuf fits the bill. He’ll at least improve their blue line this season and maybe makes a little more sense as an overpaid second pairing defenseman than a number one guy.
Despite Phaneuf’s big contract, the money makes sense. Ottawa, a budget team, saves cap space over the next two years and gets a steady defender that they’ve been lacking in the second pairing. Phaneuf becomes the Senators highest paid blueliner, making an AAV of $7 million, with five years remaining on his contract.
Newest #Sens defenceman Dion Phaneuf will wear #2 for Ottawa.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 9, 2016
Cowen has been a trouble spot for the Senators all season. He’s played poorly, earning healthy scratches while making $3.1 million. But for Toronto, he makes sense over Phaneuf. They have the cap space, aren’t a budget team and he has just one year on his contract after this one. That gets them out from under the next five years of Phaneuf.
It also gives Cowen a fresh start and a chance to prove he’s as good as he was once said to be. If he’s able to prove he’s valuable to Toronto under Mike Babcock, great. He’s only 25 and fits the Shanahan Plan a little better in terms of his age.
The biggest thing, though, is that they’re out of that contract after next season (if they don’t buy him out).
He also probably helps their plan of getting a top draft pick in the 2016 draft, since he’s a downgrade from Phaneuf.
The Ottawa End
Matt Frattin may be the most well-known of the non-Phaneuf players headed to Ottawa. Now 28, Frattin has shown flashes of potential early in his career, but has never been able to make a NHL gig stick. This is the second time he’s been traded away by Toronto.
The 22-year-old Bailey is a big winger, capable of playing center. He signed with Toronto at the end of last season as a college free agent, working his way into six NHL games, during which he scored a single goal. He’s spent this entire season playing with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, where he has four goals and 18 points through 33 games.
The 5-foot-8 Rupert is a 2012 6th round pick for Toronto, who put up decent numbers in his first professional season last year, scoring 15 goals and 27 points through 57 games with the Marlies. However, inconsistent play had him bounce between the AHL and ECHL a couple times, just as he’s done this year. This season, the numbers have dipped. He has six goals and 12 points in 29 games for the Marlies.
Donaghy is a 19-year-old prospect that the Leafs signed as an undrafted free agent. He’s currently playing in the QMJHL for the Moncton Wildcats.
While Phaneuf is a large financial burden, they also have few commitments to the other players they’ve acquired. Frattin is UFA at the end of the season, Bailey is a RFA, Donaghy is on his ELC and Rupert is a cheap contract. They lose Michalek’s $4 million, Cowen’s $3.1 and Greening’s $2.65, making the money work for them.
The win for Ottawa here is getting out from under some bad contracts while getting immediate help on the blue line that can help stabilize one of their weakest roster spots in the long-term.
Karlsson has played ~ 67% of his career w/:
I think Phaneuf might help..
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) February 9, 2016
The Toronto End
Since scoring 17 goals and 37 points in his 25-year-old season — his rookie year — Greening has not been able to replicate that kind of scoring. He’s been waived, scratched and sent to the AHL since then and has not been able to rekindle his offense.
He’s played just one NHL game this season and put up only seven goals and 13 points for the AHL Senators through 41 games. He’s a part of how Toronto is using their big budget and cap space to their advantage.
Michalek is easily the most useful piece that’s coming back to Toronto. But the 31-year-old forward is currently on injured reserve, so won’t be bringing any help to the ice immediately. While he’s frequently been injured, he’s remained useful, putting up 13 goals and 34 points through 32 games last season. He has one year remaining on his contract.
The 20-year-old Lindberg is a 2013 4th round pick of Ottawa’s who had a huge year for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL last year, scoring 32 goals and 78 points in 67 games. He hasn’t exploded in the AHL during his first professional season, but he’s managed to contribute, scoring five goals and 22 points in 34 games.
Lindberg was a part of Oshawa’s Memorial Cup winning squad last season, playing for Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith. He may be the secret gem in this swap.
With this move Toronto forges ahead with their long-term plan, which involves continuing to lose right now. They’re getting out from a long-term cap hit, freeing them to spend in free agency, knowing that they don’t have any huge long-term commitments that could impede them from making a huge, long-term offer to a top free agent, like, say, a pending UFA captain of an Atlantic Division team.
In addition to creating a beneficial roster and cap situation, the Leafs acquire a prospect with some upside and another draft pick to toss on the wood heap out back.
The Senators and Maple Leafs face each other on Wednesday night as well, making the trade interesting time, adding a pretty engaging storyline to the game.
What do you think of the trade? Break it down in the comments.
Lamoriello says the Leafs won't have a captain the rest of this season.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 9, 2016
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Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.