Dion Phaneuf has said that he wants to be part of the solution with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While that is admirable for him to want to stick around, he won’t be around when the Leafs finally get back into contention.
Phaneuf was expected to be moved in the off-season, but that talk seemed to die down when Mike Babcock was brought in as head coach. Now we will see if he can improve his play under one of the best coaches in the game.
Of course, there was one reason other than Babcock that Phaneuf wasn’t dealt: His cap hit. With the salary cap not going up as much as was expected, the market for Phaneuf wasn’t as high as it could have been. Sure there were rumors but nothing ever came from them.
So Phaneuf remains a Leaf. However, he won’t be one when the Leafs reach the playoffs again. The contract that kept him Toronto this off-season will eventually not be as much of an albatross. Hopefully, the Canadian Dollar will get stronger and other aspects will help the salary cap get higher. If that happens, another NHL team would probably take a closer look at acquiring the Leafs’ captain.
What About Expansion?
Another situation that could see Phaneuf leave Toronto is what seems inevitable at the moment: expansion. If/When teams in Las Vegas and Quebec City are announced, there would have to be an expansion draft. In that case, the Leafs would be able to protect players while leaving others available for the expansion franchises to select from.
The Leafs could leave Phaneuf unprotected and he could be scooped up by one of the teams. Considering that at least 12 defenseman would have to be picked in the draft, Phaneuf would certainly be one of the top 12 d-men available.
The one caveat is that the Leafs would be giving up Phaneuf for absolutely nothing.
Unless Phaneuf has a monster season this year and becomes an elite d-man in the NHL, the Leafs won’t be getting that much for him in a trade at the deadline or next off-season. It might not be much but at least the Leafs would be getting something for him, rather than potentially letting him go for nothing. It’s all about how much the Leafs would value getting out from under Phaneuf’s $7 million cap hit.
The odds are that Phaneuf will play the entire 2015-16 season with the Maple Leafs. In the following seasons, it might be a different story.