Revisiting the Dion Phaneuf Trade to Ottawa

On Jan. 31, 2010, Dion Phaneuf was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade from the Calgary Flames, and it appeared as though the franchise’s face had just been added. On paper, they did, because they just acquired one of the league’s top defenders, but in reality, Phaneuf’s stint in Toronto was terrible. On Feb. 9, 2016, the Maple Leafs dealt Phaneuf, in a nine-player deal to their provincial rival, the Ottawa Senators. Toronto traded Phaneuf alongside Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey to the Senators for Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lingberg, and a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Phaneuf’s departure from the Maple Leafs was hardly a surprise, but the timing of the deal and the involvement of the other team left supporters of both teams shocked.

The Package to Ottawa

History has shown us that only the deal’s top player, Phaneuf, went on to have an impact on their squad. Before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings, he played with the Senators for the better part of three seasons. He played in 154 games while scoring 54 points. During the 2016-17 season, he also participated in a lengthy playoff run with the group, during which they advanced to the Conference Final before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers. After he was traded to the Kings in 2017-18, he played one more season with them before he was bought out by the team. He became an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and on Nov. 16, 2021, announced his retirement from hockey.

Dion Phaneuf #2, Ottawa Senators
Dion Phaneuf, No. 2, Ottawa Senators – February 3, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The only player in this trade who played more than 10 NHL games for the Senators and who also scored a point for the team was Phaneuf. As for Frattin, his time in the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL) was running out after the 2016-27 season, so he relocated to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in 2017-18. He participated for five seasons in the KHL. He has 15 points in 25 games while playing for Bolzano HC in the International Central Europe (ICE) Hockey League, in Austria at the moment.

Bailey was the only other participant in this trade to wear the uniform; he appeared in seven games for the Senators in 2016-17 before spending the remainder of his season with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. He has moved around between a few different leagues since the 2016-17 season, but he has settled down with the Iserlohn Roosters in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in Germany. He has spent the previous season with the Roosters and has scored 30 points in 33 games as of time of writing.

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Because they alternated between the AHL and ECHL and never donned an NHL uniform, Rupert and Donaghey’s careers were not particularly successful. Rupert spent his entire professional life in North America. He played the majority of his five-year professional career in the ECHL, and he hasn’t played since the 2016-17 season with the Binghamton Senators. He never made it back to the AHL.

As for Donaghey, he played in three different leagues throughout his whole playing career in Europe, he is currently playing for Nitra MHC in Tipos Extraliga in Slovakia and has 12 points in 27 games. He only participated in one AHL game for Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, in contrast to the other players who were not selected for the NHL. That game came in 2017-18 when the team had relocated to Belleville and stayed as the Senators.

Toronto’s Return in the Phaneuf Trade

The package given to Ottawa was not much better than the return for the Maple Leafs. Cowen, Lingberg, Michalek, Greening, and a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft were given to Toronto. The majority of these players joining the Maple Leafs, like those joining the Senators, didn’t play in the NHL for very long. Cowen was once a highly anticipated prospect, but his career didn’t quite work out as planned. Shortly after the trade, he was bought out on June 16, 2016, and after recovering from an injury that prevented him from playing the entire 2016-17 season, the Colorado Avalanche released him from his professional tryout (PTO), which prompted him to retire.

Toronto Maple Leafs Defenseman Dion Phaneuf (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Given his four years of service, Greening may be the player in this transaction with the longest tenure. He played 30 games for the Maple Leafs after the trade, scoring 15 points. The following three seasons of his AHL career were spent with the Toronto Marlies, where he amassed 67 points. During the 2017-18 season, he and the Marlies also won the Calder Cup. On the other side, while being a great player in prior years, Michalek didn’t fit the Toronto system. Before the deal, he had just finished a 34-point season with the Sens. Throughout a season and a half, he played in 18 games and scored eight points. In 2016-17, he suited up for 16 AHL games with the organization, before calling it a career. 

Unfortunately, Lingberg was another guy that scouts believed could have a high ceiling in the NHL. He went throughout the AHL before leaving for abroad after spending portions of three seasons in the Maple Leafs’ organization with the Marlies. Lingberg, who has lived in both Sweden and Czechia, currently plays for Vitkovice HC in the Czech Extraliga and has only scored eight points through 24 games.

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The trade netted a second-round pick with very high expectations. Eemeli Rasanen was chosen by Toronto with the 59th pick in the draft. Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Rasanen was a complete bust. His time with the organization is as short as it gets: five games. He played only five games with the Marlies before he headed overseas and attempted to revitalize his career, but it didn’t happen. The 23-year-old plays in Sweden with Tingsryds AIF and has a whopping four points in 22 games this season.

Overall, it was a smart trade for the Maple Leafs to get rid of his salary. The Phaneuf trade wasn’t the game-changing move it ought to have been. His time in Toronto was scrutinized by many fans and members of the media, so being able to leave and join Ottawa must have been a relief to him. Even though his role was less, he played lower in the lineup, and he wasn’t the team captain as he was with the Leafs, his time with the Senators seemed to be better. Unfortunately, Phaneuf’s value as a top defenseman in the NHL had significantly decreased since the blockbuster trade of 2010, and his career was coming to an end. But nobody could have predicted that he wouldn’t be wanted by all 30 teams in the league after just three seasons.

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