Revisiting the Dion Phaneuf Trade

Five years ago, on January 31st, 2010, the Toronto Maple Leafs made headlines across the hockey world with a blockbuster trade.

It appeared as if the Leafs, and GM Brian Burke, had made a ridiculous steal that would soon become their new face of the franchise. They had acquired one of the best up and coming defenceman in the league for just a few depth players.

The Trade

Matt Stajan Flames
Matt Stajan is the only remaining piece in Calgary. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

GM Brian Burke gave up Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames in return for Fredrik Sjostrom, Keith Aulie and, of course, Dion Phaneuf.

At the time, Hagman had just compiled his third straight 20-goal season. Matt Stajan was progressing well as a 26 year old, improving to a 0.75 points per game in his last two years with the Leafs. Ian White had shown he could put up a solid 25 points per year as a 25 year old defenceman. While Jamal Mayers was simply a fourth line veteran presence who knew his role.

On the other side of the trade, Toronto was acquiring Fredrik Sjostrom, a former 11th overall pick in 2001 who hadn’t progressed well at all, but was speedy and still had some potential. Keith Aulie was a stay at home defenceman prospect, a 4th round pick in 2007. Lastly, Dion Phaneuf was in his fifth career season and had already proven himself as a top offensive defenceman in the league. As a 24 year old, Phaneuf had put up nearly 20 goal seasons each year, and was producing at about 0.6 points per game. He was going to come in and become their top defenceman and the face of the franchise.

Where Are They Now?

Niklas Hagman is a member of Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL, putting up 26 points in 43 games as a 35 year old. Matt Stajan is now 31 years old, and the only player the Flames still have from the trade. He has three goals and six assists in 39 games this season. Ian White went to the KHL last year, but is now back in the AHL this season, currently playing for the Nashville Predators affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. He has 17 points in 26 games as a 30 year old. Jamal Mayers finished his career in 2012-13 as a member of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks.

Maple Leafs captain
The Leafs got a new team captain and a top 2 defenceman, but he may be on his way out this summer. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Fredrik Sjostrom most recently played in 2012-13 as a member of Frolunda HC in the SEL. Keith Aulie is still just 25 years old and is now a member of the Edmonton Oilers. He has played 153 career NHL games for the Leafs, Lightning, and Oilers. Dion Phaneuf is the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, although his progression seemingly slowed down with the Leafs. His best offensive season was in 2011-12 when he scored 12 goals and 44 points. With the Leafs now struggling immensely, Dion Phaneuf is finding himself amidst trade rumours for the offseason, as Brendan Shannahan appears to be on the cusp of a total rebuild.

Who Won the Trade?

Although neither team would probably be completely satisfied with the results, I’d have to give this one to the Toronto Maple Leafs. None of the players the Flames received turned into much, with Stajan being the only remaining part. While Toronto got their team captain and a new leader, although it didn’t work out the way they planned. However, they still may be getting a significant return if they do decide to trade Phaneuf this offseason. So, the Leafs got the better player and may still be reaping the rewards of acquiring Phaneuf.

Who do you think won the Dion Phaneuf trade? Discuss in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Revisiting the Dion Phaneuf Trade”

  1. i think phaneuf suffered from playing on a poor team where he had to alter his style because he didn’t have the talent around him that enabled him to play to his strengths. the best thing for him would be to be traded to a contending team like the rangers who have a need for a defenseman of his caliber. i’m sure there are other teams that would more than welcome his skills and would be a game changer for them. it’s just that he comes with a difficult cap hit that takes a lot of teams out of the picture for his services.

  2. This could be one of the most overrated trades of all time looking back on it. It was massive news when it happened, yet basically nobody has turned out

  3. Of course the Leafs won this trade, but it’s not like Phaneuf ended up making much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Phaneuf has compiled 165 points in 350 games played as a Leaf. His best season with the Leafs came in 2011-2012 when he scored 44 points. Good numbers, but he clearly isn’t in the same class of Weber-Karlsson-Subban-Doughty in terms of production/consistency/all-around ability.

    Phaneuf has been touted as the Leafs’ best defenceman (and he has been), but when you look around the league, most other teams have a better player in the same position. The problem is that management (and some fans) have been deluded into thinking that because the Leafs don’t have one of these defencemen mentioned above (and others, like Suter, Letang, Kronwall, Giordano, Ekman-Larsson, Chara, Keith, McDonagh, Streit, Pietrangelo, Burns, Carlson, Hedman), that Phaneuf fits into the category of top-tier defencemen, He doesn’t.

    It was a good trade for the Leafs to jettison players like White and Hagman, who have obviously seen their careers end, but it’s not like Phaneuf turned into one of the league’s best defencemen. He can be counted on to find himself in the top-30-40 among defencemen for points and hits and minutes-played, but his worth has been severely overvalued by many. Looking at it from the Flames’ perspective, they dealt a top-four defenceman and didn’t receive back a great return, but no one in Calgary is foolish into thinking that Stajan is a top-six guy on their roster. He’s overshadowed by Monahan and Backlund and soon will be by Bennett. Stajan can play his minutes as a 3rd/4th line centreman who is adept at defensive play and killing penalties.

    A lot of delusion is being thrown around regarding Phaneuf’s value as well. It’s not very likely that he gets the Leafs a great return. I have no idea what his character is like, but he hasn’t really served well as a leader, despite being insulated by added veteran leadership help. His contract is absolutely awful and that’s a consideration that all GMs take into account. It’ll be tough for teams to fit that massive deal into their payroll and the Leafs will either be forced to retain salary, or take back one (or two) bad contracts in return.

    • Thanks for the input, totally agree with you that the Leafs, the city’s media and their fans have totally overvalued Phaneuf at this point. There are only a few teams in the league whose best defenceman is as good as or worse than Phaneuf. He failed to develop offensively and even the defensive side of his game is often weak. Personally, I thought Franson turned into the Leafs best defenceman over that past year or so. The Leafs would be lucky to get rid of his contract while acquiring reasonable return at the same time. Trading their captain will take much longer and return much less than their fans are expecting. Do you see him even getting traded before next season?

      • I think Phaneuf will be dealt at the draft or in the summer. I can’t see how a team would be able to move out and acquire enough salary in such a short time for Phaneuf to be moved. I’ve heard the Phaneuf to LA rumours, but I cannot understand why Lombardi would take on such a massive contract for such a long term. Voynov has some legal problems at the moment but I doubt the Kings have completely written him off. Also, from what I’ve read, Nonis is expecting that one of Pearson/Toffoli be included in a potential trade for Phaneuf which is likely laughable to the Kings.
        I could see Phaneuf eventually being dealt to a team like the Canes. Carolina will almost certainly have to trade Sekera at this point and I doubt Gleason will be re-signed. That leaves Faulk, Liles and Hainsey for next season and free agency can be VERY expensive in the summer. Phaneuf’s contract is long, but the Canes could afford him. It would provide them with some stability on the back end.

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