Unexpected. Unprecedented. Blockbuster.
Those were just some of the terms used to describe the surprising trade that took place between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs just over a year ago. That two teams with as much history and animosity as the Sens and Leafs have would hook up for a trade is surprising enough, but for one of the captains to be included in the deal made it all the more intriguing.
Yes, when Dion Phaneuf was shipped to Ottawa it caught the hockey world off guard. And while the immediate reaction from the Sens’ fan base was, for the most part, a mixture of shock and disbelief – for all the wrong reasons – it’s fair to say that with the benefit of time those same fans have warmed up to the deal.
Phaneuf Finding a Home
The Sens had a clear objective in mind when they traded for the veteran Phaneuf – mentor then 22-year-old Cody Ceci and add some stability to a second defensive pairing that was lacking. In roughly 12 months with the team, Phaneuf has done that and more, and this season he has been a workhorse for the Sens.
His 22:59 average TOI per game is third highest on the team, behind only Ceci and Erik Karlsson, and includes plenty of work on special teams. He’s averaging 2:45 of ice time on the PP (second to Karlsson among defencemen) and has produced 12 points on the man advantage, while his 2:30 shorthanded TOI is second on the team.
Couple that time spent on the penalty kill with an increased focus on getting into shooting lanes, thanks to Guy Boucher, and it’s no wonder Phaneuf is blocking shots at a pace rarely seen in his career. Through 56 games he has 102 blocked shots, which would give him the second-highest total of his career at 149.
One aspect of his game that helped make Phaneuf’s name early in his career – his physicality – has seen a significant recession from his younger days with the Calgary Flames (he’s on pace to register the fewest hits of his career). Phaneuf just isn’t putting up those kinds of numbers anymore, forced instead to be more selective with the instances in which he plays the body.
Even though the “Double Dion” era is mostly over – a welcome sight to those who fell victim to Phaneuf’s wrath on numerous occasions – his impact on the game hasn’t lessened. The fact is, he is still an impact player, which makes it easy to crown the Sens the winner of the blockbuster, especially when you look at the other players involved in the deal.
Where are They Now?
The simple answer to that question is, save for Phaneuf, not in the NHL. Phaneuf was the headline maker and the star of the deal, and his progress is easily tracked, but here’s a recap of everyone else involved and where they are one year later.
Arguably the biggest name going to Toronto in the deal was Jared Cowen, who had fallen out of favour in Ottawa and was in need of a change of scenery. He didn’t quite get that in Toronto, where a hip injury kept him out of the lineup and where he was eventually bought out in December of last year (after some off-ice complications).
The Leafs also received two of Ottawa’s depth forwards in Milan Michalek and Colin Greening, who have enjoyed varying degrees of success in the Leafs organization. The oft-injured Michalek has appeared in only 21 games between the Leafs and Marlies, but Greening has enjoyed modest success as an AHLer – he has 16 points in 48 games.
Ottawa also sent over a couple of future assets, those being prospect Tobias Lindberg (14 points in 35 games with the Marlies) and a 2017 second round draft pick.
Aside from Phaneuf, the return really wasn’t all that great for Ottawa. Matt Frattin remained on loan to the Marlies for the remainder of last season and is now in the Flames organization, and Ryan Rupert started the season in the ECHL but has since joined Binghamton in the AHL (where his success has been limited).
One of the bright spots is Casey Bailey, who has 14 goals and 22 points in 43 games with Binghamton and has impressed Boucher enough to receive the occasional recall. The final part of the deal, 20-year-old Cody Donaghey, is still playing in Junior with the Sherbrooke Phoenix and could be years away from making the NHL.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) February 19, 2017
With only 26 games remaining the Sens sit two points back of the Montreal Canadiens and have three games in hand. Phaneuf has been doing his part to help catch the top-seeded Canadiens, putting up four points (including three goals) in Ottawa’s crucial last five games, and six points in his last 13 games.
Playoff hockey has alluded Phaneuf who, in his six full seasons with Toronto, made the post-season just once after making it the first four years of his career with the Flames. With three potentially playoff-deciding games remaining against the Canadiens, and some extra motivation in tow, expect big things from Phaneuf as the playoff drive ramps up.