By: Nick Lanciani
With the trade deadline approaching on February 29th, I figured it’d be a good idea to recap the deals that are made before then and give you my two cents. So to start, thank you to the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs for giving me the first major trade before the deadline to write about while I’m in between classes.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a large nine-player trade. Toronto also sent forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, as well as defenseman Cody Donaghey to the Senators in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen and forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Tobias Lindberg. The division rival Sens also included their 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft as part of the deal.
This trade seemed inevitable, but comes as a bit of a surprise in its quick occurrence. The Senators have been known to have inquired about Phaneuf’s availability in the past, however given how the Phaneuf trade rumor mill had been relatively quiet in the public eye this season, it’s not surprising to be surprised.
That all might sound like a bunch of nonsense, and in a way it was supposed to not make sense, but listen folks, the Maple Leafs don’t have much hope for the rest of this season. They’ve got room to wheel and deal and have plenty of pieces to offer this season approaching the trade deadline.
While Toronto shipped Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the offseason, many were left wondering when the next domino to fall would come in a potential Phaneuf trade, given how Kessel and Phaneuf were high priority assets to move.
Now the time has come.
Dion Phaneuf joins the 25-23-6 overall (56 points) Ottawa Senators who are currently sixth in the Atlantic Division, trailing the New York Islanders by four points in the race for the second wild card position for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Phaneuf is expected to be paired alongside Cody Ceci on Wednesday night as the Senators take on the Detroit Red Wings.
Phaneuf, 30, has a lengthy term left on his contract at $7 million AAV through the 2020-2021 season. He’s had 3-21-24 totals so far in 51 games with Toronto this season. Given the youth movement in Ottawa over the last few seasons, he should start picking up more assists and see plenty of time on ice, easing the pressure on the Senators largely young presence on the blue line.
It’s not that the Senators are inexperienced on the back end of the game, with captain Erik Karlsson leading the charge as the Sens best defenseman (even if he is an offensive defenseman). Plus Ottawa has strength in Ceci, Marc Methot, and Patrick Wiercioch (notice, I didn’t say skill, I just said strength- as in these guys can push around the opposing team, but might not be superstars on their own or when they’re caught on a rush).
Ottawa has a developing presence on the blue line that’s seen some impressive performance at times from Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Erik Claesson and company and Phaneuf is only going to bring in more experience to help mold the youth movement into a force to be reckon with.
Phaneuf was a finalist for the Norris Trophy in the 2007-2008 season, a member of the NHL All-Star Rookie Team in 2006, an NHL First All-Star Team member in 2008, and has been part of three All-Star Game appearances in 2007, 2008 and 2012. He was a ninth overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames where he scored a career high 20 goals as a rookie in the 2005-2006 season.
On January 31, 2010, Phaneuf was traded to Toronto in a seven-player trade. He had 120 goals and 424 points in 801 regular season games in his career split between Toronto and Calgary.
Frattin is a 28-year old forward who has spent the entire 2015-2016 regular season with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League, scoring nine goals, 13 assists and 22 points in 47 games. He had 22-26-48 totals in 59 AHL games last season. In 135 career NHL games, Frattin has 17-18-35 totals split between the Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets.
If a change of scenery can help him now, then what went wrong before?
Bailey is a 24-year old forward who has 4-14-18 totals in 38 games for the Marlies this season. He has one career NHL goal in six games with the Maple Leafs last season.
Rupert is a 21-year old forward who has split the year between the Marlies and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, combing for 9-8-17 totals in 36 games.
Donaghey is a 19-year old defenseman who has spent the year with the Halifax Mooseheads and the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has 5-17-22 totals in 36 games this season in the Q.
Perhaps the more surprising elements of the deal were what the Senators gave up in Cowen, Michalek and Greening. Cowen is yet to enter his prime as a defenseman, however had a chance to become the leader of the younger blue liners in Canada’s capital. Cohen’s 6’5″, 238 pound build could prove to be a crucial part to Toronto’s defense if they can find a way to better utilize his size than the Senators did.
He’s 25-years old and has just four assists in 37 games this season, but could see time with Morgan Rielly or other younger defenseman and turn out to be a puck moving, shut-down, pair. It seems as though the Senators tried to rush his development too quickly before fully understanding what they had before them.
With Mike Babcock as Toronto’s head coach and his plethora of knowledge from the way he ran Detroit’s brick wall defense over the years, Cowen might finally get his chance to come into his own and shine.
Cowen was the ninth pick overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for Ottawa and had 15-31-46 totals in 249 career games with the Senators.
Michalek is a 31-year old forward who can contribute both directly on the scoresheet and indirectly with his presence and puck movement on the ice. His 6-4-10 totals in 32 games this season mirror those of a typical glue guy on any NHL roster.
Michalek had a career high 35 goals for Ottawa in the 2011-2012 season and was a 20+ goal scorer in four consecutive seasons for the San Jose Sharks and Senators from 2006-2010. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and had 206-232-438 totals in 729 regular season games for San Jose and Ottawa.
Greening, 29, is another glue guy that had been buried in the AHL this season, having scored seven goals and 13 points in 41 games for the Binghamton Senators. He had 38-49-87 totals in 256 games for Ottawa over appearances in the last six seasons.
Lindberg is a 20-year old forward who has 5-17-22 totals in 34 games for the baby Senators his first professional season in the AHL. He was the 102nd overall pick of the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He had 32-46-78 totals in 67 games last season for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League.
Again, the Senators face the Red Wings on Wednesday in what will be Phaneuf’s debut with his new team. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs play the Flames on Tuesday night.