Earlier this week it was reported that Niklas Hagman had signed a deal to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “LOL, Nik Hagman. I remember that guy.” After that, I thought two more things:
- Did I really just say “LOL” in my head?
- Wasn’t he part of the Phaneuf trade?
And that was the thing. I actually half-forgot Niklas Hagman was in the trade that brought the Leafs Dion Phaneuf. As a matter of fact, who the hell was even in that trade? It was almost 30 months ago. That’s almost two and a half years – January 31st, 2010!
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, and play a little “Where are they now?” with the Dion Phaneuf trade.
Who the Flames Got:
Hagman was a Cliff Fletcher 2.0 signing by the Leafs over four years ago in the summer of 2009. In fact, he has the honoured distinction of signing a contract with Toronto on the exact same day as Jeff Finger. After a respectable first season with the Leafs (22G, 20A in 65 GP), Hagman had already earned himself another 20-goal campaign before being traded to Calgary after 55 games. His production dropped from 0.6 to 0.4 points per game, and he registered just five goals on a Flames team desperate for offence. The next season in 2010-11, he failed to score at least 20 goals for the first time in three seasons, and posted his worst goal and point totals since 2005-06 with Dallas. After just eight games in 2011-12, and being waived by Calgary for the third time, that was it for Hagman as a Flame. Anaheim claimed Hagman off of re-entry waivers, and Calgary lost one of the four assets they acquired from Toronto in the Phaneuf deal for nothing in return.
Another “Trader Cliff” acquisition, the Maple Leafs acquired Mayers from the St. Louis Blues just prior to the 2008 Entry Draft for a third round pick. Don’t feel too bad, because it was the same third round pick the Leafs got in exchange for Chad Kilger, who ended up never even playing a game for Florida. After being dealt to the Flames, Mayers contributed one goal, five assists and six points in 27 games, then left Calgary for unrestricted free agency. Once again, Calgary got nothing in return for one of the players they traded for in the Phaneuf deal.
A Leafs fan favourite, Ian White made it to the NHL the good old fashioned way: Hard work. After sitting for almost ten games as a healthy scratch, the defenceman was inserted into the lineup as a winger and ended up scoring a goal. He eventually earned himself a permanent spot on the Leafs’ blueline and became one of their better defenceman; granted their defence was even more terrible then than it is now. White turned out to be a decent acquisition for Calgary, and filled in well for a Flames team that was now sans Phaneuf. The problem? The next season he was traded after just 16 games. The trade was Ian White and Brett Sutter to Carolina in exchange for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos. Once again, the Flames were without a player they acquired in the Phaneuf trade, however at least this time they were able to flip him for other assets. Just Calgary’s luck though, after signing Babchuk to a two-year contract extension last summer, he played just 23 games this past season due to injury. As for Kostopoulos, he is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Once upon a time, Stajan was the golden boy of Toronto. A second round pick with promise, Stajan was burdened with being Toronto’s future at center after the departure of Mats Sundin (I don’t wanna talk about it). Despite relatively decent production, somebody in the Leafs’ management decided “Holy crap this is the guy we’re playing with Phil Kessel? Peace!” and dealt him to Calgary. Darryl Sutter must have really liked what he saw, because he signed Stajan to a four-year contract extension with a $3.5 million cap hit. After putting up a disappointing 31 points in 76 games in 2010-11, Stajan put up a career low 18 points in 61 games in an absolutely snake-bitten 2011-12 campaign (unless you count the one goal he scored in the one game he played in 2002-03). Guess what? Stajan is the only guy the Flames have left from the Phaneuf deal! Sorry Jay Feaster, but Darryl Sutter was a brutal GM in Calgary before it was cool. “I’m going to go win a Cup with the Kings. Enjoy Matt Stajan. Sincerely, Darryl."
Is Matt Stajan going to stay a Flame? Despite his $3.5 million cap hit, Stajan made $4.5 million in each of his first two full seasons with Calgary. This means his salary for the final two years of his deal will pay him $2.5 million instead, and perhaps make him a bit more easy to deal. The question is, who’s saying “I need me some Matt Stajan!”
Who the Leafs Got:
The speedy swede and former first round pick might have been the strangest part of this trade. It has been said that the final shove that got this deal done was the Leafs including Mayers and the Flames including Sjostrom. I don’t understand the logic there. I can’t see Brian Burke going, “Darryl, I want you to give me the former crown jewel prospect of your franchise so he can come and become the captain of my team, but I’m not letting that happen until you agree to swap borderline fourth-liners.” Looking at Sjostrom for Mayers straight up, the Leafs win (not that it matters). Sjostrom played 85 games in just over a season with Toronto, while Mayers played just 27 games in an unsuccessful playoff push.
There was a time where it looked like Keith Aulie would become the best player in the Dion Phaneuf trade. The hulking defenceman impressed in his rookie campaign with the Leafs, showing defensive progress while drilling opponents in the process. Remember that time he tagged Scott Hartnell?
Then things took a turn for Aulie. After a less than stellar exhibition season, Aulie failed to make the 2011-12 Leafs roster out of camp. To make matters worse, he looked like a middle-of-the-pack defenceman on the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, too. After just 17 games at the NHL level in 2011-12, Aulie was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 29th overall pick in 2009, Carter Ashton. Maybe Aulie fit in a little better with the the defensively struggling Lightning (not that the Leafs were a brick wall), as Aulie played 19 games with Tampa Bay to end the season, followed by a Calder Cup-winning run with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, ironically defeating the Leafs’ Toronto Marlies in the final. Despite losing Aulie, the Leafs acquired a former first round pick in Ashton, and a prospect two years younger than Aulie. Unlike Hagman or Mayers, the Leafs were able to flip an asset for another asset, and more importantly, one that could be a part of their future.
Since they call it “the Dion Phaneuf trade,” the Leafs’ success in this deal hinges on his performance, unless Carter Ashton turns into a stud. Phaneuf’s start in Toronto saw him struggle to generate offence, but a few big hits and some fights later, fans were still titillated by the high-octane defenceman. During the offseason that followed the trade, the Leafs named Phaneuf their first captain since Mats Sundin’s departure (still don’t wanna talk about it). A combination of a continued lack of offence and a freak injury that saw Phaneuf suffer a deep laceration to his leg from a skate, and the infection that followed, plagued his inaugural season as the Leafs’ leader. Whether is was a full recovery from his injury several months later, or a change of scenery with Tomas Kaberle leaving town for the Boston Bruins, Phaneuf, along with the rest of the team, caught fire in an unlikely playoff push that ultimately came up short.
Last year in 2011-12, Phaneuf enjoyed a full 82-game season, scoring 12 goals and 32 assists for 44 points. His offence was back. The issue: Defence. Miscalculated pinches, getting beat wide, and lost battles in front of the net haunted Phaneuf on a team that, as pretty much always, can’t seem to keep the puck out of the net. Can new head coach Randy Carlyle fix that? Well see.
So who won the trade? I think I’ve made my opinion pretty obvious. Ian White, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Niklas Hagman scored a combined 41 goals in 340 games in Calgary. That’s 0.12 goals per game. Matt Stajan, the most productive of all four former Leafs traded to the Flames in that deal, and the only one of them who’s left, has 17 goals in 164 games in Calgary. The most hilarious stat in there is Dion Phaneuf has more goals than any of the four guys dealt to the Flames with 22.
Does this mean the Leafs are the runaway winners? Not really. They still haven’t made the playoffs with Phaneuf, and despite his much-improved production, he still has some pretty glaring weaknesses for a defenceman with a $6.5 million cap hit through the 2013-14 season. Then again, what would Matt Stajan be in Toronto except for another center getting a crazy amount of criticism for a role he was forced into and probably shouldn’t be in anyway? The Leafs already have Tyler Bozak for that, and they got him as a free agent. Again – asset management.
It’s hockey. You just never know. Maybe after a crazy, breakout 100-goal campaign, this will be known as the Matt Stajan trade.
After reading some of the hilarious comments on this blog and talking to @Kent_Wilson and @ACatNamedFelix on Twitter, I realized I neglected to mentioned the Leafs actually freed up a roster spot with this deal. They ditched four (extremely expendable) contracts in exchange for three, so if you want to split hairs, the Leafs got Phaneuf, Ashton, and a free agent signing in that deal. Then again, that roster spot may have been used for Brett Lebda or Colby Armstrong, so, uh… never mind.