Dion Phaneuf officially extended 7 years


You might think he’s smiling because I’m incredibly charming, but it’s actually because of his contract extension.

The Maple Leafs have re-signed their captain Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year $49 million contract. So what does that mean?

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Well first and foremost, this means the captain will have a $7 million cap hit for the next seven seasons. As of right now, only four defencemen in the NHL have a cap hit of $7 million or higher. Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Brian Campbell have a larger one, and Drew Doughty will now have the same cap hit as Phaneuf.

Mike Johnson made a point on TSN last week. Dion Phaneuf is the Leafs’ undisputed #1 defenceman. Next season, the salary cap is projected to go up to $71 million. The Leafs are a cap team. If you’re paying your top defenceman less than 10% of your cap, that’s not bad. Look at it this way: The current salary cap is $64 million. 10% of that is $6.4 million. Right now, 36 players including 10 defencemen are making that or more against the cap. 

So remember when I said only four other defencemen make $7 million or high against the cap? Remember that when in a couple years when there’s way more.

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Is this a good signing? Factions in Leafs Nation seem extremely divided on this. Even this site can’t agree on it. Jeffler wrote this great piece on why Dion Phaneuf should get his money, and then Cam Charron followed it up with a great post of his own by questioning whether the captain really is all that and a bag of chips.

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle, probably leaning more to the defence of Dion Phaneuf.

Do I think Dion Phaneuf is a great defenceman? Yes.

Do I think Dion Phaneuf is an elite defenceman? No.

Does Phaneuf make great or elite money? I would say elite.

Will a $7 million cap hit be elite in a couple of years do to cap inflation? I would say no.

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As I mentioned above, even with Phaneuf’s raise, he still won’t even be taking up 10% of the Leafs’ cap next season. Two or three seasons from now, he will take up an even smaller amount of cap percentage. This doesn’t mean you can go spending money like an idiot, but Dion Phaneuf is probably worth it on this team. 

Who do they go out an replace him with? Exactly.


Sundin was a God in Toronto. People often forget because of the way Sundin left the team (which is the team’s own damn fault), but Sundin was a huge fan favourite as captain. Who didn’t love Doug Gilmour? Who didn’t love Wendel Clark? The Leafs have had some of their most beloved leaders in my lifetime.

Dion Phaneuf is not one of them.

Jonas Siegel put a valuable stat about Dion Phaneuf out there today.


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Now look at some of the responses it got…

This drives me up a wall. How are you challenging a STATISTIC?!? IT’S A NUMBER!!! So no, not Chara.

That’s actually a good question, but what does that have to do with this stat? It measures the quality of Phaneuf’s competition, not Phaneuf.

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Yes. I’m sure coaches league-wide would rather Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin take on Dion Phaneuf than Mark Fraser.

Should you be able to expect to lean on your #1 guy? Of course. But the Toronto Maple Leafs, the richest team in all of hockey, should be better than running their top guy ragged. Mix in a little depth, maybe?

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The Leafs sucking is the reason Phaneuf faces the toughest competition. Nobody else on the D core can handle it, in Randy Carlyle’s mind. He loves his matchups. If the other team’s best guys are out there, Phaneuf is out there.

Anyway – point being, a lot of people do not like the current captain of the Leafs.


There are many opinions out there about the play of the Leafs’ captain and his new deal. What say you?

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  • Back in Black

    I’m more concerned about the term than the cap hit. As you mentioned, the cap hit won’t be that bad, and is probably market value, especially when expressed as a percentage of the salary cap.

    The term will take him to his age 35 season, and he’s logged a lot of miles already. His decline phase might not be pretty.

  • Jeremy Ian

    On balance, a smart move. It’s not a no-brainer. But the Leafs will not do better for the same price and could very easily do worse, possibly far worse, for the same price.

    If the team can bolster its other defense pairings and work on its tactics for exiting their zone, some of the burdens on Phaneuf will — and should, if the team wants to become more competitive — be eased.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Where is all this new revenue coming from? The US television deal is through 2021. No increase until then. The new Canadian deal is through 2024. The Canadian deal is an extra $7MM per team – or $3.5MM in cap room. All amounts in USD since player contracts are in USD. And what happens in the Canadian dollar weakens against the USD?

    What if the cap now goes up to $71MM from $64MM. To go up to $100MM, that means HRR goes up an additional $58MM per team or $1.75 billion per year. The combined TV contracts – which are not increasing until at the earliest 2021 – will be just over $600MM per year.

    Will someone please explain to me where all this additional revenue is coming from? Will ticket prices double? Will jersey purchases be made mandatory for all Canadians? Will all games in the future be played outdoors? Seriously – where does Mirtle get his estimates? He is pulling numbers out of the air. The cap may increase this year – and then very slowly for the next ten.

    • Jeremy Ian

      The trick is that gross revenues are not evenly spread. TV contracts are only one source. The cap teams bring in much more — and they are the ones currently driving up the lid. The inflation in the cap comes from two enlaced sources:

      1. Competition between cap teams for players. A classic collective action problem in which individual teams are willing to pay rising premiums for their particular gain but then drive down profits for the business as a whole. For the most part, only profitable teams can play the game. Remember, between July 2-16 teams offered UFA’s a collective $618m; July 5th busted all records w. $399m on the table. This was AFTER the lock out.

      2. Competition between the haves and have-not teams. The NHL is a bimodal sport. 5 top teams (Leafs, Rangers, Habs, Hawks, and Bruins) worth collective $605m. Bottom 5 (Canes, Islanders, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, and Blues) worth $145m. Over time, driving up the cap favours winners over the losers — so the bimodality will get worse. The year before last the Leafs yielded a net profit $82m. 13 of 30 teams lost money before non-cash expenses and interest payments. The point of the lock-out was to narrow the gap. But it’s only temporary. The gap will only widen again — and predict another lockout when the CBA expires in order to “correct” the market failure.

      Last summer’s tight cap was the result the immediate effect of the CBA. It’s in the nature of the competitive structure of the NHL, awash with weak teams that can be cherry picked along with local monopolies like the Leafs, Habs, Hawks etc) that will always enjoy monopoly rents that drives the costs and revenues.

      This is why economics predicts that the Leafs will be able to absorb Phaneuf’s contract. Hope this helps. Happy new year!

  • STAN

    This is a stunner from Dave Nonis and is proof positive that he is among the worst player evaluators in the league.

    29 NHL GMs are licking their chops today.

    Does Nonis really believe that his chosen core of Clarkson, Phaneuf, Lupul, Kessel and Bozak are championship calibre? If so, he’s delusional.

    But it’s easy to throw MLSE money around when you yourself were handed a lucrative five-year deal with NO track record to back it up.

    Phaneuf peaked in his second season in Calgary. Just because Darryl Sutter was stupid enough to commit more than $30M to him only means that he became a high-profile, overrated and overpaid journeyman. It only made his contract elite, not his play.

    This move virtually guarantees that the Leafs will not win a Stanley Cup this decade.

    Oh well, there may be hope from 2020-2030.

    I expect many ‘trashes’ for this view, but hey…

  • Jeremy Ian

    Stan –

    You should not be trashed. The fact is, Phaneuf is a decent player but not a great player. Drew Doughty is the kind of player you give 10% of you cap to. Phaneuf is not.

    The Leafs would be better off letting Phaneuf walk for nothing than tying up so much cap space for so long to keep him. But MLSE management is too terrified to let people think they are not doing anything.

    And as I said above, where is all this cap inflation going to come from. Right now, $64.3MM might be too low. Add the additional $3.5MM from the Rogers deal and you are up to $68MM. Maybe other things get it up to $71MM. But where is the future growth? And you are stuck with Phaneuf eating 10% of your cap space for the next seven years. How do you build a Stanley Cup champion with that albatross around your neck.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Jeremy Ian –

    You have not said where the additional revenue is coming from. Please get VERY specific. It sounds like you know a few economic buzzwords without understanding them.

    1. Competition between cap teams for players.
    A collective action problem????
    The cap is based on hockey related revenues (HRR) – not profits. Read the CBA. The fact that high revenue teams make more money is irrelevant. How do they increase their revenues – not reduce their profits – is relevant. The NHL’s biggest revenue source is ticket sales. The number of tickets sold cannot increase for the high revenue teams. The question is how high can they raise their prices. Florida and Phoenix can sell more tickets but at $7 a pop, little cap effect.

    2. There are no monopoly rents. NHL hockey is an entertainment choice. If prices get too high, people can go to more movies and fewer NHL games. Or go to junior or Marlies games. There are other options. What makes you think that even MLSE can keep raising prices forever? Keep in mind “Herbert Stein’s Law” i.e. “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Even if Toronto can keep gouging, the other 29 NHL teams cannot.

    Also keep in mind that the Canadian dollar right now is worth 0.94USD. Back in the 1990s, Canadian hockey was almost destroyed by a 0.62 cent Canadian dollar. The bounceback is almost entirely attributable to oil. We are much like Russia – a commodity economy. It allows the oligarchs to throw money around the KHL and Canadian NHL teams to thrive. What happens if oil prices fall – which has happened with regularity in the past.

    Once again, if you insist that the salary cap will keep rising, please let me know very specifically how that will happen – not throw out some vague reasoning with no basis in reality.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Okay….. Not sure what induced the outrage.

      What I laid out was not very controversial. I am not “insisting” on anything — just pointing out an underlying logic since you’d posed some questions about it. Economic history is full of evidence that predicts that the cap will rise; (1) it always has, except in the “corrected” years of lockouts; (2) it is rising this year; (3) now with inflationary expectations baked into the bargaining between managers and player reps, the floor will escalate.

      Monopolies very seldom are pure price-makers; that’s not what the term “monopoly rent” refers to. In fact, it’s thanks to the rents that the haves “share” their revenues with the have-nots. It’s to give the illusion of a mechanism to correct for the market pressure towards competitive imbalance.

      Shrewd managers like Lou Lamoriello and David Poile are already on record for predicting a rising cap, in large measure because they know it will undermine their ability to compete and bolster their claims for more revenue-sharing. There is so little incentive to reduce the cap or keep a lid on it, that’s all. Of course it’s perverse. But it’s the result of sum of particular moves that are rational.

      As for your concern about exchange rates. You are quite right that staple exports keep the dollar high. But I don’t think anyone’s expecting that to change downward, even if Obama negates the pipeline. Though the global economy is recovering fairly slowly, demand for Canadian energy products will not go down. That bodes well for the Canadian franchises bargaining for players in US dollars. So, I am not an alarmist when it comes to Leafs finances.

      I am not saying this is a good thing; it’s just a reality in the age of collective bargaining in an industry made of co-dependent monopolistic firms.

      That’s why the Leaf signing of Phaneuf makes sense. If management wanted to take a solo stand against the industry and refuse to sign marquee players for the market price, hoping that Jeremy Jacobs of the Bruins or the Molson family will follow suit, then I would call the Leafs brass nuts.

      The argument against signing Phaneuf at 7 x 7 hinges on the opportunity cost — what you pay for losing the next best alternative. But so far, no one has argued that the opportunity cost outweighs the price. Martin, help us out and make the case that there’s a worthy alternative. I’d love to hear it.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Hey guys, I just read some of the comments at TSN and now I want to die.


    Dion is a great player. Not elite.
    That said, its pretty clear that this team could use another guy EXACTLY like Dion, not less of him.

    Also, the signing in and of itself seems very good. Term and dollar are in line with market value for players of his calibre.

    Problem becomes if they continue with the status quo. (i.e. playing guys who are barely capable NHLers, in a variety of positions)

    Guys like: Ranger, Fraser, Goon 1 and Goon 2 etc should never see NHL ice time again IMHO. Stop jerking around guys like Kulemin, Reimer, Kadri and Gardiner. Play skill with skill. Bozak on #1 PP? Craziness if you ask me.

    This team man…I swear I have Stockholm Syndrom or something.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Dion is the Leaf’s best defenseman no doubt. Is this a good deal I guess only time will tell. I have no objection to re signing Phanuef I’m just not sold on term. Much the same as Clarkson

    The Leafs are now following the league model of teams locking up their core. I just have a nagging little doubt in the back of my mind that this might not have been the wisest choice. The Leafs are a cap team and by signing Dion they insure they will remain a cap team. The only question I have is this current core a core that will win? I’m not saying they don’t have talent, to argue otherwise is just plain stupid. What I want to know is now that they are committed to the guys they have for the next 4 years (which other than Kadri is the length of contracts for their top 6) is this core good enough to win a cup?

    It is not easy to make changes when you have long term contracts to all your best players. Trades just don’t happen in the NHL anymore. My only fear is that we have locked mediocrity in place for the next 4 years. Did the Leafs just lock in a bunch of guys who while very talented, are just not good enough collectively to actually compete for a cup?

    I sure hope not.

  • Jeremy Ian


    While I agree that Jeremy Ian did not provide an adequate explanation of how HRR will go up in the future, you’re response was a bit douchey. There is no need to put down a guy trying to help you.

    Since I do not want to incur your wrath, rather than try to provide an explanation, I will link a couple of articles by the wonderful James Mirtle that will hopefully provide some insight into the matter.



    Also, you make a good point regarding the Canadian dollar. Richard Peddie recently tweeted that a $0.01 fluctuation in the exchange rate cost MLSE $1.2m. An extreme example, but it underscores your point that the NHL could be in trouble if the Canadian dollar starts to substantially depreciate relative to the USD.


  • Jeremy Ian

    I think the next step for Nonis has to be finding a shut-down dman to pair with Gunnar. This will free up Dion to play more of a two-way game to better utilize his talents.

    It will require some finessing under the cap, but I would like to see them make a run at acquiring Dan Girardi, a pending UFA and in Vigneault’s dog house.


    Liles, Fraser, Ranger

  • Jeremy Ian

    Here are some data from Forbes magazine that might help. Note the last column on operating income. There’s lots of unused capacity in the top 10. That’s not a constraining factor in payroll decisions. The cap is. And the cap is determined by collusive bargaining between owners.

    There’s payroll slack coming next offseason with the dragging anchors, retained salaries, and old buy-outs rolling off and the books.

    If I am Nonis, I sign Phaneuf and I go after Girardi — who will be way more inclined to sign with the Leafs with Phaneuf than without.

    Column 1: Rank
    Column 2: Team
    Column 3: Value ($mil US)
    Column 4: 1-yr value change (%)
    Column 5: debt/value (%)
    Column 6: Revenue ($mil US)
    Column 7: Operating income ($mil US)

    1. Toronto Maple Leafs 1,150 15 14 142 48.7

    2. New York Rangers 850 13 0 131 27.3

    3. Montreal Canadiens 775 35 37 127 29.6

    4. Vancouver Canucks 700 105 14 101 15.8

    5. Chicago Blackhawks 625 79 0 115 25.6

    6. Boston Bruins 600 72 18 114 18.5

    7. Philadelphia Flyers 500 49 13 95 6.0

    8. Pittsburgh Penguins 480 67 21 107 20.9

    9. Detroit Red Wings 470 36 0 96 10.5

    10. Los Angeles Kings 450 63 28 98 8.2

    11. Calgary Flames 420 71 8 89 11.5

    12. Washington Capitals 414 66 31 83 8.0

    13. San Jose Sharks 405 82 0 84 2.1

    14. Edmonton Oilers 400 78 25 80 10.3

    15. Ottawa Senators 380 73 39 83 6.8

    16. Winnipeg Jets 340 70 38 79 6.3

    17. Colorado Avalanche 337 60 3 67 0.3

    18. Dallas Stars 333 39 45 79 1.6

    19. Minnesota Wild 330 51 34 81 -13.6

    20. New Jersey Devils 320 56 81 78 -4.2

    21. Anaheim Ducks 300 56 23 73 -3.9

    22. Buffalo Sabres 250 43 32 76 -1.0

    23. Florida Panthers 240 41 50 69 -7.7

    24. Nashville Predators 205 23 41 71 -0.8

    25. Phoenix Coyotes 200 49 62 67 -8.9

    26. New York Islanders 195 26 51 61 -1.2

    27. Carolina Hurricanes 187 15 59 71 -3.4

    28. St Louis Blues 185 42 35 72 -2.5

    29. Tampa Bay Lightning 180 3 25 72 -5.4

    30. Columbus Blue Jackets 175 21 43 69 4.9

    Sorry – not formating as a table. Check out this link:


  • Back in Black

    RP –

    I had read Mirtle’s articles – and he gave the same kind of arguments that Jeremy Ian did. What set me off on Jeremy Ian was his use of the term “collective action problem.” It is like when new age shills use “quantum” to give credence to their claims. He could have looked up the definition of CAP in wikipedia before using it incorrectly.

    Before making these claims, people should look up “Hockey Related Revenue.” It is a defined term in the CBA. Here is an article that says what is included in HRR:

    In 2011-12, total HRR for the league was $3.3 billion – all amounts are in USD. That gives a salary cap of $63.25MM. They came up with $64.3MM for this season which implies total HRR of $3.355 billion. So this is simple math. Take HRR and multiply by 0.01917 (30 teams, players get half, multiply by 1.15 (15% above the midpoint)) – that is the salary cap.

    The Rogers deal is $5.2 billion Canadian over 12 years. At the current exchange rate, that is $407MM USD per year – an increase of about $207MM USD per year from the current deals. That works out to a cap increase of $4MM per year. And no more cap increases from national TV deals until 2024. I don’t understand how Mirtle comes up with his numbers in the first article. The math on this is simple. He gives no justification for his numbers.

    His second article just increases HRR by a linear factor of 5%. Why? The NHL’s problem is that 70% of its revenue (HRR) comes from ticket sales. By comparison, the NFL is around 20%, MLB is 25%, and the NBA is 33%. There, the big money comes from television. For the NHL, no possible increase in TV money until the NBC deal ends in 2021. And the Rogers deal is in Canadian dollars – which if the exchange rate weakens, the value in USD – the important one in terms of the CBA and the salary cap – can actually go down. What are the new revenue sources – other than continuing to increase ticket prices – that will increase the salary cap.

    Sorry I sounded so harsh. I have an undergrad degree in math, an MBA and a CPA (US terminology). This stuff is pretty simple for me. All the excitement after the Rogers deal seemed unjustified to me – especially when you look at the numbers.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Hey, Martin, you can call me Jeremy. The Ian’s my middle name, which I never use but there was some other Jeremy posting last year.

      Thanks for the figures; always happy to learn more.

      I won’t get into the degree-waving stuff; the main point I am trying to make — and promise it will be the last time — is that if one argues on the basis of averages one misses the asymmetry in costs and revenues across teams, which is why the Leafs are constrained by the cap and not revenues when it comes to the capacity to sign players. Other teams — like 2/3 of the league — are revenue-constrained. But the forces driving up the cap are those teams that are most constrained by it, which is why it will rise by a faster rate than average, league-wide, revenues.

      This has been going on for a long time. So, there’s nothing new here.

      The collective action problem is relevant because it’s what drives up the cap, not revenues. (And I am not mis-using the concept, I assure you).

      Which is why the 10% payroll share argument vs Phaneuf only holds for now. That share will go down as the cap and payroll rise.

      There’s a much broader problem you are getting at in your other post about the Leafs’ development strategy. I think we can all agree that it was a sorry story for a long time. Burke for the most part got it back on track — but it’s hard to right a system that was so rancid for so long.

      Either way, good discussion. Have a great New Year all.

  • Jeremy Ian

    By overpaying for “average” talent the leafs are building an overpaid average team. They will be wild card competitive because they spend to the cap limit unlike small market teams.

    However, they will not be cup contenders being that their depth does not match up to the better teams in the NHL. And the reason, their depth is poor is that they overspend on average players who can not deliver sufficient value.

    I’m all for the leaf Corsi playoff collapse so that Nonis gets replaced by someone with the brain and conviction to manage cap properly. We endure a 5 year accelerated rebuild to create a wild card playoff team that might a series or two?

  • Jeremy Ian

    I can’t understand the 7 year deal he can barely keep up in the third period no legs. If Carlyle plays him 15 minutes a game he may have some gas left in the third period. Same old crazy deals the Leafs have been doing for the last 20 years. leafs have never and will ever have the patience to develop there young to bad lots of starving fans for a good team.

  • STAN

    Two more points. You may notice that the cap is 15% above half of HRR. What happens if the total amount paid to the players exceeds 50% of HRR? They give that back. Actually, they never got it in the first place. There is a holdback on their salaries which is not paid until all the numbers are in. Theoretically, if every team spent up to the salary cap, players would get 57.5% of HRR. Because of the holdback, which is escrowed, the players never get more than 50% of HRR. So the Leaf players benefit when Ottawa spends below the cap.

    Second, wrt Phaneuf. Look at Chicago’s d pairings. Ignore the Leafs 7-3 victory – the Blackhawks seem to get bored from time to time. They lost to Nashville 7-2. Keith and Seabrook, Oduya and Hjalmarsson, Leddy and (Roszival, Brookbank or Kostka). Where would Phaneuf fit in there? Maybe instead of Leddy’s rotating partner. And we want to give him 10% of our salary cap? And look at what Chicago has done. Leddy has been lovingly developed for over two years and seems to have come into his own. I doubt that Bowman would let the Leafs anywhere near him. He regards Leddy as Keith’s successor. And Keith will probably win the Norris this season.

    Why have the Leafs not done something like that? Chicago lost two of its defence prospects, Ryan Stanton (Vancouver) and Dylan Olsen (Florida), because it had too many. They have at least two guys, Adam Clendening and Stephen Johns, ready for the NHL. Stanton and Olson have shown themselves to be NHL ready.

    That is how you win Stanley Cups. Chicago learned from Detroit. Maybe it is time for MLSE to take some lessons.

    • STAN

      Thank you Ted.

      I too watched him as a Red Deer Rebel and he stood out: quick, mobile, hard (mostly) clean hits and nice shot from the point. But even then he was a below average playmaker and passer.

      Then as a Flame he continued that and, as I said, had two solid (not great) seasons. But Sutter seemed to realize he’d made a mistake and offloaded that stupid contract on Burke who (to justify the trade) made sure he was made captain.,As you pointed out, the guy is as thick as a goal post. That thickness shows with at least a half dozen boneheaded moves per game.

      Now, we’ll apparently be subjected to 7 1/2 more seasons of mindless clearing high off the glass and slamming it hard around the boards… usually to a waiting winger or pinching D-man.


  • STAN

    No wonder we haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the beginning of the disco era…

    I’m past blaming the players for Toronto’s chronic failure to win it all and live up to its storied past. It’s time to go after the decision makers who keep expecting – foolishly – that overpaying average players will improve your team’s fortunes.