A couple weeks back we looked at the the Top 5 Trade Destinations for Toronto’s top player, Phil Kessel. Today, we do the same for team captain Dion Phaneuf, who will almost certainly be shopped around the league as the Leafs look to strip down their roster, clear cap space, and rebuild through the draft.
In recent years, Dion seems to have lost a step, and our own Ryan Fancey discussed how quickly and dramatically Phaneuf could regress by the time his current contract is up. With a cap hit of $7M over the next six seasons, the Leafs would be better off moving on quickly. Phaneuf doesn’t exactly help the rebuild, and you may as well try to get as much value out of him now as possible.
Click past the jump for the Top 5 Trade Destinations for Dion Phaneuf…
The Colorado Avalanche
It’s been pretty widely reported that the Colorado Avalanche are in a market to add a defenceman, preferably to play alongside Erik Johnson on their top pairing. In fact, we wrote recently about how the Avs were apparently interested in Toronto’s Jake Gardiner. That being said, one can’t help but feel that Phaneuf would be a better fit.
The Avalanche certainly have the room to add Phaneuf’s contract, with just about $11M in cap space and a number of veterans coming off the books in the next couple seasons. To alleviate cap pressure, Toronto could take back a contract or retain some salary – the former option being much the more attractive option.
Another reason why Colorado makes sense as a potential landing destination for Phaneuf is that they have a good number of assets to send the opposite way. The Avalanche own all of their 2015 draft picks, save their fifth rounder, as well as their 2016 first round pick. As for prospects, Colorado does not own a very deep pool, but it’s not all bad when you consider just how young their star NHL players are. Most importantly, they have enough assets to make a fair offer for Phaneuf.
One potential trade chip that really intrigues me is goaltender Calvin Pickard. At 23 years old, Pickard looks ready to make the jump to the NHL, but could be stuck behind Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra. Assuming one of Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer is moved, Pickard would make an attractive backup option with decent future potential.
Potential Trade Pieces: G Calvin Pickard, C Conner Bleackley, D Chris Bigras, D Duncan Siemens, D Stefan Elliott, G Spencer Martin, 2015 1st and 2nd round picks, 2016 first round pick
Potential Salary Dumps: Brad Stuart (2 years, $3.6M), John Mitchell (2 years, $1.8M)
The Detroit Red Wings
Not exactly a surprise here, as the Detroit Red Wings were in on Phaneuf at the trade deadline but weren’t willing to give up what Toronto was asking for. Reportedly, that was top prospect Anthony Mantha (along with Stephen Weiss to balance out the cash). Detroit isn’t gearing up for a playoff run, nor is Phaneuf “fan” Mike Babcock still manning the Red Wings bench, so it’s not certain that they’re as interested in Phaneuf as they once were. That being said, they’re still one of the teams that appear to be a fit.
Detroit can certainly afford to take on Phaneuf’s salary, but they’ll need to send money the other way in order to facilitate the deal. With about $13M in cap space, the Red Wings also need to hand out new deals to RFAs Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Landon Ferraro and Brendan Smith. And, of course, sign 36-year old Dan Cleary to a new five-year deal.
That means that almost certainly it will be Weiss and his $4.9M per season for three seasons contract coming back. The question then becomes, does Toronto need to retain salary, and what’s the ‘sweetener’? Besides Weiss, there will need to be a pick, a prospect, or both coming back.
Weiss’s contract is ugly, but things would get really ugly for Toronto if they had to retain a couple million dollars on Phaneuf’s contract as well. Can they avoid retaining salary and still get a good prospect or pick out of the deal? Man, that’s tough.
The Leafs were smart to ask for Mantha at the deadline. After all, Phaneuf wasn’t a pending free agent and, presumably, there would be more suitors in the offseason – why not ask for the world? If Detroit bites, you make out like bandits. If they don’t, sit tight and try again later. No loss.
This time around, the Leafs should definitely ask for Mantha again. After all, the Red Wings have reportedly softened on their stance of not moving Anthony Mantha or their 2015 1st round pick. Dylan Larkin is probably a non-starter – Detroit seems really big on the University of Michigan standout – but everyone else appears to be fair game now.
Potential Trade Pieces: RW Anthony Mantha, 2015 1st Round Pick, RW Teemu Pulkkinen, D Ryan Sproul, D Xavier Ouellet, C Landon Ferraro, LW Andreas Athanasiou, LW Tyler Bertuzzi, G Jake Paterson, 2016 1st and 2nd round picks
Potential Salary Dumps: Stephen Weiss (3 Years, $4.9M), Jakub Kindl (2 Years, $2.4M)
The Dallas Stars
This is more of a hunch than anything, but I imagine that Dion would look good in Dallas. The Stars have a couple of nice pieces on the backend in Jason Demers and John Klingberg, but they’ll need another top four talent if they want to go far in this league.
Dallas also has the cash to make it happen, with over $15M in cap space available right now and a few veterans potentially coming off the books next year. They could easily take on Phaneuf’s full salary and have a significant amount of cap room left over, but it’s still pretty likely that Toronto will have to take back a salary that Dallas would like to rid itself of. At least with the Stars, they’re not so strapped that Toronto could really push to not retain salary.
Another reason that Dallas appears to be a fit is that the organization has a number of solid assets that could be flipped. There aren’t many true blue chip prospects in the system, outside of maybe offensive blueliner Julius Honka, but the Stars are flush with a number of nice pieces, as well as draft picks.
Potential Trade Pieces: D Julius Honka, LW Jason Dickinson, RW Brett Ritchie, D Jamie Oleksiak, 2015 1st Round Pick, Detroit’s 2015 2nd Round Pick, 2016 1st Round Pick
Potential Salary Dumps: Travis Moen (1 Year, $1.85M), Vernon Fiddler (1 Year, $1.25M)
The Los Angeles Kings
It wasn’t too long ago that the Los Angeles Kings were seriously interested in Phaneuf. Of course, the deal hinged largely on 30-year old centre Mike Richards coming back the other way. See, Richards’ play is in serious decline, and his $5.75M cap hit is on the books until 2020. The Kings desperately want to move him, and they’d be willing to take on Phaneuf’s contract in exchange, but let’s make no mistake – Phaneuf’s value is significantly higher than Richards’.
If the Kings want Toronto to take on Richards’ deal, and get Phaneuf in exchange, they’re going to have to kick in a “sweetener”. And it’s going to need to be very, very sweet.
Toronto is not going to be competing for a Stanley Cup in the next four years, so in a vacuum, taking on Mike Richards shouldn’t be that big of a deal. They certainly have the cap space to do it, and probably aren’t too concerned with how productive he’d be, but that’s not to say Richards comes without risk. If he retires early, before his contract is up, Toronto will be on the hook for at least part of his cap recapture penalty.
So what kind of assets do the Kings have to flip for ridding themselves of Richards’ contract, and for Phaneuf’s services? Actually, they’ve got a bunch of nice pieces. Most notably, they have both of Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson at the NHL level, but that’s a tough sell. Both are excellent young contributors, and probably represent the best possible return in any deal with the Kings. It’s more likely it will be a pick or prospect that comes back the other way, like 2014 1st round pick Adrian Kempe.
Potential Trade Pieces: LW Tyler Pearson, C Tyler Toffoli, 2015 1st Round and 2nd Round Picks, RW Adrian Kempe, RW Valentin Zykov, C Nick Shore, C Jordan Weal, D Derek Forbort
Potential Salary Dumps: Mike Richards (5 Years, $5.75M)
The Edmonton Oilers
Hahahahahaha, yeah. We’re doing this.
Here’s what we know about the Edmonton Oilers: their defence is horrid, they have a ton of cap space, and they have a whole lot of assets. Their fans may not like the idea of trading for Dion Phaneuf but, you know what? It makes a whole bunch of sense. Deal with it.
With nearly $16M in cap space and their core players locked up to relatively inexpensive long-term deals, the Oilers have room for Phaneuf. They have a good number of forwards under contract and are about to add Connor McDavid on an entry-level deal, so they’re pretty much set up front, meaning that a good deal of cash should and will be earmarked for the blueline. The Oilers need defensive help in a big way and it’s not going to come internally. Darnell Nurse? Great player, good prospect, won’t anchor your blueline right away. Edmonton will need to look at the free agent and trade market, and Phaneuf is one of the few readily available top pairing/top four defenders available.
In exchange, the Oilers have a lot to offer. They have an insane amount of draft picks, including six in the first three rounds of this month’s draft. That’s not to say all of them are available – I imagine that the first overall pick isn’t in play – but they certainly have enough selections to get creative and flip for immediate help. As for prospects, it’s not an incredibly deep group. After all, most of Edmonton’s top prospects graduated to the NHL very, very quickly. Can you convince Edmonton to give up a guy like Leon Draisaitl? Knowing how deep the Oilers are going to be down the middle when McDavid arrives, sure, why not? Peter Chiarelli might laugh and hang up the phone, or he might see a way to quickly and dramatically improve his team while dealing from a position of strength. The point is, you tried. If Draisaitl is the target though, Toronto may have to send one of their own assets back.
Potential Trade Pieces: Pittsburgh’s 2015 1st Round Pick, two 2015 2nd round picks, C Leon Draisaitl, LW Anton Slepyshev, D Dillon Simpson, G Laurent Brossoit
Potential Salary Dumps: D Nikita Nikitin (1 Year, $4.5M), LW Matt Hendricks (2 Years, $1.85M)