With the speculation on the weekend that both of Ontario’s NHL captains might be on the move, I wanted to look at it to see of a Jason Spezza for Dion Phaneuf deal in any way makes sense. To do that, you have to look at it from both sides.
From the Ottawa Senators standpoint, they need help in their own end. Phaneuf has had his struggles in that area. But, he has been under the glare of the media spotlight in Toronto and every little mistake was magnified, especially during the final month meltdown that resulted in them missing the playoffs. Being named captain of the Maple Leafs was also one of the worst things that could have happened for Phaneuf, who seems uncomfortable in the role of being the go-to guy in the media.
Spezza has 1 year left on his deal and will likely be looking for a massive extension that, given his injury history and percieved lack of an all-around game, the Senators might not be willing to meet.
Phaneuf on the Senators blue line could be a perfect partner for Erik Karlsson. Phaneuf would have a more defined defensive role and support Karlsson while still pitching in offensively and on the power play. Despite his misgivings and the criticism he has taken as a Maple Leaf, Phaneuf is still a first pair defenseman and has had the anchor of playing most of his minutes with Carl Gunnarson in Toronto.
From the Toronto Maple Leafs point of view, they would get that true #1 centre they haven’t had since Mats Sundin, while relieving themselves of a tough contract that he would have a hard time living up to in the Big Smoke.
Obviously, it is not as easy as a 1 for 1 deal, because there are other roster and salary implications. For instance, Toronto would have to take back a defenseman in the deal, either Patrick Wiercioch or Eric Gryba, because adding Phanuef alone would give Ottawa 9 defensemen on 1 way deals.
Toronto would also have to retain some of the Phaneuf contract, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% or $1.4M per season. This would also ensure that Erik Karlsson would still be the highest paid Senators blueliner, at least when it comes to the Senators portion of their respective salaries.
Ottawa would also need to get another asset back, either a solid prospect or a draft pick that might or might not be the #8 overall selection this season, or another forward prospect such as Josh Leivo.
This deal will likely never happen, because both franchises would be constantly reminded of their past history with the players on the other side. Jason Spezza might or might not, depending on your point of view, end up with the Maple Leafs after next season anyway, but you can bet Ottawa doesn’t want to be the team that gives him to them.
The Maple Leafs might not want to give up so much, but they are going to have to in order rid themselves of a burdensome contract that hasn’t even kicked in yet.
However, both teams, but even moreso the Leafs, want to make a fundamental change and those cannot be limited to swapping out third or fourth liners.
Still, the barriers standing in the way outweigh the likelihood of this deal happening.
Isn’t speculation, no matter how unlikely the scenario may be, fun? Welcome to the off-season of the NHL.