The Toronto Maple Leafs Won The Dion Phaneuf Trade

October 15th, 2011 No Comments

January 2nd, 1992—Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher pulls off what many fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs refer to as the best trade in Maple Leaf history, acquiring Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Ric Natress, Kent Manderville and Rick Walmsley in return for Gary Leeman, Alexander Godnyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube.

Gilmour quickly made his mark with the Maple Leafs, winning the Selke Trophy and finishing runner up for the Hart Trophy after the 1992-93 season which saw the feisty forward put together the greatest season in Toronto Maple Leaf history, scoring 32 goals and racking up 95 assists for a total of 127 points.

In the end, this trade was all about Gilmour, nothing more, nothing less. Jamie Macoun proved to be a serviceable defenseman for the Maple Leafs, while Leeman, Godnyuk, Reese, Petit and Berube amounted to spare parts for the Calgary Flames.

Fast forward to January, 31st, 2010—Current Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke pulls the trigger on a deal with the Flames, acquiring Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie in exchange for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White.

Heading into Saturday night’s tilt between the Flames and Maple Leafs, Dion Phaneuf has slowly but surely climbed out from his struggles with the Flames, emerging as a leader, physical player and offensive threat, not unlike his early years with the Flames.

Aulie finished the 2010-11 season with the Maple Leafs, and while he may need a little seasoning before he will be a full time NHL player, looks to be well on his way to being NHL ready.

Sjostrom is no longer a Maple Leaf, and he didn’t really do much for the Leafs while he was here— but hey, you can’t completely dominate a trade, can you?

For the Flames, they have traded away Mayers and White, while both Matt Stajan and Nik Hagman continue to struggle to find their way with the Flames.

Stajan’s lofty contract (four years, $14 million) and Hagman’s struggles have many Flames fans wishing then general manager Darryl Sutter had kept Phaneuf around in Calgary.

Stajan’s play has become some poor that he now finds himself, along with Hagman, playing a ton of third and fourth line minutes for the Flames. Meanwhile, Phaneuf plays upwards of 22 minutes per game and is continuing to improve his overall skill set, while Aulie has a ton of upside.

Hindsight is everything, but when you consider that the main reason Phaneuf was moved to Toronto was due to a perceived poor attitude it really makes your head shake when you consider how little Calgary got in return.

Phaneuf haters will be quick to point out that Phaneuf’s salary (which was originally six years, $39 million) cancels out a lot of the gains the Maple Leafs made, but when you consider the Flames gave most of the money they saved back in the form of Stajan’s contract, the point is moot.

In his short time with the Maple Leafs Phaneuf has earned the captaincy, become a leader, stayed clean on and off the ice and has a chance to be in the Norris Trophy conversation as early as this season. Will he win the Norris? Probably not, but that’s not to say that he won’t get at least some consideration if he can put together a great season.

Hagman, Stajan—neither one of these players will be in any conversation for any Trophy, you can count on that!

Once Aulie gets back to the NHL the optics of the Phaneuf trade will continue to get worse. Aulie has a chance to be a solid top-four/stay-at-home defenseman. His ability to clear the net is a sought after skill, as is his grit, determination and calm demeanor on the ice.

Stajan and Hagman have little (if any) upside left, end of story.

The fact is, the best player Calgary got in return was probably defenseman Ian White, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes along with Brett Sutter, in return for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos.

Kostopoulos had 14 points in 59 games with the Flames last season, while Babchuk scored a total of 27 points in his 65 games with the Flames last season.

Kostopoulos and Babchuk gave the Flames an element of depth to their lineup, but neither one is regarded as a huge talent, neither one is capable of having the impact on a game that Phaneuf has.

White? After joining the San Jose Sharks for the final 23 games of the 2010-11 season and the playoffs, he is now a member of the Detroit Red Wings and is regarded as a very steady NHL defenseman when healthy.

Without question, the Calgary Flames got hammered in this one-sided deal. Needless to say, if the Flames are looking to dump another “bad apple”, Brian Burke will be sure to pick up the phone, and you can take that to the bank!

Until next time,

Peace!

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