McKenzie:If you’ve been hearing a lot of Vernon Fiddler trade rumours it’s because two weeks ago he went to the Dallas Stars and said he wants more ice time and wants a bigger role, and if he can’t get it with Dallas than let it be somewhere else. He’s on an expiring contract at $1.8 million and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. There is interest in him from other teams but the Stars are wining and things are going well, so they’re not going to give him away. Keep an eye on this one.
Dreger: The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of those teams that have had discussions with Dallas about Fiddler. Toronto’s a little bit concerned about his age and the money, but the Leafs are looking for something. They’ve also had discussions on potentially trading John-Michael Liles to the Carolina Hurricanes but nothing imminent there.
When John Michael Liles is in the minors, the Leafs are pinged for 2,950,000 on the cap. If the Leafs were to deal Liles and retain half of his salary (maximum amount), they would be on the hook for 1,937,000. That doesn’t make sense to do over the length of the deal, but something like a million might. The maximum number of retained salaries is three per team, so this would put the Leafs at the max if it were to transpire. One stumbling block here is that Carolina has no more cap space than the Leafs.
The Leafs will return to the ice after what has seemed like an eternity. The JVR-at-center experiment will make its debut against the Devils tonight while Smithson and Fraser will draw into the lineup. The former is a move of necessity while the latter are indications of Carlyle reinforcing his desired style of game.
“The Marlies posted a record of 1-0-1-0 in two games this past week. On Friday night, Toronto traveled down the QEW for their third meeting of the season against the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Despite Josh Leivo scoring his first goal of the season just over five minutes into the game, the Marlies were defeated 2-1 in overtime. Martin St. Pierre tallied both goals for the Bulldogs, while goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.
Two of the longer term concerns entering the 2013-14 season for the Toronto Maple Leafs were the contract statuses of their star players Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. GM Dave Nonis made good on Kessel’s desire to negotiate before the season, and now the Leafs leading scorer will be in the fold until 2022. Having taken care of the time sensitive work, now Nonis’ sights will be set on re-signing the Leafs captain to a long term deal. But what’s it going to cost? Let’s take a look.
For his part, Phaneuf has said he’s open to negotiating a new deal midseason, having done so in Calgary back in 2008. And why not? The Flames overpaid to lock up a young, budding star defender that had already reached the 20-goal and 60-point plateau by the age of 23. He’s never managed to repeat either feat since, and was shipped to Toronto two years later as a high-priced disappointment. Since coming to Toronto, he’s lost and re-found some measure of his scoring touch, while regularly lining up in the toughest defensive assignments. His role has changed, the cap has risen, the rules have changed, but his paycheque has remained static since then.
To look at what Phaneuf should get, I looked into the last four seasons of data on defensemen (2009-10 through 2012-13). Amusingly, these happen to be the four worst years of Phaneuf’s career from a statistical standpoint, but probably better reflect his scoring output as the seasons roll on. Yes, in an eight-year career, two Phaneuf’s worst individual seasons saw him feature 10th and 12th in league scoring among defenders. So please understand that I used the word ‘worst’ in a relative sense here.
In 277 games over the last four seasons, Phaneuf ranks 23rd in points scored with 134, good for .48 points per game. More impressively, he ranks 8th in goals (41), power play goals (18) and time on ice (6916 minutes). It is in that last category where there’s some interesting salary correlations, as six of the seven players ahead of him in TOI over the last four seasons also have higher cap hits (Weber, Chara, Bouwmeester, Doughty, Suter and Boyle). Only Duncan Keith, signed to a phony 13-year, $72-million deal that pays just 5% of his total salary over his final two seasons, has a lower annual cap hit and has played more hockey than Phaneuf.
Now, ice time is hardly a perfect measure of Phaneuf’s worth, and I think most would agree that at least five of the seven players ahead of Phaneuf on that list are better defensemen than the Leafs captain. But what we can extrapolate is that is that defensemen who play as much as Phaneuf does tend to get paid as much as Phaneuf does. They also tend to have both a leadership role and a ‘play in all situations’ role with their club, much like Phaneuf does. So while I’d be hesitant to say that Phaneuf is the league’s 8th best defenseman, he’s certainly in the top 20.
But one of the greatest difficulties in projecting Phaneuf’s future cap hit is understanding the vast shift in his playing style since coming to Toronto. As alluded to above, he has been tasked with defensive zone starts and top lines every shift he’s skated in Toronto. In his early days, Phaneuf saw over 5 minutes a night on the power play, and was given sheltered minutes at even strength. This season, Phaneuf finds himself in an elite pair of defenders (the other being Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson) who average at least 3:30 in ice time on both the penalty kill and power play per game while facing the league’s best forwards.
At this point, I’d like to remind Leafs fans of Phaneuf’s idol and potential career model, Scott Stevens. While known for punishing hits and staunch defensive play for the New Jersey Devils, it’s sometimes hard to remember that he was once a pure scorer. While never among the ranks of Larry Murphy or Paul Coffey offensively, Stevens still tallied 900 points in his career. His best season was 1993-94 when he finished with 78 points. Then came the first of Gary Bettman’s lockouts and a new game format that encouraged stifling defensive play. In 10 more seasons, Stevens would only crack 30 points once more, yet he became the most notable defensive presence of the “Dead Puck Era.”
Similarly for Phaneuf, the offensive dynamism that made him rich seems to have been replaced by defensive prowess. It’s not that Phaneuf has lost that offensive side to his game, it’s that his role and usage limit his overall number of offensive chances for in favour of limiting offensive chances against. Phaneuf could never score 40 points again, but he’s significantly more reliable, responsible and positionally sound than he was in his halcyon days as a scorer. As both James Mirtle and I said on Monday, Phaneuf is without a doubt the most irreplaceable player in the line up.
Many have argued that Phaneuf’s current cap number looks out of place citing his capgeek comparables, and have been using Jay Bouwmeester when forecasting Phaneuf’s next deal. The St. Louis Blues defender and former linemate of Phaneuf’s is in the last year of a deal that pays him $6.68-million annually. He also recently signed a five-year extension with the Blues that will pay him a mere $5.4-million. And for seemingly little reason, that’s what Phaneuf should get. Or so the thinking goes.
But there’s several factors that make me believe there’s no chance that Phaneuf can be re-signed for JayBo’s modest number. Firstly, there’s little similarity in their game, beyond the fact that both log a tonne of minutes. Over the past four seasons, Bouwmeester has 30 fewer points than Phaneuf; 22 fewer goals. While a top defenseman in his own right, Bouwmeester has to fight for third billing behind standouts Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. It’s hard to ask for a raise when there are two other guys at your work who do your job better than you. Phaneuf does not have to suffer that workplace competition, and might never in a Leaf uniform. Also, George W. Bush was still president at the start of the last season where Bouwmeester recorded 40 points. Finally, Phaneuf is also a year younger than Bouwmeester, still closer to his prime and still able to crack 40 points.
So what does it all mean? What is Phaneuf worth? Most would agree that he’s not worthy of Ryan Suter’s $7.4-million paycheque, despite Phaneuf having 59 more points over 600-game careers. He’s also worth more than Jay Bouwmeester’s future cap hit of $5.4-million.
If I had to stake a guess, I’d actually say that Phaneuf will see a slight raise ahead of next season. He’s still only 28, and has been healthy most of his career. He’s proven capable of playing 25-minutes a night and more likely than not to score 40 points a season. There’s a dearth of options internally or externally that the Leafs could acquire to immediately replace and improve upon what Phaneuf does.
The only way I could see him re-signing at his current price tag or for less money is if the Leafs are willing to offer Phaneuf an eight-year deal. But if I had to give a more accurate range, I’d say that the Leafs and Phaneuf will probably end up coming to terms on a deal in the 7-8 year, $47-56-million deal. That would put his annual cap hit at a reasonable, $6.7 to $7-million cap hit on a deal that would expire when Phaneuf was 36 or 37 years of age. Should the Leafs want shorter term, expect the AAV to go up accordingly.
While it might sound unreasonable, nothing about NHL player’s paydays are ever reasonable. And ask yourself, what would you rather have? Phaneuf at 6.9 million, or to spend the next few seasons trying to replace him?
Highest Scoring NHL Defenseman
For combined seasons, from 2005-06 to 2013-14, playing defenseman, sorted by descending goals scored.
Toronto bounced back from a defeat in Columbus last night in a big way with a win against the Penguins. The Leafs found their physical game and put forth a strong effort across the board on their way to a 4-1 victory.
Tonight, David Clarkson will make his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many in Leafs Nation are excited about the prospect of a power forward like Clarkson entering the lineup. Rightly so: he hits, he fights, he cycles and he can put the puck in the net.
The start date for HBO 24/7 – Leafs/Wings has been announced: Mark your calendars for December 15th. This show will provide a rare opportunity to basically put yourself on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room with the team we think about for multiple hours every day. It’s going to be awesome.
Good morning to all those Leafs fans coming out of their food coma if Thanksgiving dinner was yesterday. To those who are having one today, enjoy!
The banged up Leafs squad entertain the Minnesota Wild tomorrow night, but each game that passes brings the team closer to full health. Thanks to some great goaltending from Bernier (I’ll overlook the Edmonton game), they’ve managed a 5-1 record so far. If they can get some bodies back and keep playing well, the team has set themselves up nicely through the first month.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ win, a 6-5 victory in OT, marks best start
for the franchise in 20 years (1993-1994 Toronto Maple Leafs).
Randy Carlyle and Dallas Eakins are probably going to want to forget this game; it was poorly played with more turnovers than we’ve seen in a while, complete 5-man defensive breakdowns, poor goaltending, no hitting, no commitment and/or sacrifice in the way of blocking shots or being hard on the puck.
Team Records: Leafs – 3-0-0 vs. Avalanche – 2-0-0 2012-13 Season Series: Two teams haven’t met since October 17, 2011. Key Matchup: Patrick Roy vs. ACC stanchions Fantasy Hockey: There’s a new way to play fantasy hockey that turns the season long grind into quick hitting one night leagues. And the best part is that you can win cash every single day. You draft a team for one night and get paid out as soon as the games end that night. Click here to play.
The Leafs remain on an 82-0 pace after a thrilling home opener that had everything but a fight. The Leafs found a way to win despite a goalie pull and a 4-2 deficit, as their off-season additions shone bright en route to a 5-4 shootout victory.