As reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf have come to terms on a 7-year contract extension valued at $49-million ($7-million AAV). This keeps the 28 year old Phaneuf in the fold until the end of the 2020-21 season. Bob McKenzie is reporting that there is some form of NMC/NTC, which is a typical addendum to UFA-year contracts. The deal is the second-most expensive contract ever signed by the Maple Leafs (Kessel’s 8-year, $64-million dollar deal signed earlier this season is #1).
The Only Man for the Job
The money should come as no surprise. Back in October, I wrote that the Leafs would likely spend between 47 and 56 million on a 7-8 year deal for the Captain (between 6.7-7 AAV). Very simply, the Leafs defense is among the most porous in the league, and Phaneuf is one of the few defenders that can play 25+ minutes a night in three zones. There’s no one else in the system that can provide what Phaneuf does, and this is the going rate for a defenseman of his pedigree.
Due respect to Morgan Rielly, but even if he is a No. 1 defenseman, it won’t be for at least a few seasons. The prize UFA defender on the horizon is Dan Girardi, though his availability next summer remains uncertain. Phaneuf was going to get paid by some team, and Leafs GM Dave Nonis chose to deal with the devil he knew instead of trolling the free agent market for unknowns.
Terms and Conditions
Detractors will point to his meagre and falling point totals since coming to Toronto – he has just 15 points through 39 games this season – as reason for concern. However, as Elliot Saccucci pointed out the other day, in the world of a rising cap Phaneuf’s dollar figure won’t admit much impediment to building a winner.
His cap number will come in at about 10% of the total cap next season. That sounds high, but will fall as HRR continues to skyrocket and increase the annual salary cap figures league-wide. The more legitimate concern should be: just how prudent is it to pay a guy $7-million until he’s 36 years old.
Phaneuf, selected ninth overall in 2003, has played 261 games for Toronto, recording 35 goals and 92 assists for 126 points over the last 5 NHL seasons. For his career, he’s tallied 110 goals, 245 assists for 355 points in 639 games. Since entering the league in 2005-06, Phaneuf ranks sixth in points and third in goals by a defenseman. Phaneuf has been a finalist for both rookie of the year (2006) and the Norris trophy (2008).
Top Point Producing NHL Defenceman Since 2005-2006Click on column headings to organize or use the search bar.
The Scientific Method
For those who look for more than just box cars, some advanced metrics are unearthing a lode of information on Dion Phaneuf’s two-way contrbutions to the Maple Leafs. One such, THoR (Total Hockey Rating, created by Michael Shuckers and Jim Curro) puts Phaneuf in the top ten among NHL defenders over the last two seasons. It goes on to suggest that Phaneuf’s contributions over a season add up to almost 4 more wins compared to a league-average player.
More on THoR from http://statsportsconsulting.com: THoR is a two-way player rating that accounts for the all of the on-ice action events when a players is on the ice as well as their linemates, their opponents and where their shift starts. Each event is assessed a value according to the chance that it leads to a goal. THoR uses a statistical model to determine the value of each player’s contribution to the overall outcomes that occur while they are on the ice. The values for THoR in the columns of the files below are given in wins over an average player for an 82 game season. Count/Number in the files below is the number of plays that a given players was on the ice.
If that doesn’t float your boat, then there are some more traditional fancy stats to consider. According to Behind the Net, among defenders with at least 20 games played, Phaneuf faces the hardest Relative Corsi quality of competition, the lowest quality of teammates score, while being twice as likely to start a shift in the defensive zone.
Phaneuf is Phaneuf
What we see every night, Phaneuf shouldering the load against increasingly difficult odds, is confirmed in the above numbers. And it’s no small part as to why he’s been paid $49-million over the next seven years. His ability to handle those tough and plentiful minutes as time goes by, while also providing above average offense, will determine whether this deal is a great success or failure. But the money is market value for 2013, and it’s nowhere near the worst deal Nonis has signed a player to in the last 362 days.