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.

Neon Dion

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 2005-2006

Click on column headings to organize or use the search bar.
1Nicklas Lidstrom20062012DET548913254161732384150013526.7
2Dan Boyle20062014TOT585101291392-154445248114477
3Brian Campbell20062014TOT6276130636741145322909216.6
4Zdeno Chara20062014TOT6341122513631368024168317766.3
5Sergei Gonchar20062014TOT54369293362-234242246111366.1
6Dion Phaneuf20062014TOT638109245354118494761117856.1
7Lubomir Visnovsky20062014TOT54694260354262535539010259.2
8Kimmo Timonen20062014TOT63858293351594082330510595.5
9Duncan Keith20062014CHI647622833451194234215513204.7
10Tomas Kaberle20062013TOT54146293339-40150252109255
11Shea Weber20062014NSH563117195312314395756415097.8
12Brian Rafalski20062011TOT4564925930882172222618305.9
13Andrei Markov20062014MTL4556424330726305194237948.1
14Mark Streit20062014TOT52868236304-55270293729417.2
15Chris Pronger20062012TOT44563235298584922439010096.2
16Jay Bouwmeester20062014TOT6576922729624334722012355.6
17Mike Green20062014WSH46897199296513644650111278.6
18Ryan Suter20062014TOT6304225029241438271419864.3
19Marek Zidlicky20062014TOT57457233290-41502174008946.4
20Dennis Wideman20062014TOT60575210285-543972944212446
21Christian Ehrhoff20062014TOT60964217281684233628012535.1
22John-Michael Liles20062014TOT54867212279-402143235010086.6
23Brent Seabrook20062014CHI639592142731074773820110995.4
24Joe Corvo20062014TOT58279193272191873938213066
25Niklas Kronwall20062014DET5325720926650352312608256.9
26Scott Niedermayer*20062010TOT37160204264-5306213907867.6
27Ryan Whitney20062014TOT48050209259-30381252417057.1
28Bryan McCabe20062011TOT42769189258-3470264309657.2
29Joni Pitkanen20062013TOT46449206255-23440351319045.4

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 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.