February 1, 2010

Turning over some new Leafs

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

Brian Burke made a huge splash in the NHL trade market on Sunday by shipping off almost a third of his 29th ranked team in a couple of moves that brought back some big names. While landing Dion Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames is the biggest name, his second deal of the day may have been the better one.

Burke sent backup goalie Vesa Toskala and winger Jason Blake to Anaheim for their backup goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a Stanley Cup hero when Burke was GMing that team. While this may look a little lop-sided on the actual hockey side of the deal, the contract side of the deal is clearly in Toronto’s favour. Anaheim gets Toskala to backup Jonas Hiller for the rest of the season before he’s a free agent, but have to contend with Jason Blake’s $4-million per season contract for at least two more after this one. Giguere will be making $7 million to be the backup/tutor in Toronto for one season after this one. It’s actually, a small price for the Leafs to pay to get out from under Blake’s unfortunate deal.

By landing Phaneuf, the Leafs now have a defenceman with a load of potential that he will never live up to. He’s a big hitter with a good point shot that got everyone hot for him when he notched 21 goals (20 in the regular season, one in the playoffs) in his rookie season, but hasn’t improved on that tally since. He was thought to be a shoe-in for Team Canada at the Olympics – so much so that he had a few ads made with him in the Olympic uniform – let his lacklustre production got in the way of that dream. While his name looks good on paper for the Leafs blue line, he was actually less productive than the man that the Leafs gave away to get him, Ian White.

This is a neat tossup that people may not even realize. White is only one year older than Phaneuf (25-24), has more points (26-22), and have both so while playing roughly 23 minutes per game. White was one of three Leafs to have a positive plus/minus rating (1) and Phaneuf (3) was only slightly better in that category while playing on a superior team. Did the Leafs really land the best player in this deal?

Also heading Calgary’s way were dog-house inhabitant Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and the second best goal scorer the Leafs had, Niklas Hagman. Also heading to the Leafs were Fredrik Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie.

So, when you look at these blockbusters on paper, the Leafs only gained a better backup goalie, a bit of financial freedom down the road, a decent penalty killer, a prospect and a player that’s underachieved since his rookie season. They’ve given up their best centre, a good, underrated goal scorer, their second best defenceman, and a winger and goalie combo that could do really well to step out of the Toronto media spotlight. Maybe Burkie isn’t that much of a genius.


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  2. dion phaneuf had 20 goals in his rookie season 21 if you count the one he scored in the playoffs. do some research before you spew your garbage.

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