Entering the 2013-14 NHL season the Toronto Maple Leafs had several pending free agents they needed to make important decisions about, none bigger than Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. The day before the first game of the season the club signed sniper Phil Kessel to an 8-year deal, leaving Dion the sole big money player in need of an extension. Today – one day before the Winter Classic – the Leafs and Phaneuf have officially come to terms. The Leafs captain will remain with Toronto for the next seven seasons.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 31, 2013
Dion Phaneuf – who was acquired by former Leafs GM Brian Burke in 2010 – will make $49 million over the next seven seasons with the Blue & White. The captain was elated. In an article posted to CBC earlier today, Phaneuf said:
“I’m very honoured to be the captain of this historic franchise and to maintain the opportunity to play and represent the Toronto Maple Leafs for many years to come.”
Quote courtesy of CBC. Read full article here.
Entering this season much of Leaf Nation, and possibly management, hoped defencemen Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson would improve upon last year’s small samples of brilliance. Unfortunately, both players have been inconsistent throughout the first half of the campain, therefore, if there was ever any doubt that Phaneuf is not needed on the Blue & White blue-line, that doubt has been erased. Phaneuf is consistent, if nothing else.
When last season came to an abrupt, disappointing end at the hands of the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs first round, Dion took some heat for not being tough enough in front of his own net. The year before, Phaneuf was subject to a flock of cameras and reporters asking “what went wrong?” This, after the Leafs’ season was derailed in the second half, causing the club to drop out of the playoff race, and ultimately miss the post-season for the 8th straight year. If you’re judging Phaneuf as a captain – which many Leaf fans do – then he hasn’t passed with flying colours.
However, all things in consideration, including: stats, comparable contracts, and durability; Dion Phaneuf’s deal isn’t terrible. The salary cap is estimated to increase drastically over the next few seasons, therefore, Phaneuf’s $7 mil per year doesn’t need to be handcuffing. The next goal of Leafs management should probably be to surround Phaneuf with better help on the back end, perhaps, a more impressive defence partner than he currently teams with would make a world of difference.