Toronto Maple Leafs close to 7-year deal with Dion Phaneuf

As reported by various sources and revealed in the third instalment of HBO’s “24/7” the Toronto Maple Leafs and captain Dion Phaneuf are very close to a contract extension that would pay the defenceman $7 million over the next 7-years.

Since joining the Leafs, Phaneuf has been a polarizing figure in Toronto. His propensity to deliver highlight reel body-checks coupled with his early success as a member of the Calgary Flames have always left many wanting more from the captain throughout his time with the Blue & White. The truth is: Phaneuf has been good as a Leaf, he just hasn’t been great.

The salary cap is projected to rise substantially over the next few seasons, making a $7 million annual hit for Phaneuf reasonable, all things considered. He is a regular amongst NHL leaders in most statistical categories, year after year. Not to mention, Phaneuf has a track record of good health in an era that sees far too many top players struggle to avoid injury over the course of a season. There are positive attributes associated with Dion’s game.

The vital stalling point in Phaneuf’s contract negotiations; reason his contract has not been made official yet: is not based on dollar value, rather, there is a reported separation between the two sides in the negotiation concerning a no-trade contract.

It appears the Leafs and Phaneuf are so close they will inevitably resolve any minor variances occurring in the negotiation process and the captain will remain a Leaf for the following seven seasons.

Phaneuf has his critics, and at times I’ve been one of them. However, I will take the side of defending him. For all his gaffs, last minute collapses, and failed attempts to lead his club to any noteworthy success, it should also be noted that Phaneuf has never truly had great support. In fact, even now, with the Leafs realistically on the verge of qualifying for the post-season for the second time in as many seasons, Phaneuf still logs big minutes without an adequate partner on the blue-line. Number 3 has played the vast majority of this season alongside defender Carl Gunnarsson; a valiant soldier, but far cry from being deserved of praise as a top minute defenceman on most NHL clubs.

To maximize Phaneuf’s contributions to the team, Leafs management will need to build a better six-man unit of defencemen; one that includes Phaneuf, and a better supporting staff, specifically in the top-four position.