The Toronto Maple Leafs have made another gutsy move, much like the Kessel deal, by acquiring defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie for Matt Stajan, Nick Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers. Stajan, Hagman and White were listed in the top 5 point-getters for the Leafs this season, Stajan with 41 pts, Hagman with a team-leading 20 goals and 33 points, and White with 26 points on the back-end.
So far, Phaneuf has been having a career low season, with 10 goals, 12 assists, and a +3 rating, the only consistency is his penalty minutes (49), but they have been mostly minor penalties. White has 9 goals, 17 assists, and 29 penalty minutes with a +1 rating. Similar? I think so... Phaneuf has a better track record, but has struggled this year, most notably being left off the Team Canada Olympic roster. Brian Burke has taken a huge gamble on this one. Like the Kessel trade (giving up possibly either Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, or Cam Fowler, plus 2011's 1st rounder), Burke has put faith before reason.
Although near the same age, Phaneuf has been a key part of the Flames for longer than White has been an impact player in the NHL. However, White, 25, still has many years to develop and in my opinion, and has been one of the most consistent players for Toronto's back end this year, next to Tomas Kaberle.
And we're only comparing these two players there - lets not forget Hagman and Stajan, both huge contributors to the Leafs power play and first-hand scoring this year. With them gone, a massive onus will be put on Phil Kessel - Oh, wait, there already has been, and Kessel has produced the mere equivalent of a secondary scorer (17G, 16A, -4). This may however allow young guns in Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stahlberg to get a chance to prove themselves, but I still have a major concern as to where Toronto will produce their offense for the remainder of the season with these key contributors traded away.
Mayers is a decent 4th liner able to contribute an average of 10 points per season plus a few handfuls of fight majors, but he asked for a trade and was no significant loss to the Leafs. I'd be surprise if he even cracks Calgary's roster for consistent playing time.
My next question is, what will the Leafs have left to trade for some offensive power?
I called it with the Kessel trade, that it was not as great as everyone built it up to be, and that the Leafs would still lack a superstar sniper. Burkey is really risking his neck on this trade, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, Phaneuf will be an assest, but the Leafs should still be looking for someone who can score goals, and they have traded almost everything that other teams might be interested in away.
One person I know who will like the deal is Pierre McGuire - he will now get to say "Dion Phaneuf" on a much more regular basis, along with his classic "that's a double Dion!" line.
Where Burke did a fine job today was acquiring J.S. Giguere for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. Originally the Leafs were supposed to get a 1st round pick out of the deal as well, but I guess the Ducks decided to learn from Burke's move with Kessel to not give away a 1st rounder on something that isn't a sure thing. (Although the Ducks do have two 1st round picks this year, one from Philly).
Giguere wants to play, and he will not get his wish in Anaheim. He could step his game up and become a starting goaltender for the Leafs, and is certainly worth giving up Toskala for. The BEST move out of the deal is dropping Jason Blake and his 4 Million/year contract. Wow, I can't believe a team would actually take that off the Leafs' hands. Blake was a secondary contributor, and although he scored 50 goals with NYI a few years back, it pains me every time I see Blake take the puck to the net on his own. He is the best I have seen at hitting the crest on the goalie's sweater.
Maybe this huge free-up in cap space will lead to Burke's next big move - signing soon to be free agent Ilya Kovalchuck... ?
- Jeff Blay