Is seven years too long? Is $49 million or $7 million against the cap too much?
Does it matter?
The Toronto Maple Leafs formally announced on Tuesday they’ve signed Dion Phaneuf to a 7-year extension, worth a reported $49 million. Their options, in short: Let him walk as an unrestricted free agent, and spend the next several years looking for another Dion Phaneuf; attempt to move him at the deadline, remembering the last time he was traded it was for a bucket of spare parts and that no one is going to ante up for a pending UFA; or, of course, pay the man.
So they paid the man: 7 years with an average of $7 million per season.
According to TSN, there’s a modified no-trade clause beginning in Year 1 of the deal, but Phaneuf has no protection from a trade until the extension begins in the summer.
The money is what it is. With the cap going up, the $7 million isn’t going to cripple the Leafs' salary structure. It’s only a headache when you compare it to other deals, which look downright thrifty by comparison:
But seven years? Cam Charron isn’t a fan:
Phaneuf is about equal to his teammates in situations where you need to defend, and much better in situations where you need to attack. He's a very tough defenceman to gauge, because his "best" years are going to fall in years where his team spends a lot of time trailing in the game, and his "worst" years are going to fall in years where the Leafs are winning more.
It's also looking ahead. I think the Leafs need to find a pairing like Chicago did, getting a couple of moderately-priced players to fill up roster spots that can essentially do the same thing as one top guy. Phaneuf at $7-million means the Leafs will have about $21-million to sign 10 players. Committing to Phaneuf long-term means you're committing to this Leafs roster that gives up shots, doesn't take many, and wins games by hanging on to the skin of its teeth.
One could argue that Phaneuf’s play this season shows he can be a rock on the blue line, that he can be a foundational player for a defense that still needs a few upgrades. One could also argue it’s a contract year.