Dion Phaneuf‘s contract isn’t pretty, but after seeing it move twice in trades already, you can’t say that it’s impossible to trade.
The Ottawa Senators proved that after the Toronto Maple Leafs before them,* sending the defenseman and (most) of his enormous contract to the Los Angeles Kings in a startling deal that might really kick off the looming trade deadline.
* – Not to mention the Calgary Flames, although that was on a previous deal.
Update: The Kings made the trade official. GM Rob Blake had this to say about Phaneuf:
“Dion brings to our club a great deal of experience and leadership. He also plays with a physical edge which complements our line-up well. Nate has a good reputation of being a high-energy player on the ice. Both guys are also high character guys,” Blake said.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the terms with others reporting the same, while the deal hasn’t been confirmed by the teams yet:
Phaneuf and Thompson for Gaborik and Shore. Sens retain 25% of Phaneuf salary.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 14, 2018
Kings get: Phaneuf (at that 25-percent discount) and Nate Thompson. This means Phaneuf will carry a $5.25 million cap hit for L.A. through 2020-21.
Ottawa retains 25% of Dion's salary…3 Seasons remaining after this one…
18-19: 6.5 mil
19-20: 6.5 mil
20-21: 5.5 mil
Over same period, Gaborik's salary:
18-19: 4.575 mil
19-20: 3.175 mil
20-21: 3.075 mil
looking like Phaneuf retention comes close to balancing books. https://t.co/I3Be5fxAwg
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) February 14, 2018
The Senators’ perspective is simple: they save money. While Gaborik carries a $4.875 million cap hit through 2020-21, his actual salary really plummets starting next season. Shore’s contract expires while Thompson is owed $1.65M in 2018-19.
My quick math was a little off. It's more significant. Including what players were owed remainder of this season, #Sens will save $5,455,107 in real cash with the transaction – even by eating 25% of Phaneuf contract. Suffice to say, I think this was the key to the deal.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 14, 2018
It’s pretty easy to see the Senators’ side of this, especially when you consider their budgetary concerns.
The Kings’ perspective is a little more surprising, at least since still-fairly-new GM Rob Blake seemed to be changing some of the organization’s habits. Going for a big name with a big contract feels a lot like some of the hit-or-miss moves from former GM Dean Lombardi’s latter years, like trading for Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. (Not to mention Vincent Lecavalier.)
Looking at Phaneuf’s stats from a variety of perspectives, you generally get “middling” if you’re optimistic and “flat-out bad” the deeper you dig. Via this handy tool from CJ Turtoro using Corey Sznajder’s data, you can see that Phaneuf doesn’t really compare all that favorably to Derek Forbort, a Kings defenseman they’d likely hope to upgrade on:
Perhaps the Kings believe that Phaneuf can turn things around with a change of scenery?
The real loser of the eventual Phaneuf trade will be every first line in the Eastern Conference.
— Bonk's Mullet (@BonksMullet) February 14, 2018
The Kings are battling for a playoff spot, and with an aging core, they’re clearly trying to make the most of this sometimes-promising season. Acquiring Phaneuf is quite a gamble, though.
Side note: Both teams lost their games on Tuesday. The Senators fell 6-3 to the Penguins while the Hurricanes handed the Kings a 7-3 drubbing.