Updates on Dion Phaneuf’s future with the Leafs plus speculation over what rosters decisions will be made by Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
Is this Phaneuf’s final season in Toronto?
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos believes among the reasons behind Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf’s frustration this season is that he was very upset over not being traded to the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline. The rumored deal fell through because the Leafs apparently wanted the Wings to part with top prospect Anthony Mantha as part of the return for Phaneuf.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby wonders if Saturday’s season-ending game against the Montreal Canadiens could be Phaneuf’s last with the Maple Leafs. Hornby claims the Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings were among the clubs with serious interest in Phaneuf leading up to the March trade deadline. He notes Phaneuf’s salary ($7 million annually for six more years) will make the blueliner difficult to move and could take some sacrifice on the Leafs part to facilitate a trade.
Shanahan facing big offseason decisions.
TORONTO SUN/TSN: Steve Simmons and Jonas Siegel believe Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan faces some major offseason decisions. Shanahan must decide if he’ll replace or retain general manager Dave Nonis, a new head coach will be hired, plus Shanahan and his front-office crew must gauge the trade market value of core players Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Simmons believes the Leafs will try to move Kessel despite his obvious offensive skills. Siegel wonders what type of return those core players can fetch in terms of prospects, draft picks and younger players. Simmons doubts there will be a “San Jose situation” with Phaneuf, as he’s a polarizing figure as team captain. If they decide they don’t want Phaneuf as captain, it means they don’t want him at all. Simmons also believes the Leafs could explore the trade value of winger James van Riemsdyk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While there are 14 non-playoff clubs facing questions about their respective futures, the Leafs will dominate the media (especially in Canada) from now through to October and the start of the 2015-16 season.
There’s no doubt in my mind Shanahan wants a major rebuild, and that means shipping out the expensive core players like Phaneuf, Kessel, Bozak, Lupul and maybe more. The difficulty is finding deals where they can get decent returns for those players. Yes, the Leafs managed to move David Clarkson and his supposedly untradeable contract, but they got lucky in that instance because the Columbus Blue Jackets approached them about taking on Nathan Horton’s dead contract space in exchange for Clarkson. It will take more than luck to trade away those expensive core players and get the type of returns upon which a proper rebuild can be established.
I’m not suggesting those players lack value or that the Leafs won’t get much, but they’re dealing from a position of weakness. Rival GMs will attempt to squeeze them into taking on lesser returns. The Leafs won’t get a top prospect like Anthony Mantha from the Red Wings. They will likely have to pick up part of the salaries of one or two of the expensive players they’re trying to move, or take back a shorter-term toxic contract.
I also think pretty much everyone on the roster except for Morgan Rielly and Willie Nylander are potential trade candidates. That doesn’t mean they’re trading away almost everyone, but they will entertain offers for guys like van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Bernier and Jake Gardiner. If there’s a solid return to be had for one of those guys, the Leafs could pull the trigger on a deal.
Shanahan and his management team (with or without Nonis) face a difficult summer, which will certainly keep the rumor mill churning throughout the offseason.