The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded defenseman Dion Phaneuf, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and defense prospect Cody Donaghey to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg and a second-round draft pick in 2017.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is certainly a blockbuster move, with Phaneuf accepting a trade to one of the Leafs’ biggest rivals. It’s also a shocking move no one saw coming. The Leafs and Senators doing a major trade together? What next, dogs and cats living in harmony? “The Battle of Ontario” just got a lot more interesting.
Essentially, the Leafs traded their captain for a struggling defenseman looking for a fresh start in Cowen, an aging winger with an injury history whose best seasons are behind him in Michalek, and a winger who couldn’t crack the Senators roster the past two seasons in Greening. In return, the Senators get a quality top-four defenseman who can log big minutes and take some of the blueline burden off captain Erik Karlsson. along with a collection of minor leaguers, a defense prospect who might have a chance down the road of making the Senators.
In the short term, this deal certainly favors the Senators, providing immediate help to their blueline whilst shedding a couple of unwanted salaries. Phaneuf’s $7 million annual cap hit will bite deep into the cost-conscious Senators payroll, but at least they’re getting a very good player for their money. He’s also under contract through 2020-21, so there could be long-term advantages here as well for the Senators.
As for the Leafs, this continues part of their ongoing retooling, shaking up their core and making way for younger talent. They shed some long-term cap space by swapping Phaneuf for Michalek and Greening, who are signed through to 2016-17. The key player for the Leafs is Cowen. Given how well Mike Babcock’s worked with his younger players this season, Leafs management obviously believes they’ll have better luck helping the hulking 25-year-old defenseman reach his full potential than the Senators. If so, this deal could work out in the long run for the Leafs.