Dallas Stars fans have been clamoring for a giant oaf on defense for years. They want a big guy that can manhandle the huge forwards in the West. Too often last season the Stars' goalies were "optically impaired" and it lead to some goals that were easily preventable. The boys in Victory Green need a crease clearing behemoth.
These guys do not grow on trees, as proven by Jamie Oleksiak every time he steps on the ice. Patrik Nemeth is a decent sized human being at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, but frankly, the Stars need more than one. The blue line in Dallas is close, but they need a bully to push them over the hump.
Enter: Dion Phaneuf. At 6-3, 218 pounds, he doesn't qualify as a giant, but his style of play in combination with his solid frame could be exactly what the Stars need. After a tragic year in Toronto in which he spent most of the year being asked tough questions after losses, Phaneuf might welcome a new city. The pressure of Toronto is real, and the players including Phaneuf carried it on their faces.
All of that being said, the Maple Leafs did land a new coach this offseason. Mike Babcock's Red Wings pursued Phaneuf at the deadline last year (more on that later), so Phaneuf may be feeling more wanted this year than last. With the new coach, draft picks, and management, things are looking up in Toronto. Unfortunately for the Leafs' captain that means expectations will be that much higher.
Even with the addition of Babcock the Leafs are in rebuilding mode. In other words, they still have some lemonade to make with the current roster. They will listen to all offers for any player, and don't be surprised if Jim Nill takes a look.
Dion Phaneuf is a 30 year old defenseman drafted 9th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2003 NHL (Entry) Draft. He has 24:45 ATOI throughout his career posting 400 points (117G and 283A) in 750 NHL games. His career high in points was in the 2007-2008 season in which he has 60 (17G 43A). In his 6 years with the Leafs, he has only scored double digit goals one time (12) in 2011-2012, and more than 30 assists only once (32) also in 2011-2012.
Last season, Phaneuf played in 70 games scoring 3 goals and 26 assists while averaging almost 24 minutes on the ice per game. He received sheltered minutes by first pairing standards at 49.8 dZS% and was a negative possession player 45% CF. For those that care, he was minus-11 last season. Phaneuf still has 6 years left on his current contract, at a cap hit of $7 million per season. He also has a no-trade clause.
As mentioned above, last season the Red Wings tried to trade for Phaneuf. According to reports, the Leafs were asking for Stephen Weiss, Anthony Mantha (the Wings' top forward prospect), a draft pick, and they refused to carry any salary in the deal. The round of the draft pick was never clarified, but you can bet it was a conditional 1st rounder.
If you translate that to the Stars, the offer sheet is really interesting. Trevor Daley, Valeri Nichushkin, and a conditional 1st round pick for Dion Phaneuf. As far as the Dallas Stars community is concerned, there are two camps of people:
Those who say, "DO IT":
Daley was terrible last year, so, addition by subtraction? Phaneuf fits the mold of what the Stars are looking for in terms of an experienced physical presence. He is 30 years old, in the prime of his career, with 6 years left on an acceptable deal if he performs the way Dallas thinks he could. In the world of trading for defenseman you always have to give something to get something. The first rounder hurts, but for a team that has the pieces to win now there will be other ways to compensate for a lost first rounder. Nuke is a sad but appropriate cost of getting a real 1D in Victory Green.
Those who say, "PLEASE NO":
Phaneuf an incredibly average defenseman playing more sheltered minutes and performing worse than the aforementioned Daley. The numbers simply don't reveal a player worth this cost. When Nuke becomes Evgeni Malkin in 3 years, and that first rounder becomes a 5-time all-star, this trade is going down in history as one of the worst ever made by any franchise. The long term expensive nature of Phaneuf's deal is something to cringe at, not praise.
The Leafs may be willing to take a lesser offer this offseason, perhaps one that includes an additional draft pick instead of a prospect like Nichushkin. Only time will tell what kind of offers that Phaneuf will fetch.
There is no doubt that Phaneuf brings something to the table that the Stars do not currently employ. His size, experience, and pedigree would all benefit to a young Dallas defense. The cost as it stood at the deadline last year is far too much, given his production. The Leafs are asking for a Brent Seabrook price when they are offering Dion Phaneuf. The disconnect between cost and value is in Toronto.
Very number 3
Not Nichushkin, please
Dallas has to get some defensive help this summer, and Phaneuf is certainly worth kicking the tires in Toronto. The biggest question is, are the Stars willing to pay the asking price? Jim Nill has swindled an Original Six team before, perhaps he can do it again?