Should Detroit Red Wings Pursue Dion Phaneuf?


Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Late Sunday night, the internet was ablaze with reports that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis and recently named team president Brendan Shanahan are looking to deal captain Dion Phaneuf.

Of course, in typical Leafs fashion, Phaneuf was recently re-signed to a seven-year $49 million deal during the filming of HBO’s 24/7 back in December just days before the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Detroit Red Wings are shopping for a right-handed defenseman to offset the six to seven left-handed defenseman they generally carry on the roster at one time — that is no secret.

That alone should be a reason for the Red Wings not to pursue Phaneuf. However, there are plenty more as I will outline below:

Phaneuf’s Cap Hit is Too Much

Going back to the seven-year $49 million deal Phaneuf signed, that was an awful signing for the Leafs in the first place. Phaneuf was a great defenseman for the Calgary Flames to begin his career, as he was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 2005-06 season and a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy two years later.

However, ever since the Flames dealt him to Toronto in January 2010, he hasn’t warranted the same discussion of being one of the top blueliners in the NHL.

Hell, you could make the argument Phaneuf is not even the best defenseman on his own team. Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner both had higher Corsi for percentages this past season.

Regardless of advanced stats, Phaneuf’s cap hit is too high for the Red Wings to take on. Detroit will have about $19 million to work with come this off-season, but $7 million of it should not be going toward Phaneuf.

Nicklas Lidstrom’s highest cap hit was $7.6 million from 2005-08, and he was worth every penny. You can’t tell me Phaneuf is worth just $600,000 less than one of the best defenseman to ever lace up a pair of skates.

Toronto Will Want Too Much in Return

This is the same problem the Red Wings faced during the trade deadline in March. They were in need of a right-handed defenseman, but the teams that had those defensemen were giving away upper-tier talent and weren’t going to give them away for nothing.

For the Maple Leafs to shop their captain, they are going to want a nice return on their investment. If I had to guess, I’m thinking Toronto will want a package that could include Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar, a prospect like Teemu Pulkkinen or Xavier Ouellet and a third-round pick.

There is no way the Red Wings are letting Nyquist or Tatar go, and giving up a prospect like Pulkkinen or Ouellet is not worth the risk for Phaneuf.

I thought it was too much to give up Calle Jarnkrok and what turned into a second-round pick — because the Red Wings made the playoffs this year — for David Legwand, who appears to be nothing more than a rental at this point.

Prospects are nice to stock up on, and they can help you in trades down the road, but Phaneuf is not worth giving up quality talent.

Phaneuf’s Leadership is Questionable

This is a very minor reason why the Red Wings should not pursue Phaneuf. At 29 years old, Phaneuf is about in the middle of what many would say are his prime years of his NHL career. He’s been in the league for eight years and knows his way around the NHL, but he’s still got some tread on the tires before he is completely obsolete.

With that being said, his lack of leadership came to the forefront as the Maple Leafs fell out of the playoff race this past spring.

After a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on March 25 in which Phaneuf was a minus-three and a big reason why the Blues outshot the Maple Leafs 49-25, Phaneuf opted not to speak with reporters after the game.

He later apologized for avoiding the media saying “I didn’t want to let my emotions get the best of me.” Whether that’s true or not, the fact is speaking to the media is part of an NHL player’s job. Nobody likes to do it, but they do it to appease reporters and the fans.

Phaneuf avoiding the media makes it seem like he only wants to speak when his team is winning or he’s performing well. No one is perfect every single night, but he has to own up to those mistakes and work on getting better for the next game.

You never hear about Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman or Henrik Zetterberg avoiding the media. Captains are the face of the franchise, and they need to show that face in wins and losses alike.