Maple Leafs “Very Close” to Inking Phaneuf to Long-term Deal

USATSI_7590461_154158418_lowresLet the hubbub begin. According to multiple sources and even to an episode of  HBO’s 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road To The NHL Winter Classic, Toronto is “very close” to signing captain Dion Phaneuf to a deal that looks to be in the neighbourhood of seven years.

According to Darren Dreger, that deal is worth about $7 million a year and the only detail left to go through is that of a no-move clause. Once the two sides hammered out the terms, the rest fell into place with ease.

Of course, the Leafs have been working on signing Phaneuf to something longer and more significant since October. This news is hardly surprising, even if the organization and its player are remaining mum for the time being. When asked about the social media buzz over his contract, the Maple Leafs defender said “No comment.”

Go figure.

Phaneuf is one of the most polarizing figures in the nexus of the hockey universe that is Toronto. One minute he’s the most awful player to ever lace the skates and even beer league “experts” can’t find a good thing to say about it. The next minute, he’s alright.

Some of the more cynical armchair GMs have noted that Phaneuf is now in the territory of making Drew Doughty money, but there’s no way he’s worthy of making Drew Doughty money.

The trouble with said comparison relates to the landscape of the National Hockey League pre- and post-lockout. The Doughty deal was inked prior to the lockout, which means it was inked prior to the point that the salary cap was set to go up and up and up and up…

This “long-term escalation” of the salary cap gives T-Dot a lot more cap space and ties the Phaneuf dollars down to a lot less real estate. Consider that he and Phil Kessel will theoretically amount to around $15 million a year on the books and you’re not looking at a bad situation at all. By next season, for instance, the cap is expected to land at around $71.1 million. And it’s going to go up from there.

Most hockey deals made these days result in some chorus from fans who think so-and-so is being paid too much. This will be no different. But looking at the big picture, it’s hard to imagine Phaneuf wouldn’t get this kind of money somewhere else. He’s a minute-munching defenceman and, for now at least, he can take the heat in Toronto. That alone may be worth millions.

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