Every so often, rumours suggest that the Detroit Red Wings are interested in defenceman Dion Phaneuf. Some are suggesting that the Toronto Maple Leafs are ready to part ways with their captain, which certainly falls in line with the club’s need to part ways with some seriously bloated contracts.
Phaneuf still has six years to go on a deal that pays him roughly $7 million a year. Toronto and Detroit were reportedly close to a trade deadline deal that would’ve seen him head to the Wings in exchange for Brendan Smith and Stephen Weiss. The deal fell through because Detroit wanted T-Dot to pay for about $2 million of Phaneuf’s contract over the next half dozen years.
The Phaneuf deal could likely be picked up again, with Detroit working with Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan to open up talks. And if Detroit makes the right moves, they could land the defenceman. They have, after all, been shopping for a top-tier defender since the departure of Nicklas Lidstrom all those years ago.
Make no mistake about it: Dion Phaneuf is no Nicklas Lidstrom.
At this point, one has to imagine the Wings see him as a third or fourth defenceman in the depth chart. He’s still valuable, but they’ll want to do what they can to work the salary down. And they’ll likely put Weiss and/or Smith back up on the table. Weiss has been a “bad contract” for Detroit with three years to go at $16 million.
There are sources who suggest that Phaneuf’s days in Toronto are quite simply numbered. He has no real desire to remain and the Maple Leafs have no real desire to keep him lingering around if that’s the case. He has a no-trade clause in his contract, but most expect there to be no issues if Detroit comes calling again.
There’s bad blood between Phaneuf and the fans in Toronto, too. He’s been one of the many players blamed for recent struggles and most see his captaincy run as a bit of a dud, to say the least. Perhaps without the pressure of the “C,” he can be reborn as the capable and physical defenceman he once was. Or perhaps not. Detroit already has its leadership and Phaneuf would be just another player.
Either way, it looks like the Red Wings are willing to step up to the plate again. Will Dion Phaneuf be a good fit in Hockeytown? That’s hard to say. When the puck drops on 2015-2016’s season, the Wings could be a very different team. And one six-foot-three defenceman could find himself part of that equation.