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Calgary Flames

Dion Phaneuf Trade – Analysis, Reactions



I have been advocating a re-allocation of funds from the back-end to the front-end since the off-season. In a cap system, it doesn’t make sense to have such a lop-sided distribution of dollars, especially when you don’t have a bunch of high value contracts (think Entry Level players) up front to balance things out. Some of the Flames struggles this season were a direct result of the lack of investment in forwards who, for my money, drive the bus in terms of possession.

So, in theory, I like this deal. Irrespective of the players involved, Sutter has traded from a position of strength to shore a glaring weakness. The cap distribution is more sensible and increases the Flames flexibility both in the short and long-term. These are good things.

Now, to the particulars:

Matt Stajan

2009 – Matt Stajan 55 16 25 41 -3 30 7 0 2 0 99 16.2


Stajan seems to get similar press to Daymond Langkow: good secondary center, but not a legit first line guy. The 27 year old is on pace for a career season this year (61 points) and he’s only crested 50 points once. That said, he’s right in the meaty curve of his development arc, has managed more than 2 points per 60 minutes at ES this year (despite a rancid on-ice SH% and PDO) and leads the Maple Leafs in terms of PP efficiency with 4.37 PPP/60. Those are all favorable signs for a club desperate for more scoring.

One potential negative is that Stajan garnered his results being relatively sheltered this year. In addition, his goal scoring pace may be due to a career best SH% (16.2).

Stajan is a pending UFA, so the Flames get the option of assessing his contributions and potentially walking away in the off-season.

Niklas Hagman

2009 – Niklas Hagman 55 20 13 33 -3 23 4 0 1 0 148 13.5

Toronto’s leading goal scorer is fast and relatively capable at both ends of the ice. Hagman is the second most efficient producer of points at ES for TOR this year behind Alexei Ponikarovsky (who I would have liked, but whatchagonnado?). Hagman is 30 and signed long-term for $3M/ season. I laughed at the Leafs when they signed Hagman after his 27 goal outburst in Dallas, but he’s been a legit top 6 forward during his time in Toronto.

Like Stajan, his level of competition was middling.

Ian White

2009 – Ian White 56 9 17 26 1 39 2 0 1 0 130 6.9


This player might actually be the jewel of the deal from a Calgary perspective. White is to the Maple Leafs what Giordano is to the Flames. A big time scorer in junior, the only defender facing tougher minutes than White this season was Francios Beauchemin. Yet, only Kaberle was scoring more at ES than White amongst TOR defenders. The best news is, he's managed better than one point per 60 minutes of ES ice despite a less than impressive on-ice SH% of 7.74. Phaneuf, in comparison, was scoring at about half White's rate at ES this year (0.57).

In short, the math likes Ian White. A lot. 

White is a pending RFA. He'll need re-signing, but shouldn't be prohibitively expensive.

Jamal Mayers

No need to include his stats. Mayers is a physical 4th line option. He's probably no better than Nystrom, Sjostrom, Prust, etc. and was probably a salary throw-in. He drops the gloves on occassion and you don't want him caught on the ice against good players. He's a UFA in July.

I'm relatively happy with the return. The Flames have added some decent pieces to their sagging forward depth as well as a potential high value, puck moving defender.

They have, of course, dealt a significant player – one who may prove to be the best in the deal. Should Dion Phaneuf become the defender many envisioned when he burst onto the scene as a rookie, the Maple Leafs have added a future cornerstone to their roster. The Flames, on the other hand, have Jay Bouwmeester signed long-term and is a more proven hard minutes option besides. They also have a bunch of quality defensive prospects waiting in the wings, to say nothing of the emergent Mark Giordano and, now, Ian White. In short, this probably doesn’t do the organization much damage, even if Phaneuf does fulfill his promise. On the other hand if he has truly plateaued and is more Jovo than Pronger, then the Flames have moved a millstone of a contract for a decent value return. The downside from Sutter’s perspective is limited.

Lots of enduring talk of Dion being a dressing room distraction in town. I don't know if that was true and therefore the impetus to make the trade (or if it was simple logical chain I followed above was enough). If the rumblings of divided locker room and player conflict are true, that makes the trade just that much more sensible.

On a final note, I'd like to commend Darryl Sutter for this move. It was a ballsy trade. It involved a player he's clearly had an emotional attachment to since he was drafted. It suggests that Daz can dispassionately assess faults in his team and make moves to correct them. The Flames now have greater forward depth, more cap flexibility and have added a nice high potential piece (White) on the back-end for good measure.

PS – When Moss, Dawes and Conroy return to the line-up, the Flames will have a lot of bodies kicking around up front. I would therefore suggest that Sutter isn't finished tweaking the roster.

by Kent Wilson