Jason Spezza and Dion Phaneuf are being shopped. As “real” NHL-ers, sure, both players could work in Edmonton. But one of them is a way better fit.
Dismiss almost immediately Jason Spezza. In the final year of his contract, Ottawa will want significant assets in return for a player who could be no more than a rental in Edmonton. Should Craig MacTavish, his team not just a single piece or a single year from seriously contending, open up his wallet for that? Others will overpay. MacT should absolutely not.
Yes, Spezza IS a “bigger” #2 center. But his career has been on a gentle decline since 2011. Would I offer a close-to-elite younger player (let’s call him Jordan Eberle) or a Top-3 pick for Spezza? No. Spezza is a lesser, more expensive guy than a number of players already on the Oilers roster. And do you really think he’d waive his no-trade clause to go to a 28th place team?
No, the more obvious fit is Dion Phaneuf. If the Oilers were to add only 1 player to their roster next year, it should be a big, 2-way, top-pairing defenceman. Re-run the painful 2013-14 season over in your head. Would a real, top-pairing D-man not have made the biggest impact? In a word…yes. Well, love him or hate him, Dion Phaneuf is one of those.
Phaneuf’s contract is just about to enter a 7-year deal, at 7 million dollars per season. A number of UFA’s this Spring who are inferior defenders to him will command more. The Leafs (because they’re the Leafs) would probably eat a million or so of that salary. And at 29, Oiler fans could expect another 3-4 years of Phaneuf at his current level.
Like Spezza, Phaneuf’s offensive numbers are in a gentle decline. But Phaneuf would instantly become your #1 defenceman, and remain so until Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin or Darnell Nurse eventually eclipses him him in a couple seasons. Meanwhile, all of those young D-men would have another real veteran NHL defenceman to look up to. Andrew Ference would be a way better Oiler if not being counted on in situations Phaneuf is better suited to. Ditto for Jeff Petry.
Oh yeah, Phaneuf is also from Edmonton. Ding, ding, ding, ding!
Finally, the Leafs are making significant sea changes to their organization. That includes the leadership of their club. Phaneuf isn’t the answer the Leafs or their fans wanted. The same pressure would not exist in Edmonton, where Ference will be captain until Taylor Hall is.
The only thing not “perfect” about “Phaneuf-to-Edmonton” is that he is Left-handed. The Oilers already have lots of those. Where this ship is really exposed is on the starboard side, where Petry is the only right-handed D-man they can count on.
But when your blue line plays like the Oilers defence did last year, with Mark Fraser taking a regular shift, you don’t worry about which hand Dean Phaneuf shoots.
No. You’re just delighted that he HAS hands.