Dion Phaneuf is on the move again. The erstwhile Ottawa Senators defenseman is now a member of the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that sees aging sniper Marian Gaborik go the other way. Ottawa will retain 25 percent of Phaneuf’s $7 million cap hit. The trade also sees center Nate Thompson go to Los Angeles and Nick Shore head to Ottawa.
For the Kings, Phaneuf brings a big-bodied veteran presence on the blueliner. He is by no means the impact player he was when he first came into the NHL with the Calgary Flames, but Los Angeles has Drew Doughty to do the heavy lifting on the back end; Phaneuf merely has to be competent for the Kings to get some value here.
“Dion brings to our club a great deal of experience and leadership,” said Kings GM Rob Blake. “He also plays with a physical edge which complements our lineup well.”
Phaneuf, once an exciting young D-man, has gone through the wringer since leaving the Flames. He became a target for fan ire in Toronto, where his contract (which runs until 2021) was head-shakingly grandiose. The fact Ottawa was willing to take it onto their books when they traded for him was astonishing and it’s only a little less shocking that Los Angeles just did the same.
But only being on the hook for $5.25 million per year does salve the sting a bit for Blake, who unloaded his own anchor in Gaborik. Once a speedy and talented winger who helped Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup in 2014, Gaborik has been dogged by injuries and is now in the twilight of his career. Even after returning from a knee problem this season, he has been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions as the Kings attempt to keep afloat in the Western Conference playoff scene.
In bringing in Phaneuf and Thompson, Los Angeles is clearly trying to claw their way into the post-season. Thompson was a very good playoff performer with Anaheim last season and brings excellent faceoff skills to the team. Given that Los Angeles just lost Trevor Lewis to the IR, Thompson comes to town right on time. He is also signed through next season on a very reasonable contract that comes with a $1.65 million cap hit.
Also coming to Ottawa is Shore, who is poised to become a restricted free agent this summer. He can kill penalties and provide some depth offense, but has also been a healthy scratch at times. In the big picture, Ottawa saves some money in this trade and we know owner Eugene Melnyk will be happy with that.
For Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he has clearly begun the demolition of a roster in need of a necessary rebuild. It’s hard to see Gaborik surviving the length of his contract in Ottawa (he is also signed through 2021) and names such as Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith have been hot in trade rumor circles for a while now. Phaneuf’s play was simply not good enough for the cap hit he came with and Ottawa desperately needs a refresh. The franchise has some nice young talent in defenseman Thomas Chabot and center Logan Brown, among others, and the team’s freefall in the standings confirmed that change was needed.
Long-term, there is some risk for Los Angeles here. Short-term, Phaneuf could really help and getting out of Canada will probably be welcoming for a guy who has taken a lot of abuse over the years. Is this the fresh start he needs?