The Calgary Flames will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, two weeks under a year since the multi-player trade that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs and Matt Stajan to the Flames.
It's unlikely that the first visit back to Toronto for Stajan will engender quite the media attention as Phaneuf did when he returned to Calgary last month.
He was the centrepiece of the Jan. 31, 2010 transaction, heading east with Fredrik Sjostrom, and prospect Keith Aulie. Stajan was joined in Calgary by former Leafs teammates Ian White, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers.
White is already gone, sent to Carolina in November in a four-player swap that netted Calgary Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos.
Hockey Night in Canada contributors Jeff Marek, Tim Wharnsby and Nabil Karim were asked to share their thoughts on aspects of the big deal, nearly one year later.
How does that trade look now?
Wharnsby: Considering both teams have near identical records a year later, maybe this trade was Much Ado About Nothing. Calgary wanted more scoring and Toronto wanted a presence on the blue-line. Has either team accomplished its goal? Yes, the Flames opened up more ice time for Mark Giordano and shed salary, but then they went and signed Matt Stajan to a not-so-friendly salary cap contract.
Karim: For all the criticism Brian Burke receives for his trades of the past, it actually looks like he won this deal — slightly.
Marek: Dion Phaneuf had to get moved out of Calgary because they spent all their money on Jay Bouwmeester and they had too much money on the back end, so that was why they only got the minimal return from Toronto.
Wharnsby: The old adage is that the club that gets the best player wins the deal. But Phaneuf has done little to demonstrate he has been the best player. He has only three goals in 51 games for Toronto, and no power-play goals. Meanwhile, since Calgary dealt White to Carolina for Anton Babchuk and his booming shot, Babchuk has three goals – all on the power play – and 11 points in 25 games for Calgary.
Marek: I'm still surprised that more teams weren't in the mix. A number of general managers said, "I don't even know [Phaneuf] was in play." A lot of GMs said [they] could have put together a much sweeter reward for Calgary.
Karim: At the time of the deal Ian White was playing better than Phaneuf, and even looked better in that No. 3 Calgary sweater. But, he’s long gone. So is Jamal Mayers. Hey, so is the man who pulled the trigger, former GM Darryl Sutter. All the Flames have left to show for is Matt Stajan and Nik Hagman. Anyone in Calgary enthused about that? Even if Phaneuf was struggling, how did they not get more?
Marek: Re-signing [Stajan] at the ticket they did still has me baffled. I know they're up against the wall because it was looking like Darryl Sutter would have nothing to show for the Dion Phaneuf deal other than Nick Hagman for one more year and Ian White, who was going to kill them in arbitration.
Doubting Double Dion
Wharnsby: Phaneuf was handed the Maple Leafs’ captaincy because of his adeptness of playing D.J. in the dressing room. But I don’t see evidence of that leadership in the Maple Leafs’ on-ice success. Toronto still is an inconsistent club struggling to make the playoffs, and the Flames are in a similar place.
Karim: I'm not convinced that Burke and the organization is surprised by what they got, like some think. Dion Phaneuf is not the "Double-Dion" we saw back at the world juniors and he certainly isn’t the 20-goal scorer we saw with the Flames in his rookie season. The Leafs needed an infusion of energy and a shake-up at the time and that move certainly made some noise. The newest captain of the Leafs hasn’t had it easy, being torched by fans and media alike this season. He hasn’t played like an all-star or showed the potential to be one again down the line, but the 25-year-old still eats up big minutes and is a physical presence.
Marek: He still has the big shot but the thing is the net hasn't moved in 200 years, and he still can't find it. You can say that's teams taking away the shooting lanes because we know he has a big, heavy hard shot, but I don't see an appreciable difference in Dion Phaneuf.
We're all waiting for that guy that we saw the first couple of years. You look back on it now and you say that Dion Phaneuf was able to be Dion Phaneuf because he had Roman Hamrlik.
I still think at the end of the day Dion Phaneuf needs a veteran, like he had in Calgary, beside him.
Karim: Their records since the deal are pretty similar, but in the end, Toronto got the best chips in the bowl. If they ever decided to trade Phaneuf down the line, they certainly would receive more than what Stajan and Hagman would bring—or well, you’d at least hope so.
Marek: I think the key to the whole deal is going to end up being Keith Aulie … who I see being a top-four defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs for a long time.
The final verdict
Maybe that if you're team with a paucity of prospects and you have a high-priced asset to move, it might be wise to not choose as a trade partner a club that also has a paucity of prospects.