The Toronto Maple Leafs today announced the re-signing of defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year, $49 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hate to say I told ya so, Phaneuf haters, but I told you so. No surprise the Leafs ponied up to keep Phaneuf in the fold to the tune of $7 million per season (with a no-trade clause). Given the options available via free agency (where Phaneuf would’ve been the best blueliner in this summer’s UFA market) they had no choice. For all the real and imagined weaknesses in Phaneuf’s game, the Leafs have no one in their system to replace him and no options via trade or free agency. If they hope to build toward Stanley Cup contention (I know, I know, that seems distant right now) they need a physical, puck-moving big-minute blueliner like their captain.
Critics will undoubtedly consider him overpaid and they may well be right. Still, the Leafs are hockey’s richest team and keep pace annually with the rising cap. With the cap ceiling expected to hit $71 million next season and projected to keep rising in the coming years, this shouldn’t adversely affect the Leafs ability to spend, spend, spend.