The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a trade many thought was unthinkable, shipping defenceman Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a nine-player deal Tuesday morning.
The Leafs captain is on the way to Ottawa in exchange for Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg, Jared Cowen and a second-round draft pick in 2017.
Heading to Ottawa with Phaneuf are minor leaguers Cody Donaghey, Casey Bailey, Matt Frattin and Ryan Rupert.
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The Senators’ next game is Wednesday in Detroit. The Leafs play tonight against Calgary.
The Sens’ first game in Toronto is Sat. March 5.
The Ottawa Senators said no salary will be retained by either team.
Phaneuf signed a seven-year, $49-million deal two seasons ago which many thought would scare away teams interested in a trade.
All the new Leafs have contracts that expire after the 2016-17 season.
Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello said on a teleconference call that Phaneuf will be missed but the trade had to be made.
“The length of Dion’s contract and the amount of cap space that is there . . . this gives us the opportunity to do things,” Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello said it wasn’t easy to trade the Leafs captain.
“This is part of business,” he said. “You have to separate the person and the player when you make these types of decisions, and you have to make sure you separate your heart and your head.”
The Leafs will have alternative captains through the rest of the season, Lamoriello said.
Phaneuf, 30, played 423 games with the Maple Leafs through parts of seven seasons, with 196 points (45 goals and 151 assists) and 598 penalty minutes. He was named the 18th captain in Maple Leafs history on June 14, 2010.
He was acquired by the Leafs from Calgary in a blockbuster, seven-player trade in 2010.
Ottawa is four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, which lost 6-1 to Ottawa on the weekend, is second-last in the conference.
The Leafs acquired a veteran winger in Michalek, who has six goals and four assists in 32 games this season. The 31-year-old former first-round, sixth-overall pick of the San Jose Sharks missed just over a month with a broken finger he suffered in early December.
Greening, 29, has spent almost all of his season in Binghamton with the AHL Senators. Greening played one game for Ottawa, but has 256 career NHL games.
Cowen, 25, has four assists in 37 games with Ottawa so far this season, and was the Senators’ ninth overall selection in 2009.
Lindberg, 20, is also playing in Binghamton, and was the Senators fourth-round selection in the 2013 draft.
“We’re all professionals here,” Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson told a media scrum. “I hope he’s excited about coming here.”
“For me, it’s another class player who’s going to step in right away and make an impact.”
Karlsson told TSN 1200 radio station in Ottawa that he hopes Phaneuf brings “some of his leadership and experience.”
“It’s tough making deals. Both organizations feel like they got the better of it. Right now I think it’s a fair trade.”
Karlsson said he thinks the Senators will make the playoffs.
“I think Dion will come in and give us a push.”
Senators’ head coach Dave Cameron said he doesn’t know Phaneuf personally but he respects him professionally.
“As a player, I know lots about him,” Cameron told the media scrum. “I’m real excited to have him … He’s going to play lots. He’s probably going to play with everybody at some point.”
GM Bryan Murray told the same media scrum that he “shoots the puck a ton.”
Murray said he hopes Phaneuf brings “a presence to this organization.”
In his radio interview, Murray said he hopes that the trade “gives us a little more security on the back end.”
“This will we believe be a good addition,” he said. “Its about getting an experienced leader, good person, hard working, competitive guy to add to the mix in the top four . . .
“For me it was about hockey. I inquired of Lou (Lamoriello) about Dion Phaneuf some time ago. We kind of let it lay off. We talked over the weekend. Lou and I spent a fair amount of time over the phone. It had to work financially for us as well as Toronto. It gives them relief. It gives us some working pieces to go forward for the next couple of years.”
Murray said Phaneuf was very happy when he heard the news.
“Like a lot of players, you need to take a breath and take a new start,” Murray said. “Be a solid person, give a little experience in the back end. He shoots the puck a ton. He’ll play in the top four without a doubt, probably with Cody Ceci to start.”
Phaneuf will be in the Senators lineup in Detroit.
With files from Peter Edwards