With Randy Carlyle returning with an extension in hand behind the Leafs bench, the culture change Tim Leiweke promised at Brendan Shanahan's introductory press conference may come in the form of a trade of the team's captain.
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger addressed the Dion Phaneuf rumours on TSN Radio 1050 Monday, saying although the Leafs may not be “shopping” their No. 1 defenceman, he is not considered untouchable and GM Dave Nonis would be willing to listen to offers.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs are not shopping him,” Dreger said. “They're not shopping Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri, but teams know that if there's an offer made – or the right offer made – that Toronto would consider that.”
Dreger noted he had spoken with Nonis over the weekend, with the GM saying the team isn't engaged in active conversations regarding Phaneuf, and have not done so since this past trade deadline.
Fellow TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie also weighed in on the Phaneuf rumours, saying that although there have not been any recent conversations, the Leafs would not be opposed to a trade.
“I think under the right circumstances, the Leafs would move him, and I think at various times over the course of the year they flirted with that notion, but I don't think right at this moment, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a hard-sell on we've got to get rid of Dion Phaneuf and go in a different direction, but they're all ears if somebody's interested,” McKenzie said.
Comparing Phaneuf's situation to the Jason Spezza rumours that have surfaced recently, both Dreger and McKenzie agree that of the two captains, Spezza is the more likely candidate to be dealt as the longtime Senator is reportedly open to a change.
Despite owning a seven-year, $49-million deal that kicks in next season, the Leafs captain does not have a no-movement clause, giving GM Dave Nonis the flexibility to potentially unload him.
In reference to the culture change comments made by Leiweke, The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle said whether it's a deal involving Phanuef or some other pieces on the Leafs' roster, change is likely to happen.
“If you're keeping the coach, then something else has to change, and I don't think they're just going to change the assistant coaches,” Mirtle told TSN Radio 1050. “It makes sense to look at what kind of value he has on the market.”
Despite having his detractors, Mirtle said Phaneuf is still a valuable piece that has misused by the Leafs.
“Phaneuf's got limitations certainly, and the Leafs don't particulary work around those limitations that well,” Mirtle said, referencing how Phaneuf has been successful being a second-pairing defenceman that can contribute in an offensive way.
“It seems in Toronto they've tried to recast him as this defensive stalwart – Shea Weber-type – that can kill penalties and play against other teams top lines, 25-26 minutes a night and I've never understood why that's the case.
“You can have a six or $7-million defenceman that doesn't do it all and still get value out of him.”
Mirtle mentioned Edmonton, Dallas and Minnesota as potential landing spots for Phaneuf, saying he would fit in nicely in a No. 2 role behind Ryan Suter with the Wild.