Dion Phaneuf Maple Leafs

Dion Phaneuf Traded to Toronto Maple Leafs

Dion Phaneuf has been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The deal, which was announced shortly after noon, sees Ian White, Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers go to the Calgary Flames. Along with Phaneuf, the Leafs receive Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie.

In the midst of a disappointing season, Leaf fans had been eagerly awaiting an aggressive move from general manager Brian Burke to right the ship. By pulling the trigger now, the Leafs beat the competitive frenzy that surrounds the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

At the 12 p.m. press conference, Burke also revealed that he hoped to announce another deal in the next 30 minutes. Update: That deal has been confirmed and involves the exchange of Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake for goaltender J.S. Giguere, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks.

The Leafs GM indicated that the major shake-up was not a response to recent losses to the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks. "We've been working on this for a while," he said of the seven and three player swaps.

Phaneuf, the centrepiece of the first deal, has had a somewhat disappointing season, having been left off of the Canadian Olympic team. He does, however, remain one of the elite defencemen in the NHL. He was drafted 9th overall by the Flames in 2003.

"He likes it crude, likes it black and blue, and that's how we want to play," Burke said of his new acquisition.

The other players coming to the Leafs in the deal are not mere afterthoughts. Keith Aulie, currently playing for Abottsford of the American Hockey League, will be assigned to the Toronto Marlies. A former member of the Canadian Junior team, he is considered to be a solid defensive prospect.

Fredrik Sjostrom was a first round draft pick and is playing in his sixth NHL season. A good skater, he's expected to help the Leafs with their penalty killing woes.

With the departure of Stajan and Hagman, the Leafs are now missing a considerable amount of offence.

But with acquisition of J.S. Giguere, the hope is that the team will have shored up their goaltending situation, a significant problem since the retirement of Ed Belfour.

Although he started fairly well with the Leafs, Vesa Toskala struggled with injuries and inconsistent play over the last two seasons. With a save percentage of .874 heading into last night's game against Vancouver, many felt that his time with the team was nearing its end.

It remains to be seen how the deal for Giguere will affect the contract status of Jonas Gustavsson, who becomes a free agent during the off-season. Burke did, however, say that he hopes Giguere "can serve as a mentor for the Monster [Gustavsson]."

Although Giguere comes with a $7 million contract, he has only one year remaining after this season. And by moving Jason Blake, Burke addresses a long-term salary cap issue. Often thought to be "untradeable" based on his hefty contract, Blake has two years left on his deal with a cap hit of $4 million per season.

So, despite taking on Giguere's salary, the Leafs remain under the salary cap.

What do you think of the trades? Are the Leafs a better team?

Image courtesy NHL.

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