By Sam Page
February 09, 2016

Leafs trade caption Dion Phaneuf to the Sens

The Maple Leafs have traded their captain, defenseman Dion Phaneuf, to the Senators as part of a nine-player trade. The full trade is: Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey for Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lindberg, and the Senators’ second-round pick in 2017. Did you get all that?

The important thing is the Senators upgrade at defense by replacing Cowen with Phaneuf, while the Leafs get some futures and cap space to help with their rebuild.

A good excuse to post "Double Dion"

Byfuglien re-signs

The Winnipeg Jets re-signed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million contract yesterday. With the Jets slipping out of playoff contention, there was speculation that they would look to trade the big blueliner. But the player returned for a contract that will pay him an average salary of $7.6 million, the third-highest cap hit for a defenseman behind P.K. Subban and Shea Weber. 

Byfuglien started his career with the Chicago Blackhawks and was on their 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team, before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers that offseason (the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg to become the new Jets). Playing both defense and right wing, he has 148 goals and 228 assists for his career.

His teammates sure seemed happy to have him back:

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Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray understood the gravity of the situation. For his struggling team to have any hope of returning to the playoffs this season, he had to patch up their 28th-ranked defense. And it would take more than a minor move to plug the leaks.

So Murray took his swing on Tuesday morning, acquiring Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf as the headliner in a shocking nine-player deal that also saw forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and defenseman Cody Donaghey head to Ottawa in exchange for forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg, defenseman Jared Cowen, and a 2017 second-round pick.

The knock on Phaneuf as a player in Toronto was that he was ill-suited for the role of go-to defender, that he lacked the speed and hockey sense to match up head-to-head with the league’s elite attackers. That won’t be a problem in Ottawa where Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot will continue to carry the load as the top pair. Phaneuf can settle in on the second pair with Cody Ceci, who is developing nicely this season, and should thrive now that he’ll be facing lesser competition.

Dustin Byfuglien deal will have ripple effect

And where he was the voice in the Leafs locker room, he can blend in a bit more with Ottawa, adding support to the leadership group that is already in place without being the face of the organization.

Even if they can’t mount another late-season charge like last year’s—and with four points and four teams separating the Sens from a wild berth, they’re in tough—this situation looks like a long-term win for the Sens. Murray has strengthened the team during Karlsson’s prime years, and he ditched a couple of unwanted contracts in Greening and Cowen, clearing the short-term cap space that could make it easier to re-sign RFA winger Mike Hoffman this summer.

It seems to work out nicely as well for the Leafs, who have purged three high salary/long term contracts from their books during the past 12 months. Phaneuf and the $7 million cap hit he’ll carry through 2020-21 were poor fits for a club in the early stages of a rebuild, much like those of David Clarkson and Phil Kessel who were dumped before him.

And that's where the real value is for Toronto. Although Lindberg and the pick offer hope for the future, this was all about clearing out the last of their crushing commitments and freeing themselves up to do something if the right opportunity comes along, say, later this summer when free agency kicks in. No one's saying Steven Stamkos will be one of those opportunities, but if he happens to have any interest in signing with his hometown team, well, the door is open.

In the meantime, they took on some dead wood in short-term place fillers in Michalek (currently on IR) and Greening (one NHL game this season). Neither are likely to make much of an impact between now and when their nearly $7 million in salaries come off the ledger after the 2016-17 season, but both could be used in depth roles to shore up a painfully thin forward corps.

Lamoriello also added an immediate replacement for Phaneuf in Jared Cowen. The 25-year-old has struggled with his consistency in Ottawa, but the pieces are there for him to become a solid depth defender. He’s only on the books through 2016-17, so Toronto will have time to evaluate its options without being locked in long-term.

The Leafs are a weaker team in the short run, but that's ok. A few more balls in the lottery hopper might even end up tilting this deal heavily in their favor.

Anthony Behar

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he didn’t dive on the ball after he fumbled in Sunday’s Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos because he didn’t want to risk injury, reports The Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person.

Newton, who fumbled with four minutes left in the fourth quarter with the Panthers trailing by six, appeared to pull up instead of attempting to enter the scrum after the fallen ball. 

“I don’t dive on one fumble because the way my leg was—it could have been [contorted] in a way,” Newton said. “OK, you say my effort. I didn’t dive down. I fumbled. That’s fine. But we didn’t lose that game because of that fumble. I can tell you that.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that he hadn’t talked with Newton about not diving on the fumble, adding, “If that’s his explanation, that’s his explanation.”

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The Panthers fell to the Broncos 24–10, as Newton completed just 18 of 41 passes and was sacked six times while also throwing an interception and fumbling twice.

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