The New Year is often seen as an opportunity for change.
Depending on their situation, many people will pursue either minor or major life changes. This may include something relatively simple like promising to stay clear of the ashtray in the year ahead or it might be something bold, such as chasing a new job.
For Dion Phaneuf and the Toronto Maple Leafs, however, the New Year will represent an important moment of continuity.
Phaneuf and the Leafs reached agreement on the terms of a seven-year contract extension today. The deal is worth $49 million over that span and includes a limited no-trade clause. If everything plays out according to plan, the extension will see Phaneuf remain in Toronto until the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Beginning his career with the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf joined the Leafs in 2009-2010. Over the course of five seasons and 261 games playing for the Leafs, he has registered 127 points (35 goals, 92 assists).
This is a far cry from the pace of offence he produced for the Flames, but it can be easily argued that his role in Toronto is very different. In particular, Phaneuf is no longer seen or treated as a hard shooting, big hitting luxury item on the backend.
Instead, he’s expected to matchup against the top lines in the Eastern Conference, anchor the Leafs’ power play and gobble up minutes like they’re Tic-Tacs. Of course, he isn’t always successful in these areas, but he’s shown enough progress to justify the extension.
This newfound emphasis on team play dominated Phaneuf’s own words to the media today.
“This is a very proud day for me and my family,” he told reporters. “I’m very honoured to be the captain of this historic franchise and to maintain the opportunity to play and represent the Toronto Maple Leafs for many years to come. We have passionate fans and a dedicated ownership group. I have great teammates and look forward to growing with them and achieving our goal of winning.”
He was named the team’s 18th captain on June 14, 2010 – less than five months after joining the Leafs, underscoring his importance to the team.
Toronto locked down another cornerstone of the team, namely Phil Kessel, earlier this season. They also have Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk singed to affordable, long-term deals.
There’s little doubt that these are some of the key names on the roster, but the Leafs still need to tie-up Nazem Kadri, Cody Franson and Jonathan Bernier to long-term deals if they truly believe in the current lineup.
As the salary cap is expected to increase next season, there’s little doubt that the Leafs still have plenty of expenses ahead of them.
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