(pictured: Olli Jokinen, we hardly knew ye…)
Leafs general manager Dave Nonis didn’t make any major moves at the trade deadline.
As a result, much-maligned captain Dion Phaneuf is still the Toronto captain, for now.
But in the days leading up to Monday’s equivalent of Christmas Day for hockey fans, Nonis gained redemption for a blunder of his own doing. In trading the seemingly untradable contract of David Clarkson to Columbus, the Leafs removed $5.25 million from their salary cap for the next five years, a bargain even if Nathan Horton never plays another game.
The exorbitant sum given to Clarkson in the summer of 2013 remains the biggest millstone around Nonis’s neck. But, in taking advantage of Nonis’s Blue Jackets counterpart Jarmo Kekalainen’s gaffe of not insuring Horton’s contract, it was a rare instance of two wrongs making a right, for both teams.
After pending unrestricted free agents Daniel Winnik and Korbinian Holzer were dealt the week after Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli were moved, all eyes were glued to televisions, computers and mobile devices to see if there were any bidders for Phaneuf and his $7 million per year deal that doesn’t expire until 2020-21.
While the Red Wings kicked the tires, they opted instead to acquire Marek Zidlicky from New Jersey at a more affordable price.
So Phaneuf still wears the “C” for the blue and white, for the remaining 19 games of Toronto’s historically dreadful season. But he’ll be a prime candidate to be moved in the summer. Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, and perhaps even Phil Kessel could all be part of a mass exodus during a full transition into rebuild mode for the Leafs.
Instead, trade deadline day was one of modest, economical transactions. Holzer was shipped to Anaheim for Eric Brewer and a late-round 2016 pick. And Olli Jokinen’s six-game stint in Toronto came to an end. The veteran of 1,223 regular season games – but just a half-dozen playoff outings – now gets to compete for a Stanley Cup in St. Louis. The Leafs received prospect Joakim Lindstrom and a conditional sixth-round 2016 pick in return for Jokinen.
Nonis’s future with Toronto is uncertain, but his manoeuvring during the Clarkson transaction was his biggest splash in advance of deadline day.
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