The Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up their captain Dion Phaneuf with a long-term contract extension, the team announced today. Phaneuf has signed a seven-year deal, which was previously reported to be in the range of $7 million per season.
On the most recent episode of HBO's 24/7 series featuring the Maple Leafs, assistant general manager Claude Loiselle shared with the producers the importance of locking up Phaneuf long-term in order to move forward as an organization.
“Dion is our captain, he's a cornerstone for our organization, he plays the most minutes on our team and plays against the best players on the other team,” Loiselle explained. “So it's important to have him signed for a long period of time so that we can continue the progression that we're on.”
Loiselle also talked about the importance of signing players to deals that leave salary cap space as well.
In terms of annual cap hit, with a reported $7 million annual average, Phaneuf is in the same range as Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara, and ahead of guys like Erik Karlsson and Alex Pietrangelo. That's a pretty lofty group, but Phaneuf has become vital to Toronto's plans for the future.
It's tough to say he is among the elite defenders in the NHL, but he produces points, plays a physical game and logs incredibly tough minutes.
As the salary cap goes up, a rich team like Toronto will have the wiggle room to continue to build. They also have six players locked up with long-term deals that could make up the team's core.
Phaneuf and forward Phil Kessel are the team's two best players and they'll remain Maple Leafs for the foreseeable future. That's not bad security to have, assuming you can start building a better team around them.